Rigid Handcuffs

Until the early 1990s, handcuffs linked both wrists by a short metal chain, but apart from restricting arm movements, they offered little else in terms of restraint, and if only one wrist were attached to them, the handcuffs could quickly become a flail-like weapon. Rigid handcuffs, such as Kwik Cuffs, were first trialed in 1993 and have since become standard issue in the United Kingdom and the United States. In Australia, there is a mixed use of chain-link and fixed-link handcuffs.

Although the ratchet mechanism is the same as with the older cuffs, the fixed joint between the cuffs gives several distinct advantages. Holding the fixed joint allows easy application because simple pressure against the wrist enables the single bar to release over the wrist and engage the ratchet. The ratchet can be locked to prevent further tightening but can also only be released with the key, which requires the detainee to cooperate by keeping still. If the cuffs are not locked, then progressive tightening can occur. Correctly tightened cuffs should just have enough space for an additional finger between the applied cuff and wrist. The hands are usually cuffed behind the back one above the other, because handcuffing to the front may provide opportunities to resist detention.

Even with only one wrist in the cuffs, control by the officer can be gained by essentially using the free cuff and rigid link as a lever to apply local painful pressure to the restrained wrist. Techniques allow a detainee to be brought to the ground in a controlled manner or the other wrist to be put within the cuffs.

A gentle application, such as may be experienced by the forensic physician in a personal trial, will demonstrate that it is clearly an effective way of gaining control of most individuals. This may not be the case in those who are intoxicated, have mental health issues, or are violent. Cuffs should fit firmly but not tightly at the narrowest part of the wrist just distal to the radial and ulna sty-loid processes.

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