For the first instalment of Knife Cops we heard from Columbus, Georgia cop turned knife maker, Austin McGlaun. This time, we spoke to 27-year old, Paul Southern, who has been a Police Officer in Western Colorado for the past 5 years. Both provided an insider perspective about knives used by police.
Since every Police Department is different, it’s important to mention that the Police Officers we interview are speaking to us in an ‘off the job’ capacity and their views may differ with and do not necessarily reflect the views of their respective Departments.
Our impression from speaking with Officer Southern is that he really enjoys the collegial nature of his profession. It’s also clear that he cares about his community and likes being in a position to help others. It would be hard to imagine Southern playing the role of the ‘bad cop’, when interrogating suspects. He seems like the type of ‘good cop’ that even the most discreet suspects might spill their guts to.
Southern has the qualities of a ‘steel snob’ that a true knife enthusiast embodies. “We were given a full package of first responder knives by the department – the ones that have the glass breakers and 440c steel,” said Southern. “I really appreciated the gesture and think it’s great that they did that but it’s a really basic steel so I don’t carry that.”
Southern isn’t the only knife user at his department. “Everyone I can think of carries a knife on them,” he said. “I pay attention more to the different brands and types of steel than most, but we have at least one other collector in the department.” And the appeal of a quality blade is hard to resist for more than a few of his fellow officers. “I’m responsible for at least two people in my department carrying Kershaw Cryos,” Southern confessed. “It’s a little contagious. When you walk into a patrol room there is going to be someone playing with their knife. ‘What do you have there?’ Next thing you know they own the knife too,” he said.
Southern shares his passion for knives even outside the department having gifted Cryos to each of his grooms-men. And, like a lot of knife people, Southern got an early start. “I’ve been into knives since I was a teenager,” he recounts.
On the job, Southern wears three knives for different applications: a Zero Tolerance 0566 in his left front pocket, a CRKT M16 in the right, and a KA-BAR TDI Law Enforcement Fixed Blade in an ankle holster.
Southern relies on his ZT to stand up to heavy use. “I got the ZT really wanting to try a bulletproof knife that wasn’t going to cost as much as a custom Hinderer,” he said. “I love the ZT0566. It’s probably the best knife I’ve owned.” Southern shared an example of when he had to use the knife in an emergency situation. The victim of a self inflicted gunshot wound to the chest lay bleeding into heavy winter clothing and Southern needed to get to the wound to dress it. “I used the ZT to cut him out of his clothing and prepare a dressing for the exit wound,” he recalls. “When fabric gets wet it tends to get really strong and the ZT had no issues slicing through it.”
The CRKT M-16 ‘Big Dog’ that Southern uses also carries sentimental value. “My wife bought it for me as an anniversary present,” he said. He is delighted that the blade guard behaves like an Emerson Wave opener and deploys as he pulls the knife out of his pocket. Southern also counts on the Veff serrations on his CRKT M16. “They are almost like shark teeth. If I’ve ever got someone trapped in a vehicle that’s the knife I’m going for to cut the seatbelt. It tears through seat belts like butter.”
The KA-BAR TDI he carries, is designed specifically for law enforcement applications. “The moment someone tries to go for your gun, it’s a deadly force situation. Our job is to keep people safe, and the last thing we want is someone arming themselves with one of our tools,” he said. Though he hasn’t had to put it to its intended use, Southern takes comfort that it’s on his ankle. “If I’m fighting somebody and it’s the only thing I can get to – I’ve got something down there I can use,” Southern explains. “I’ve never had to use my knives for defensive purposes,” he said. “I hope it stays that way because if I have to resort to using one of my knives something has gone terribly wrong.”
“We run into the same cutting tasks as anyone else,” he reports. “I use a knife mostly for basic stuff like opening up medical equipment for EMS on the scene of an accident.” Out of uniform, Southern also finds himself carrying a knife. “I usually carry my ZT while off duty. Every now and then I’ll switch it up and carry my Kershaw Cryo. It’s actually in my pocket right now.”