There are better and less-better Restraint Techniques

The image accompanying this post was apparently taken in 1907 of the City of London Police learning or demonstrating restraint techniques.   They are clearly wearing jackets which suggest that there may have been input from some Japanese martial arts into the restraint techniques they were learning at the time.   Numerous famous Japanese Judo and Jujitsu men were at the time beginning to come to the UK.   Some of them became celebrities, taking on strongmen and wrestlers in public events and becoming notable for overcoming much larger opponents despite their relatively smaller size.

Nevertheless, as with many things, the world of control and arrest, physical intervention and restraint training has moved forward.   In some respects the training hasn’t moved far enough away from the ideas of the transplanted oriental martial arts which were adopted in the early and mid-1900s, but certainly we can recognise elements of this technique which are worthy of note.

  1.  First a *good* point:  there are two officers here and each of them are assisting in the physical intervention.   If you’ve read part one and two of our series on ‘What not do do’ then you will have read that we typically prefer if two people or more get involved in restraint interventions.
  2. However, this restraint techniques extremely fragile!   We much prefer it if the persons head or neck is not being compressed.  Specifically, during restraint techniques we don’t want the subject’s airways to be blocked, or for their ability to bring air in, or push it out to be impeded.  When you push a person’s chin to their chest, you start to do funny things to their airway and food passageways which start to increase the risk of asphyxia.
  3. We also need to look at musculo-skeletal disorder (MSD) issues when we designrestraint techniques.   One of our favoured principles is to keep the spine in as neutral a position as possible so that the risk of an intra-vertabral disc rupture, or of damage to the spinal chord, or of damage to the verterba themselves, is minimised to the lowest degree possible.   On close inspection of this photo, you can see that the restrained subject’s neck vertebra are starting to become visible because of the pressure his head and neck are under.   Not a clever restraint technique!
  4. If you are going to take a subject to the ground because “in fast moving encounters, gravity will often prevail”, then you should have a specific plan as to which parts of the subject you want to touch (hit?) the ground first.   One look at this restraint techniques and you can tell there is a high chance that during a physical intervention the subject’s head could be the first thing to go into the ground, and with a fair degree of force.   Four problems:  1:  you risk a catastrophic head injury  2:  you risk a catastrophic neck injury and 3:  you risk cosmetic injuries when face meets floor! 4:  What about the officers if this goes to the floor?
  5. A minor point considering the risks noted above, but to reference manual handling and the risk of MSD again the load in these photos (the man’s head) is at full reach from the officers’ bodies.  You can see them stopping to achieve the hold on him.   Not great, would prefer they were in better balance, because when things start moving (subjects often resist, after all) then maintaining and ‘chasing’ this restraint techniques will get tricky from this perspective.

As noted, things have moved on, but every now and then my team and I come across suggested restraint methods that stray from good practice in ways not too far from the one above!

All the best for now – more advice and training on what to avoid in restraints in our next post in this series.

Gerard O’Dea, Director of Training,

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