For The Law Enforcement Officer:

Reconsidering “Defensive Tactics

MOST encounters with the citizenry are, for most law enforcement officers, most of the time, not violent, aggressive, or threatening. That is one of the things that makes law enforcement work, as opposed to military operations, always very dangerous. The simple fact of the matter is: Anyone whom a police officer encounters for even the most minor of reasons could be a vicious killer. There is simply no way to reliably tell beforehand who is the one-in-five -thousand dangerous and fanatical nutjob murderers amongst the sea of people that a police officer on daily patrol circulates amongst, routinely. The dangerous bad guy could be anyone. The outlaw biker who is stopped might be very passive and cooperative. The fellow who is pulled over for going through a stop sign might pull a gun and try to kill the officer. There’s no way to know beforehand.

Good cops don't want to hurt people. But the need to get suspects under control when they are noncooperative is often difficult and physically demanding. Good arrest and control holds, applied when a suspect is mildly resistant but not dangerously aggressive, will enable an officer to secure that suspect. It's getting the suspect to the point where he is no longer a threat to the officer, to himself, or to the innocent public that is the challenge.

Good cops don't want to hurt people. But the need to get suspects under control when they are noncooperative is often difficult and physically demanding. Good arrest and control holds, applied when a suspect is mildly resistant but not dangerously aggressive, will enable an officer to secure that suspect. It's getting the suspect to the point where he is no longer a threat to the officer, to himself, or to the innocent public that is the challenge.

Members of the general public, generally speaking, have little understanding of just how potentially dangerous police work is. Most especially in cases where a situation is deadly, lay persons often expect the impossible of our uniformed protectors. “Why didn’t you shoot the gun out of his hand?” is an actual question that officers have heard, after an officer — properly — shoots down an armed individual who had already been given a command to put down the weapon. “Well, he only had a knife! The cop could have taken it away from him; after all the cop was bigger and stronger than that guy!” is close enough to the kind of nonsense that is often heard after a good cop shoots an individual who fails to open his hand and let the knife that he is holding in it, drop to the ground.

But the corker is when an unarmed felon — or an officer using only his hands and feet against a felon — draws out the Florence Nightingale in members of the public: “Why didn’t that officer just put him in a hold and control him? The guy didn’t have a weapon. He only started to punch at the officer.” Or: “I don’t see why three cops were needed to get the guy under control. One of them could have just put him in a hold and made him surrender.”

Arrest, control, compliance, and restraint skills do have a place in the preparation of police officers for the carrying out of their mission. No doubt about it: There are times when a suspect is more nervous than dangerous, and there are instances

when a suspect is throwing his effort solely into pulling away or backing off from an officer who must make an arrest, than he is endeavoring to attack or to directly threaten the officer, per se.

No one is a more vigorous opponent of the abuse of police powers or the unjustifiable application of force than our self; however, we are also 100% behind the good cop, and we don’t want to see any law enforcer injured or killed because he failed to use appropriate and necessary force, or because he hesitated to do so, out of fear that his career would be jeopardized and he might even face criminal charges.

So how do we prepare officers properly for their job? How can we be reasonably sure that a graduate of basic academy is fully equipped to manage that rare — but not unlikely, eventual — instance of serious hand-to-hand violence, as well as those situations where only controlling but non-injurious force is required? While realizing that I am going to antagonize a lot of those who train police and who are responsible for training police today when I say this, I am going to say it, nevertheless: Police academies do not graduate adequately prepared officers insofar as hand-to-hand combat and arrest-and-control skills using bare hands is concerned. All too often an officer is quickly shown a few unworkable holds or grips, and given scant instruction in the appropriate context for the application of such techniques. These techniques — even the few relatively good ones — must never be attempted to control a violent, attacking individual; nor should they ever be attempted to restrain a strong, aggressive and violent resisting individual who has been told that he is under arrest and who clearly makes his intention to get away known to the officer.

Realistic training for law enforcement officers should, first and foremost, cover serious unarmed combat. There are times in the carrying out of law enforcement duties when an enforcement officer is wholly justified in using every dirty, deadly, vicious trick and technique of close combat that he knows — and this should frankly be stated, acknowledged, and taught in basic academy.

Sometimes — only sometimes — when numeric superiority permits, a violently resisting suspect can be subdued without seriously injuring him. In the photo we see two cops restraining a young, tough, resistant suspect. Were a lone officer have to contend with such an individual's use of force against him, we would NOT advocate the officer's use of control holds.

Sometimes — only sometimes — when numeric superiority permits, a violently resisting suspect can be subdued without seriously injuring him. In the photo we see two cops restraining a young, tough, resistant suspect. Should a lone officer have to contend with such an individual's use of force against him, we would NOT advocate that officer's use of control holds.

When subjected to a fierce unarmed attack, or possibly when attacked by an adversary armed with a knife, bottle, club, etc. and unable to access his sidearm, the properly trained law enforcement officer should be trained to meet and defeat this attacker with decisive, no-nonsense combat skills — exactly as the soldier or marine is (or ought to be) trained to do.

There is no good reason, save political nonsense, why a police recruit should not be given at least 75 to 100 solid hours of unarmed combat training during his basic academy program. My recommendation would be to devote perhaps 20 to 25 hours to arrest and control skills (not of the kind that are generally taught, however), and the rest to war-proven, lifesaving unarmed close combat.

Officers who have been adequately trained and who possess the inevitable poise and confidence that this training imparts will be less likely to ever abuse their authority or exercise greater force than necessary when on the job. It is inevitably the officer who lacks ability and confidence, and who is unsure of himself and of his ability to handle a situation, who lashes out unnecessarily and/or who sadistically abuses a suspect or overreacts to a situation. That law enforcement agencies have a responsibility to train their people to the highest levels of practical proficiency possible during the limited time available during basic academy, should be self-evident.

Since I have elsewhere on this site, as well as on our other site (www.americancombato.com) gone into the matter of serious, anything-goes combatives, I want to address what I believe is the best curriculum for preparing officers for arrest-and-control skills.

In my System, American Combato (Jen•Do•Tao), I teach the following basic control techniques to police:

• The Japanese double arm lock

• The bar hammerlock

• The twisting hammerlock

• The straight arm bar

• The straight arm lock

These five techniques permit an officer to subdue a suspect from any position and to take speedy control regardless of the movement of the suspect. These are techniques to be employed exclusively when a suspect is deemed non-dangerous and only mildly resisting but not attacking the officer. They must never be attempted under conditions when a violently aggressive suspect must be dealt with.

We do NOT recommend such holds as Fairbairn’s “Thumb Hold” (or its modern derivative counterpart, the “gooseneck”). Nor do we recommend or endorse intricate aikido-type wrist manipulations. These cannot be applied against anyone who merely pulls away when the attempt is made to apply them, unless the user is a powerful, highly experienced black belt expert with large, strong hands. Most of the popular ju-jutsu type wrist, arm, and finger-locking skills are too dependent upon fine motor articulations to be effective.

Nor do we recommend the “sleeper” hold. This renamed judo naked choke hold can kill a man who has cardiovascular problems and who is in poor physical shape. What is more important, it takes an expert to apply the naked choke hold correctly under actual “street” conditions. Tough, young black belt judo players can employ the naked choke safely in judo contests; but the hold is too risky for non-expert application against persons who are not dangerous, and whose state of health and physical condition is unknown. All choke holds and strangulation techniques should be reserved for use in dangerous emergencies; they should not be used for restraint and control of mildly resistant suspects.

Guidelines For The Use Of Restraint And Control Techniques:

This is what I teach police officers when I instruct them formally in the five techniques that I employ . . .

• Be certain that your suspect is more nervous than aggressive. If he’s pulling away, attempting to leave, etc. then the application of a control hold may be advisable.

• The odds are on your side when you are bigger and stronger than the suspect. Be really careful about deciding to try such techniques on someone whose size and apparent strength clearly surpass your own.

ALWAYS precede the application of any of the five actions by disorienting (but not injuring) the suspect with a fast blow — to his ear, to his nose, to his shinbone, etc. — which maximizes your opportunity to get the hold in place.

• Every hold that works depends upon two things:

1) Pain

2) Off-balancing the suspect

• Know exactly how to followup immediately should the suspect begin to violently oppose your application of the hold, indicating that he intends to fight with you.

• Never, ever attempt to “force” the hold to work. Learn it well. Apply it after suitably disorienting the suspect, and employ appropriate force to secure the situation. But, if you encounter resistance that foils your attempt to hold the suspect, shift to more serious measures. (Remember: He may attempt to seize your sidearm while you engage in a struggle with him! Or, he may viciously attack you using much more serious actions than the one you are now fumbling with.)

There are many, many other aspects to officer survival and to the management of the dangerous and violent components of police work. I am not a police training “specialist”, but if there is sufficient interest amongst those officers who visit our sites, then I may offer more articles on related matters in the future.

We are 100% behind those who serve in the law enforcement profession honorably and well. We hope that we have provided some measure of assistance to them in this article.

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