If you are familiar with today’s standard-issue handcuffs, you know that most models, even across different brands, can be opened with a universal key. A universal handcuff key at first seems like a very counter-intuitive concept, placing law enforcement at a tactical disadvantage. But consider which scenario is really of a greater disadvantage- one in which the cuffs being used to secure a suspect can be opened by a universal key, or one in which the cuffs can only be opened by a single unique key, easily misplaced or lost?
Universal handcuff keys have a simple barrel shape, popularized in 1932 by Peerless Handcuff Co. with the introduction of an updated cuff design. At the end of the barrel is a single small tooth, which is turned to disengage the lock mechanism. The simplicity of the design is intentional: the hassle of requiring a different unique key for every single pair of handcuffs used would slow down the process unnecessarily; a suspect may enter the custody of many different officers from initial detainment, to prisoner transport, to the moment when the cuffs are removed. A universal key allows for a much more seamless transition that ultimately works in the favor of all involved, including the suspect.
Naturally a universal locking mechanism can present the potential for unlawful escape attempts. Law enforcement works to prevent this from happening in a variety of ways- among them are thorough searches of the suspect, proper handcuff positioning to make it more difficult to tamper with the cuffs, and employing the double lock. There is a secondary advantage to the uniformity of handcuff keys, however, and that is the ability to escape should you become wrongfully detained. With its unprecedented ease of concealment, a covert handcuff key is the perfect solution for such a scenario.