Just because the suspect is lying face down doesn’t mean he’s harmless!

The officer must maintain control throughout the handcuffing process and be constantly aware of the suspect’s free hand. Here, the suspect is clutching a gun.

When handling a potentially dangerous suspect, officers are taught to utilize the prone position, with the idea being that when a suspect is lying on his stomach, he is less able to attack the officer. While it is certainly more difficult for a suspect to fight while lying face down, if he’s armed with a handgun, and his hands are underneath him, he might be able to fire at the officer before the officer can react. Let’s examine how an officer can more safely establish “prone control” and apply handcuffs.

There are several circumstances that could lead to a suspect being prone. Two of the most common are either voluntary, based on an officer’s verbal commands, or involuntary, after the officer went “hands on” and took the suspect to the ground. In either case, the mere fact that the suspect is prone is not justification for an officer to let his guard down.

Prone Commands
When the suspect obeys commands, it’s important for the officer to direct him to the least advantageous position possible. Ideally, the officer will order the suspect to place his hands high overhead and drop to one knee, then to both knees. Next, the officer commands the suspect to place his palms on the ground in front of him and scoot his legs back until he is lying face down. From there, the officer tells the suspect to place his arms out to his sides and cross his ankles (this makes it more difficult for the suspect to attempt to escape or assault the officer). Finally, before approaching, the officer will advise the suspect to turn his head away, so he can’t see the officer approach.