Discussion in 'Camillus Collector's Forum' started by JOCKO, Sep 21, 2002.

  1. JOCKO


    May 15, 2000
    In todays Post-Standard (local Syracuse newspaper) there was a nice article on Camillus's Lev-R-Lok Seat Belt Cutter. The article stated that it was designed by two Sheriff's Department officers. The original intent was it was to be used in jails to cut down inmates that had tried to hang themselves. It seems to be a ideal knife for jails for it has no point for stabbing. These knives are in the pockets of more than 100 local Sheriff Department deputies at the jail.

    I will have to get one and add it to my collection along with this article.
    Good Collecting !
  2. illinifan


    Apr 6, 2002
    But it still has a sharp edge. I'd love to carry a kife in the jail where I work, but it's just too dangerous. Even though this knife doesn't have any point, in my mind, there is still too much chance for something to go wrong with and edged weapon in a hostile environment like that. It would be cool to keep a few secured in a locker of some sort, and only take them out when absolutely necessary.
  3. AshokaMazda


    Feb 4, 2018

    I know this posting is old but came across it while searching for info relating to these LEV-R-LOK knives.

    It would be great to see an image of the article you mentioned here..


  4. WValtakis

    WValtakis Hand Engraving, Anodizing and Embellishment Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    May 29, 2004
    Jocko hasn't been on in 7 years...probably won't be posting any pics for you :(.

  5. citytransplant


    Apr 12, 2008
    Author(s): Sue Weibezahl Staff writer Date: September 21, 2002 Section: Local

    They say necessity breeds invention.
    Apparently getting spit upon and wrestling with suicidal inmates was all the "need" two deputies and a facilities manager at the Onondaga County Justice Center jail needed.
    With some old equipment and flair for invention, the jail employees have designed and successfully had manufactured two separate innovations - a specialized knife to cut down hanging inmates and a "spit guard" which blocks the path of flying spit, feces or urine launched at deputies by an inmate.

    The innovations, which are gaining the interest of officials in jails across Central New York and the rest of the country, have already made an impact locally by saving the lives of a handful inmates and the tempers of numerous deputies, officials said.

    "They (the staff) have done some great things that border on brilliance," Sheriff Kevin Walsh said. "Just by thinking things through, they've come up with simple solutions to problems that are faced in jails across the country."

    A new knife

    It was likely Lt. Walter Rys' years as a big-game hunter that led to the development of a new knife that's safer and more effective than what was on the market. The jail has about three dozen suicide attempts a year, said Sgt. John D'Eredita of the sheriff's department. Prior to the invention of the new knives, deputies were often stymied when they discovered inmates hanging from sheets or towels wrapped around their necks. The fabric often became so twisted and dense it was nearly impossible to cut.

    Traditional knives presented two problems: Deputies might accidentally cut the inmate trying to free them, or the knives could be used against the staff, officers said.

    "We were kicking around whether or not we wanted to introduce knives into the facility," said Capt. Larry Albanese, who heads the security division at the jail on South State Street in Syracuse.

    Rys and Sgt. Norm Kruth, both hunters, started brainstorming.

    Rys, who's hunted deer, elk, bear and caribou, used his own knives to fashion a new design: a knife with no point, but a sharp serrated edge and a hook on the end, similar to hooks the Air Force uses to cut tangled parachute cords.

    The knife they created also is equipped with a lever that allows deputies to flick out the blade with one hand, leaving the other arm free to hold up the hanging inmates to relieve pressure.

    The next stop was Camillus Cutlery, where workers were able to manufacture specialized knives based on their models that are selling for about $35 apiece.

    While his colleagues refer to him as "Thomas Edison," Rys downplays his contribution.

    "I'm no inventor. We're just modifying things to make them work for us," said Rys, 55, who has worked for the sheriff's department for 25 years.Kruth, 57, has been there 27 years.The knives are now in the pockets of more than 100 deputies at the jail, Albanese said.

    "I'm amazed at the things people can come up with when they put their heads together," he said. "In the past two years, we've probably saved half a dozen inmates because of them."Its first success came just two months after it was introduced at the jail.An inmate had crawled to the top of the fencing on the fifth floor of the jail, tied a sheet around the top of the fencing and then around his neck, and jumped, Albanese said. "The sergeant scaled the fence, but couldn't get the pressure off the guy's neck because he was dangling, so he used the knife to cut the chain-link fence," Albanese said. "That's how sturdy these knives are. It saved this guy's life. It's amazing."

    "This is a wonderful case of people coming up with solutions in situations that could be life-threatening or have serious health concerns," said Chief Anthony Callisto, who's in charge of the sheriff's department jail division.

    The knives work so well, representatives of the jail took a few to the New York State Sheriff's Association meeting last year and other departments have since ordered dozens for themselves, he said. They haven't patented the knives and are pleased to share the information.

    "We don't need to make a profit," Albanese said. "We're just glad we can help other people with what we're doing here."

    Spit protectionSpitting inmates have been a frustrating problem at jails for years, and little else draws the ire of jail employees more.

    "It's not just the spit - they'll throw feces, urine, toilet water, you name it, because that's really the only way they can rile the deputies," said Albanese.

    Until recently, the shields that covered cell doors were easy to pop out with pencils or rolled up magazines, giving inmates the opportunity to spit or throw material on deputies who stooped to pick them up.

    "It was a disgusting thing and it takes a very big person to let that go by without getting angry," Williams said.

    Enter Bruce Ralston, director of facility management at the building.

    Ralston, who started at the jail three years ago, tested different materials for strength, flexibility and other qualities and settled on Lexan, a material like Plexiglas but sturdier.

    He made the new shields larger, bent them so they arced away from the door and prevented inmates from being able to reach them. He put magnets on all sides of the shields to keep them attached to the metal doors.

    They put the prototypes on the cells of inmates who had histories of behavior problems and they worked, Callisto said.

    "They tried poking at them, they tried spitting, they tried throwing stuff and it didn't work," he said. A dozen new shields are now in place, but they can be moved to different pods if necessary.

    "They could still spit but it would just hit the shield, not the deputies," Albanese said.

    The inventions have helped reduce the risk to inmates and staff, he said, and have been done at a relatively small cost.

    "You can't ask for much more than that - I'm just anxious to see what they come up with next," he said.
  6. Vit_213


    Feb 4, 2011
    WOW! :eek:
    This is a true story or a joke?
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2018
  7. citytransplant


    Apr 12, 2008
    It's true. The original post piqued my curiosity so I searched the local Syracuse (online) newspaper archives linked below. I narrowed my search date "range" to September 21, 2002 and used a few keywords ("local jail employees" for example) and the search returned an excerpt of the article. I paid a few bucks to download the entire article ... viola! Took me all of about 1 minute. http://www.newslibrary.com/sites/sy/
    Phil Gibbs likes this.
  8. citytransplant


    Apr 12, 2008
    Thanks for the links Vit. Interesting stuff.

    The 2002 article states that Lt. Rys "used his own knives to fashion a new design: a knife with no point, but a sharp serrated edge and a hook on the end, similar to hooks the Air Force uses to cut tangled parachute cords" and "The next stop was Camillus Cutlery, where workers were able to manufacture specialized knives based on their models that are selling for about $35 apiece" and "We're just modifying things to make them work for us" and "The knives are now in the pockets of more than 100 deputies at the jail."

    My guess is that the knives being referred to are the Lev-R-Lok rescue knives as depicted and discussed at the page linked below. The only thing that is inconsistent with my theory is that the Lev-R-Lok rescue knives don't have the parachute shroud cutter, referenced by Lt. Rys. https://www.bladeforums.com/threads/camillus-lev-r-lok-rescue.688711/

    Since more than 100 were in the hands of jail deputies in addition to "dozens" ordered by other law enforcement officers and emergency responders, I assume the "specialized" knife must be the Lev-R-Lok rescue.

    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  9. Vit_213


    Feb 4, 2011
    This is a logical guess.
    Since the photos on the above page are not available, I will show photo by Camillus.
  10. RickR


    Jul 4, 1999
    Vit nailed it. That is the knife that was developed and used at the jail. As fate would have it, I worked at the Cutlery for 28+ years and now work as a deputy at the jail. Those knives have since been replaced by similar ones made in Taiwan (if I'm not mistaken). There's no thumb lever but a stud on the blade for one handed opening. There are still a couple Camillus knives floating around the jail but most have been replaced.
    Phil Gibbs likes this.
  11. citytransplant


    Apr 12, 2008
    The newspaper article was a bit confusing as it suggested that the rescue knife "had a hook on the end." Is it true that the company had yet to produce the rescue knife until Lt. Rys came to the company with the concept?
    Rick, I started my civic service career with the NYC Dept of Correction and ended it 40 years later retiring from a county job in the Civic Center, a type of jail in its own right. Once you are in it's hard to escape.
  12. RickR


    Jul 4, 1999
    I can't say for sure who approached Camillus but they were approached with a concept. Camillus already had made versions of the rescue blade for other knives. The serration and choice of knife were most likely a collaboration between the two entities. BTW, I am planning an escape June of '19.
  13. AshokaMazda


    Feb 4, 2018
    Thanks for all that information and history!

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