Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Handcuffs are devices to secure two wrists close together.
They usually they have a ratchet-action to make them quicker to apply, and to make the size adjustable.
There are two distinct subtypes of metal handcuffs — one in which the cuffs are held together by a short chain (most commonly consisting of two links), while the other, of more recent origin, uses two hinges for this purpose. Since the hinge-type handcuffs are somewhat smaller when fully extended they are seen as being more easily utilized by an officer who has relatively small hands, and are also regarded by some observers as more secure because the wrists end up being held closer together than with the chain subtype, and are also bound more rigidly. A third type, the rigid handcuff, has a fixed plastic/metal block between the cuffs. Whilst bulkier to carry it permits several variations in cuffing and, with one hand cuffed, can be used in control and restraint techniques.
Sometimes two pairs of handcuffs are needed to restrain a person with an exceptionally large waistline because the hands cannot be brought close enough together; in this scenario, one cuff on one pair of handcuffs is handcuffed to one of the cuffs on the other pair, and then the remaining open handcuff on each pair is applied to the person's wrists.
Plastic handcuffs, often known as FlexiCuffs, are lightweight disposable plastic strips to immobilize individuals. They can be carried in large quantities by soldiers and police and are therefore well-suited for situations where many may be needed, such as during large-scale protests. In recent years, airlines began to carry plastic handcuffs as a way to restrain disruptive passengers.
In former times, police officers typically handcuffed arrested persons with their hands in front of them, but since approximately the mid-1960s behind-the-back handcuffing has been the standard. The vast majority of police academies in the United States today also teach their recruits to apply handcuffs in such as manner so that the palms of the suspect's hands face outward after the handcuffs are applied; the Jacksonville, Florida Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's office are notable exceptions, as they favor palms-together handcuffing. In addition, suspects are handcuffed with the keyholes facing up (away from the hands) to make it difficult to open them even with a key or improvised pick.
On occasions when a suspect exhibits extremely aggressive behavior, leg irons may be used as well; sometimes the chain connecting the leg irons to one another is looped around the chain of the handcuffs, and then the leg irons are applied, resulting in the person being "hog-tied." In a few rare cases, hog-tied persons lying on their stomachs have died from positional asphyxia making the practice highly controversial, and leading to its being severely restricted, or even completely banned, in many localities.
Most modern handcuffs in the United States and the United Kingdom can be opened with the same standard universal handcuff key. This allows for easier transport of prisoners and keeps you out of trouble if you lose your keys. However, there are handcuff makers who use keys based on different standards. Maximum security handcuffs require special keys. Handcuff keys do not generally work with thumbcuffs.
Handcuff with double locks have a lockspring which when engaged, usually using the top of the key, stops the cuff from ratcheting tighter to prevent the subject from tightening them, possibly causing injury. Double locks also make picking the locks more difficult.
In Japan, if someone is photographed or filmed while handcuffed their hands have to be pixelated if it's used on TV or in the newspapers. This is because someone who'd been arrested brought a successful case to court arguing that being pictured in handcuffs implied guilt, and had prejudiced the trial.
Police handcuffs are sometimes used in sexual bondage and BDSM activities. This is potentially unsafe, because they were not designed for this purpose, and can result in nerve or other tissue damage; bondage cuffs were designed specifically for this application.
Note: as with all bondage activities, care must be taken. All the dangers associated with physical restraint apply to the use of handcuffs or other restraints. No-one should ever be left alone when restrained. Handcuffs are not suitable for suspension bondage. You are responsible for your own and your partner's health. See also safe, sane and consensual.
- Handcuffs.org - A Collector's Guide to Vintage Handcuffs
- The Lars Holst Restraint Collection
- Atame's Collection of historical and modern Police-Restraints
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