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Defensive tactics training: Enhancing front compliance for a person who is ‘feeling no pain’

Having a toolbox filled with effective tools to instantly stop and/or discourage resistance can de-escalate many a situation

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Front Compliance is a great mechanical control plus compliance technique.

Having been an active street cop for the entire 33 years of my police career, as well as an active police trainer for 43 years, in this series I share some of the defensive tactics techniques that helped me prevail on the street. The series presents a variety of defensive tactics in a format that allows you to follow the instructions and practice the technique. Remember practice makes prepared.

There are people you will meet who because they have invited drugs and/or alcohol on board, may not respond normally, or even at all, to a pain compliance technique. Some officers and instructors have concluded this makes anyone on drugs and/or alcohol poor candidates for control holds.

This perceived obstacle should not deter you from applying trained techniques just because a resistive suspect’s senses have been dulled by the demons of drink and drugs. My hands-on observations made on the street led me to conclude that while there are those whose senses are dulled by drugs and/or alcohol and actually “feel no pain,” they are in the minority.

Do not mistake pain tolerance for “feeling no pain.”

Mechanical control

For those who have anesthetized themselves with alcohol and/or drugs and are pain-tolerant, your efforts to control them will be more effective if you use trained techniques rather than the untrained, random application of brute force to control.

With this in mind, a commonly used hold like “front compliance” allows for mechanical control of a suspect’s arm even if they initially seem to be “feeling no pain.” Suspects can’t just pull out of the hold. Once you do have the mechanical control achieved by applying “front compliance,” there are things you can do if you sense that the measured amount of pressure is not yet having enough effect to convince the suspect to comply with your lawful requests.


As you apply pressure while using any compliance technique, immediately tell the suspect, “Police (or sheriff), relax, you are under arrest.” With this, you have identified your authority, told them what you want them to do and advised them that they are “under arrest.”

If they continue to squirm, additionally tell them as you add a bit more pressure, “Stop resisting! I do not want to hurt you.” In doing this you may arouse their consciousness to the fact that the hold hurts, triggering compliance.

Technique 1: Pull index finger and middle finger downward and toward the suspect

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Release your inside hand and while maintaining compliance with the other, take hold of the index finger and middle finger and pull down and in toward the suspect, gradually.

If the suspect still is not “feeling it,” you can immediately administer a sharp reminder they are in a compliance technique without injuring them. It can be performed from either side, but it will be described here from the right side.

Once you have a suspect in “front compliance” and the suspect is not responding normally to the pressure, maintain pressure with your right hand on the back of the suspect’s hand, while their triceps are tucked into your biceps, or chest. Release your left (inside) hand and grip the suspect’s index finger and middle finger simultaneously high where they connect with the hand, as if together they form one teat on a cow.

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Have your outside hand push the suspect’s palm toward the suspect shifting the thumb-side of the hand a put skyward. Reapply front compliance, which will isolate the pressure on the thumb-side of the wrist. It is important to release the pressure but not the hold once compliance is achieved.

Now gradually, while holding the hand in place, pull these two fingers (slowly and do not yank, bend or pry the fingers) at an angle downward and toward the suspect’s body. The gradual pull will suddenly cause a sharp and intense feeling on the top inside of the wrist causing them to move like they received a shock. Repeat the command, “Stop resisting. Put your left hand…”

Once you achieve compliance it is important to release the pressure for a reward for their compliance, but in doing so you do not have to release the mechanical control of the arm.

Technique 2: The wrist adjustment

A second way to enhance front compliance is to adjust the positioning of the wrist. To accomplish this, on the right side take the palm heel of your right hand and push the suspect’s hand inward, turning the suspect’s palm toward the suspect. This will turn the suspect’s thumb side of the hand almost skyward.

Now add downward pressure and the suspect should react quite quickly to the pain. A good indication that suspects are “feeling it” is they will naturally come up on their toes to relieve the pressure. When this happens and the suspect pauses in their resistance let up on the pressure, but do not release the hold. Now ask them to, “Stop resisting and put your left hand behind your back.”


All police careers bring officers into contact with countless suspects who are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Once again, even if some suspects do not respond reasonably to a pain compliance technique it is important to remember that most of these techniques also allow for mechanical control in a configuration that your partners can recognize and duplicate if they are similarly trained.

Through verbalization and compliance enhancement in many circumstances, you can bring the suspect back to reality for a few moments.

The fact is, out of control resisting can lead to an escalation of force during which you and/or the suspect may be injured, or worse. Having a toolbox filled with effective tools to instantly stop and/or discourage resistance can de-escalate many a situation and prevent serious injury not only to you but to the belligerent suspect. Extensive ongoing training with and mastering the use of these tools makes a difficult job (overcoming resistance to lawful arrests) much easier.

After you train to master these tools in earnest, you will find yourself better prepared for the suspects who resist in earnest.

Photos by Anya Marcou. Techniques demonstrated by Lt. Dan Marcou and Aidan Marcou.

Lt. Dan Marcou is an internationally-recognized police trainer who was a highly-decorated police officer with 33 years of full-time law enforcement experience. Marcou’s awards include Police Officer of the Year, SWAT Officer of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year and Domestic Violence Officer of the Year. Upon retiring, Lt. Marcou began writing. Additional awards Lt. Marcou received were 15 departmental citations (his department’s highest award), two Chief’s Superior Achievement Awards and the Distinguished Service Medal for his response to an active shooter. He is a co-author of “Street Survival II, Tactics for Deadly Encounters,” which is now available. His novels, “The Calling, the Making of a Veteran Cop,” “SWAT, Blue Knights in Black Armor,” “Nobody’s Heroes” and Destiny of Heroes,” as well as his latest non-fiction offering, “Law Dogs, Great Cops in American History,” are all available at Amazon. Dan is a member of the Police1 Editorial Advisory Board.