Do police officers need knives?

by Ralph Mroz

Ralph Mroz is a police officer in Western Massachusetts currently assigned to his county’s counter drug task force. He is the Training Director of the New England Police Officer’s Safety Association (NEPOSA), and in that capacity he conducts force training frequently.

We get a lot of requests for knife skills training here at NEPOSA. That makes sense to us, but it seems to puzzle some of the command and administrative staff. Let’s go through the logic of the situation as we see it.

  1. POs will probably NOT need a knife as any kind of defensive weapon on duty. A knife is a deadly force weapon, and our sidearms are usually a better choice when deadly force is required...let alone a better tool to use from a public relations standpoint. Some POs are under the impression that they can use a knife to disable an attacker attempting to disarm their handgun, but in our knife skills class we disprove that notion; it just isn’t really possible in the dynamic chaos of such an encounter.

  2. However, POs do definitely need to have a good utility knife on their person as a cutting tool. Lots of things need cutting on the job—from the mundane (boxes) to the dramatic (hangers.) Even the occasional seat belt. Therefore we recommend that a good patrol or detective knife be a quality utility folder with a 3- to 4-inch half-serrated utility blade from one of the major manufacturers. It can be carried easily in the trauma plate pocket of a vest.

  3. POs will face a knife as a threat, though. Over the last decade we have all become much more aware of the threat that edged weapons constitute, and it’s a rare officer in a mid-sized or large community who doesn’t encounter one as such on a regular basis. Yet it’s hard to appreciate just how dangerous knives can be unless you are trained with one. Such training will not only make an officer safer because of their increased danger awareness, it will allow him/her to respond more effectively to a knife threat, and will allow him/her to more clearly articulate the reasons for the steps they took to deal with the situation.

  4. A knife does make a very convenient off-duty weapon for officers who choose to go unarmed or who cannot be legally armed with a firearm in some jurisdictions.

  5. A knife is an ideal weapon for undercover officers, who often must go in without a firearm on their person. No one gives the common pocket-clipped knife a second glance…yet it can be a formidable life-saving tool if the situation goes bad.

  6. The preferred knife for uniformed officers in our opinion is a rescue tool. These are knives with a carbide tip on them for breaking windows. We have direct experience in our department of an officer needing to break a car window in order to save an attempted suicide victim, but being unable to do so with the tools immediately at hand, and having the window punch that was supposed to be in the cruiser missing (big surprise, huh?) (Fortunately, a hatchet borrowed from a passing DPW truck allowed the window to be broken and the victim’s life to be saved.)

What knives do we recommend? There are so many good ones out there! We are in the golden age of knife manufacturing, and every major manufacturer makes many excellent models that are suited to law enforcement work. We simply suggest a good quality, moderately priced, 3-4 inch folding model with a half-serrated blades.

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