"I can't breathe." - Last words of Eric Garner
Law enforcement officers, troopers, deputies and agents (from here on out called LEs), are historically undertrained in hands on techniques with resisting subjects since at least the 1970's. Over time police departments, agencies and training academies transitioned their focus away from hands on skills proficiency to utilizing tools like the baton, taser, pepper spray and firearm at an increasing rate. The legal landscape was turning matters of use of force into a realm of tools and machines. Perhaps it was with the best interest of the officer in mind - that if the officer could stay at a distance to the subject, they would be safer. Just look at all the tools the officer uses that are designed to maintain distance - baton/impact weapon, pepper spray, taser, sidearm, shotgun, patrol rifle. Each one of those tools is taught and trained at a police academy and their sustainment is prioritized by departments and agencies in annual, bi-annual and even quarterly refresher training and range time.
Despite the increase in lethal and less lethal tools available to the modern patrol officer two important truths still remain. First, that an officer is far more likely to go hands on with a subject than they are to draw their firearm. Secondly, according to recent research, being killed by police is the leading cause of death for young men in the United States (1).
Police academy trainees and Police Officers are woefully undertrained in the area of hands on techniques when dealing with non-compliant subjects. The academies and departments tend to focus the majority of their defensive training time and budget on the use of firearms, tasers, and other tools intended to be used by the officer.
On the surface it seems obvious as to why the focus on training time (and $$$) is so disproportionately skewed towards firearms - liability. A firearm is a lethal weapon. It can cause a lot of damage and practically every officer carries at least one. So naturally we want them to be competent in their use and application in law enforcement. However, approximately only 27% of officers will ever fire their firearm while in the line of duty (2). In contrast to that, nearly every patrol officer will undoubtedly wrestle with a resisting subject while on duty. The frequency of that happening will often depend on where the officer works. Additionally, the patrol officer may arrest several subjects in a single shift, requiring a need to frequently go hands on with a person who is losing their freedom and may become hostile about that prospect.
The killings of Mr. Garner and Mr. Floyd show us that a lack of understanding and competency in grappling and pinning can most definitely have lethal consequences. In both cases the necks of the victims were being compressed over an extended period of time. I can argue that a person who has been properly trained by a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert would be well aware of the danger that this would pose to anyone in those circumstances.
Students who are being properly trained in strangling techniques by a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu expert will not only have a safety briefing and learn the finer mechanics of applying the strangles, but they will also be on the receiving end of their fair share of strangles themselves - so they will know exactly what it's like to be in those positions.
Secondly, as part of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training, realistic and competitive sparring matches take place on a regular basis in the classes. This frequency of exposure to regularly attempting to apply grappling techniques to a resisting training partner who is likewise trying to win the match, is what helps practitioners develop control, precision, humbleness and empathy - among many other important elements.
Through regular training in an academy such as Iowa City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, an officer will become competent in their ability to effectively and humanely grapple with a resisting person. Their grappling competency can be boosted by taking other classes that we offer at ICBJJ such as our Modern Self-Defense classes, and attending our seminars for Police Officers, etc. At ICBJJ, our highly experienced instructors can personalize certain lessons for our LE students so they can quickly adapt certain techniques to their line of work. The improvement in the officer's level of competency will also improve their confidence in their own ability to handle violent situations successfully.
You do not want to send a scared cop into deal with a potentially violent situation. But the caveat is, when dealing with people, almost any situation can turn violent for the police officer. Therefore, you want your police officers to be cautious, competent and confident. Officers with these attributes are not only able to defend themselves better, but they are also able to better serve their communities. By being educated and competent in grappling, restraining, pinning, and other defensive tactics, the officer will be far less likely to misuse any techniques that might be otherwise poorly taught at police academies; and they will be far less likely to use unnecessary and/or excessive force.
These attributes and qualities are developed and acquired by training regularly in a professional Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy such as ICBJJ. At ICBJJ we go above and beyond most other BJJ academies who only focus on sport Jiu-Jitsu. We are, and have always been, a self-defense focused BJJ academy and our curriculum reflects that.
At ICBJJ, in an effort to improve the safety of our community and that of our local LEOs, we have been offering a Law Enforcement Training Scholarship for several years. It is our attempt to try and make our community and our world a better place. Local LE's will be given free tuition for their first two years of training or until they reach the rank of Blue Belt - which ever comes first. Afterwards, they will have a discounted tuition for the remainder of their time training with us.
For more information about our scholarship program, or to apply, please click here.
We could always use your support in helping us fund our LEO scholarship. Your help means we can put more local officers on our mats and help make our community safer. If you would like to make a donation to our scholarship, please click the link below.
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Jason Clarke. Owner & Head Instructor of Iowa City Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.