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Wrist cuffed to chain

Physical restraint refers to the practice of rendering people helpless or keeping them in captivity by means such as handcuffs, fetters, straitjackets, ropes, straps, or other forms of physical restraint. Alternatively, unarmed combat techniques or sheer force of numbers may be used to restrain a person.

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British police use

British Police officers are authorised to use leg and arm restraints, if they have been instructed in their use. Guidelines set out by the Association of Chief Police Officers dictate that restraints are only to be used on subjects that are violent while being transported, restraining the use of their arms and legs, minimising the risk of punching and kicking. Pouches carrying restraints are usually carried on the duty belt, and in some cases carried in police vans

For restraint for medical or psychiatric purposes, see medical restraint

Purpose

Physical restraint may be used:

Misuse and risks

Restraining someone against their will is generally a crime in most jurisdictions, unless it is explicitly sanctioned by law. (See false arrest, false imprisonment).

The misuse of physical restraint has resulted in many deaths. Physical restraint can be dangerous, sometimes in unexpected ways. Examples include:

  • postural asphyxia
  • unintended strangulation
  • death due to choking or vomiting and being unable to clear the airway
  • death due to inability to escape in the event of fire or other disaster
  • death due to dehydration or starvation due to the inability to escape
  • cutting off of blood circulation by restraints
  • nerve damage by restraints
  • cutting of blood vessels by struggling against restraints, resulting in death by loss of blood
  • death by hypothermia or hyperthermia whilst unable to escape

For these and many other reasons, extreme caution is needed in the use of physical restraint.

Gagging a restrained person is highly risky, as it involves a substantial risk of asphyxia, both from the gag itself, and also from choking or vomiting and being unable to clear the airway. In practice, simple gags do not restrict communication much; however, this means that gags that are effective enough to prevent communication are generally also potentially effective at restricting breathing. Gags that prevent communication may also prevent the communication of distress that might otherwise prevent injury.

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