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Defensive tactics training: The “Swoop!”

This technique is so named because of the ease at which you can place a person under arrest in a position to be handcuffed and controlled


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.

During my career, I was a very proactive police officer by choice, even as a lieutenant. I also had a second job as a police defensive tactics trainer and my goal was to ensure the techniques I added to my trainees’ repertoire were not only effective but defensible. One such technique was called the “Swoop.”

I did not call it the “Swoop!” The officers who learned it and applied it on the street called it the “Swoop” because of the ease at which you can place a person under arrest in a position to be handcuffed and controlled if you meet resistance instantaneously on contact.

The time for using this technique is when resistance is not only expected but also, if initiated, would create a bigger problem, such as amid an already large disturbance.

We used it in La Crosse when during our riots people aggressively challenged our lines and warranted an arrest. When they came within reach, which a few leaders eventually would, we would sweep them through the line to arrest teams behind the line. As the suspects came suddenly through the line, two officers would “swoop them,” arrest them and handcuff them immediately.

The “Swoop” can be used on a non-resisting suspect as an escort hold as long as you train with it to the point where you can apply the physical hold using technique short of pressure (meaning without pain being applied). Pressure need only be applied when a suspect starts actively resisting the arrest process by tightening up their arm, or attempting to pull away, to resist. As you apply pressure in response to the resistance, verbalize by saying, “I said relax. Stop resisting.” When the suspect stops this resistance release the pressure immediately as a reward, but do not release the mechanical hold, short of pressure.

Here is how you practice the hold.

Step One: Approach to contact

This technique can be used by one officer approaching from either side or works best when two officers similarly trained can apply it at once as a team. Here, its application will be demonstrated from the suspect’s right side.

Approach from the front and off to the right side of the suspect. Form your right hand in an open position, thumb forward with your fingers bent at the knuckles. Hook his right hand grasping where his thumb meets his hand for perfect indexing. As you make contact with the suspect verbalize, “Police/sheriff, relax. You are under arrest.”


From the right side, hook your thumb where his thumb meets the hand and lay your middle finger on the back of the suspect’s hand so your middle finger is immediately indexed along his knuckles.

Step Two: Hook where the suspect’s thumb meets the hand

Close your right hand, with your thumb grasping around the palm side of the suspect’s hand, including his thumb, where the thumb meets the hand. Wrap your fingers around the back side of the hand so your middle finger is immediately indexed along his knuckles.

At the same time, hook your left hand around his arm around the back side pulling his biceps a bit as you guide his triceps into your biceps or chest. Simultaneously sweep the suspect’s right hand toward the small of his back as you tell the suspect calmly, “Police, relax. You are under arrest.”


Secure the tricep with your left hand as you sweep the suspect’s hand to the small of his back.

Step Three: Arrive at a position to escort, control, or handcuff

As you sweep the hand to the back of the suspect using this procedure you will be in a position to handcuff the suspect or escort him in a more advantageous position to control than the standard escort if you are met with resistance.

You will find yourself with the suspect’s arm behind his back, while your right hand is on the back of his hand, your middle finger across the back of his knuckles, in a position to apply pressure if met with resistance pressing the back of his hand toward his biceps while his triceps are secured against your biceps or chest, providing counter-pressure.

It is important to re-iterate that learning to apply this hold short of pressure makes it no more aggressive than the standard hands-on wrist and elbow escort grip. If the reason you are contacting the suspect is to arrest him anyway, it merely puts you in a better position to control if the suspect resists on contact.


Tuck the suspect’s triceps against your biceps or chest, while you apply pressure as needed to the back of the suspect’s right hand. Have the suspect place his other hand on top of his head palm or, bring it back to the small of his back for handcuffing. Your choice.

Photo courtesy of Dan Marcou

Step Four: Control or handcuff

Once you apply this hold you are in a position to control with your right hand. Your left hand can reinforce the hold by mirroring the grip you have with your right hand on the back of the hand if you have a partner applying the hold on the left side. A third person can now handcuff, or you or your partner can handcuff.

If you are one on one, you can choose to order the suspect to put his left hand in a position to handcuff. If he does not do so add pressure to gain compliance and ask again.

You can add to this pressure by using your left hand to grasp the trapezius and putting your middle finger to and press downward to the bundle of nerves between the trapezius and clavicle. Repeat your command, “Put your hand…” After achieving compliance release the pressure immediately on the wrist and pressure point. However, maintain the mechanical hold “short of pressure.” From here you can control and wait for back-up, handcuff, or even disengage if you choose.


Notice the hand positioning for best results.


Now that this hold has been described all you need do is prepare for street application is perform repetition after repetition after repetition...

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.