I see demonstration videos with law enforcement trainers showing techniques in a controlled setting, on a matted surface, with a compliant partner, while wearing a gi, or workout gear. That is fine, but the question on many people’s minds is, “Does it work in the real world?”
Does it work for an officer wearing full duty gear including a pistol, knife, baton, OC, CEW, radio and external body armor with all the gear they carry on patrol including extra rifle mags, trauma kit and anything else they carry?
Does it work while they are carrying a slung rifle?
Does it work for a detective wearing a suit?
Does it work on concrete?
Does it work in a ditch at the side of the road?
Does it work in confined spaces?
Does it work when the officer is wearing heavy winter clothing? What about when both the officer and the subject are wearing heavy winter clothing and the struggle is taking place in one or two feet of snow?
Does it work with a resistive or combative subject?
Does it work for an officer who received the basic training and then trains once a year during the mandatory block of training?
Does it work when backup is 5 to 45 minutes away and there is a crowd of people around?
Does it work at the speed of a fight?
Does it require the officer to follow a series of steps in the correct sequence to work?
Is what you are teaching built on a foundation of principles and concepts, which can be applied in a variety of settings, or are you teaching technique heavy content?
I applaud law enforcement trainers who have committed to the pursuit of excellence in one or more martial arts and have achieved black belt status. I applaud law enforcement professionals who are able to make time multiple days every week to train in their defensive tactics skills or in a particular martial art. Be cautious however, about building a control tactics training program that only works for these people, in the controlled confines of the dojo or the training room.
It would be nice if every law enforcement professional got to spend 20% of their on-duty time training, but that is not the reality, and likely never will be, for most officers. Even if it was, there is a lot of material to pack into that training time including legal issues, communication skills, decision training, tactical combat casualty care, investigative skills, officer safety tactics, wellness issues, mental preparation strategies, control tactics, firearms, report writing, understanding human factors, and a host of other topics related to the performance of their duties.
In today’s world many agencies are understaffed resulting in officers working significant amounts of overtime. They still have family commitments. They are trying to get adequate amounts of sleep. They are trying to find time to work out and some are working to complete additional formal education, which may be required to advance within their agency. Finding additional time to train outside of work hours is challenging for many officers.
The challenge for trainers is to develop a control tactics program built on a foundation of principles and concepts, which can be applied in a variety of environments and is not dependent on the officer being a certain size and strength. The next challenge is to find a way to create a system where your people do a little, a lot, to help with learning, retention, recall and the ability to utilize the training in the field.
In the ADAPT Research Report: The Current State of Police Control and Defensive Tactics Training by Polis Solutions they advocate that as a profession we “Teach Situations, Not Techniques.” They also suggest that “The baseline goal of defensive tactics training is to ensure that the average instructor can prepare the average officer to control the average offender.” There are a number of solid recommendations in the report and I would highly recommend reading it.
Take the time to reflect on what you teach and how you teach it and then stress test it. Test it with people who are not black belts. Ask yourself, “Can our system be taught by the average instructor, and does it work in the field for the average officer wearing full duty gear?”
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