Prevent police violence with jiu jitsu

Photo credit: Andrew Clarke

Many incidents of police violence are avoidable. An emphasis on firearms training, violent defensive tactics and uses of force such as tasers, batons and tear gas, seen in protests for the death of George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake by police, are making people see police forces as militants rather than public servants.

Police departments must implement new training focused on de-escalation and non-violent use of force, requiring all officers to regularly train in proper self-defence and detainment methods. The answer is found in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Jiu jitsu, more specifically Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or BJJ, is a form of martial art. It focuses on close contact “grappling and submissions” rather than striking with punches and kicks.

The idea of training cops in a martial art such as Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has been criticized by many people claiming it will make bloodthirsty cops even more dangerous for the public, however, this is simply not true.

BJJ focusses on using leverage, angles, pressure, timing as well as knowledge of the human anatomy. The idea is to defend oneself to achieve non-violent submissions by chokes and joint manipulations.

Jiu jitsu focuses on the use of proper technique rather than violence. The focus is to remain calm and controlled in defensive situations.

“Always assume that your opponent is going to be bigger, stronger and faster than you; so that you learn to rely on technique, timing and leverage rather than brute strength.” – Helio Gracie, co-founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Many police departments have yet to adopt BJJ into training requirements. The Marietta Police Department, south of the border in Georgia, made it mandatory for BJJ training for new recruits in 2019. Recruits say they feel more confident in restraining resistant suspects, according to the Marietta Police Department’s website.

Since 2015 in the United States, there have been a reported 5,652 fatalities caused by an on-duty police officer, according to the Washington Post Fatal Force database.

Canada has seen 555 fatal encounters with police from 2000 to 2020, according to CBC’s Deadly Force database.

Police use of excessive force is a result of the lack of training recruitments receive on de-escalation and crisis intervention.

A 2013 report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which was released in 2016, found the average length of basic law enforcement training in the United States, excluding field training, was about 840 hours, or just 21 weeks per recruit.

Of those 840 hours of training, 168 are spent focused on weapons, defensive tactics and use of force. Even more specifically recruits spend, on average, 71 hours on firearms skill and 60 hours on defensive tactics.

Recruits are required to train on average only 21 hours on use of force which includes de-escalation and crisis intervention training, and 16 hours on nonlethal weapons.

Here in Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) require cadets to complete only 820 hours of training over a 26-week training program with a combined 198 hours spent on firearms and defensive tactics, according to the RCMP website.

This needs to change.

The switch from aggressive police training to non-violent and de-escalation enforcement is essential in reducing police violence. Along with the implementation of proper restraining and submission techniques which are found in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Requiring officers to consistently train in non-violent forms of self-defence will in turn create safer daily interactions between officers and the public, as well as train officers to be calm and remain in control of individuals. This change will hold those in power accountable for incidents where excessive force is used.

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