Writing Crime – Do Detectives Carry Handcuffs?

Making Your Crime Fiction Realistic (1)I know, I know, I’m hopeless. I say I’m going to do these policing posts in a more regular format and what happens?

They disappear from the face of the earth.

Not particularly helpful is it? I apologise. I’ve been busy and ill, but it’s what I said I’d do so it doesn’t reflect well on me when I don’t do it. So all I can do is apologise again and get on with another post.

This post has been prompted by a question I was asked by a writer looking for factual information to make their work realistic so as to not pull the reader out of their carefully crafted world.

After all, the novel itself is fiction, so we can actually take liberties while crafting it. With my next novel, Made to be Broken, due out in the summer, I’ve used an author’s note at the beginning to explain that the toxicology tests that come back are returned a lot faster in the story than they are in the real world and I hope the reader allows me that freedom, otherwise it would be a slow and dull read. (You might think it is anyway, but you get my point!)

When authors want authenticity in their crime books, it’s not to bore the reader with details or to show how much they know, it’s to stop the reader being pulled out of the story by a glaringly obvious error. And if a police officer or staff member is reading a crime book or even an avid crime fiction fan and they read a sentence that just isn’t true, it yanks them right out of the story, back into their own heads, shaking it, saying ‘No, no, no. That’s just not right.’

But, a simple truth in there keeps the story ticking along and the reader happily immersed in the author’s made-up world.

So, back to the question I was asked on this occasion.

Going out on an arrest would they use handcuffs or hand ties? Do you carry handcuffs all the time or do you carry hand ties? What would my detective carry?

cop-1016218_1280Uniform officers get a utility belt to wear around their waists with all their kit to hand on this useful belt. This includes the rigid handcuffs.

Detectives, however, have to find somewhere to carry them if they want to take cuffs out with them. If they want to take anything out, they have to find a home on their person for it.

Have you looked at a uniformed officer closely and seen just how much stuff they actually carry? Let me tell you, it’s a lot.

For a detective, they tend to make a decision every time they walk out the door. They don’t have a handy belt and the kit is cumbersome. Where to keep it? If they know where they’re going and what they’re doing and what they’ll need then they’ll take what they need and if that’s handcuffs then they’ll take them and try and shove them in a pocket or something. Otherwise, they might keep a set in the car in case they need some when they’re not expecting it. Otherwise, all they tend to carry is a notebook, pen, mobile phone. Detectives always tend to know where they’re going in advance, so can prepare. Whereas uniform officers are response officers and need to be prepared for anything.

As for zip ties. No. Detectives don’t use these. We didn’t anyway. They’re not comfortable or adjustable once on. And yes, you do have to make sure your offender is comfortable in them and adjust them if too tight.

I hope this was useful on why we try to make sure our research is correct and how flexible it can be on if you want your detective to be with or without their handcuffs at any given moment. Don’t let anyone tell you all cops should always carry them, it’s not like that in the real world. Like I said – no utility belt.

You can find the rest of the policing series Here.

6 thoughts on “Writing Crime – Do Detectives Carry Handcuffs?

    1. Ha! Yes, they do. Only our force was too tight-fisted to automatically issue them. I didn’t have one! So, no, we were often out there without our kit. And if anything went wrong, I’m sure there would be a policy somewhere saying we should always carry X, Y and Z but where do they want us to put them in the summer when we don’t have a utility belt or a shoulder harness. Winter you might have a coat pocket…


  1. This really is awfully useful, Rebecca! As you say, if you’re an author, it’s really important to be sure that the crime fiction you write is credible. Otherwise even people who aren’t knowledgeable will notice that something is ‘off,’ and those who are knowledgeable will immediately be put off. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s it, isn’t it, Margot? I’m sure sometimes people think writers just love researching – ok, many love it – but it is about keeping the story, the world, realistic for the reader. It’s all about the reader.


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