An Interview with a Police Officer

In this anonymous interview with a local police officer conducted in the latter half of 2020, we discussed the effects of martial arts training in the overall police training regimen and some hot topics brought up against the American Police Force in the summer of that year.

Given the many varieties of standards in police departments around the country, what is the criteria of both the instructors and police departments in determining a proficiency standard for unarmed defensive/arrest techniques?

For the most part, at least in my experience, the instructors emphasize the few positions and techniques that most police officer will get themselves into, either by choice or by happenstance. These mostly concerned positions and techniques from or on the ground, as this was the most common place to subdue and control a suspect before arresting. We drilled them for longer periods of time than what was listed on the general curriculum, because, again, the instructors told us from the start that these would be the most common positions and techniques they and their colleagues used throughout their careers. This is, however, only one department’s or even academy’s standard of such techniques and curriculum.

There are some departments that offer additional training opportunities for unarmed defensive/arrest tactics, however, many departments do not, leaving the officers to find additional training elsewhere. What ways or opportunities does your department address increasing proficiency and comfort in such training?

Through my research, I found that officers with consistent martial arts training – be it Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, karate, or Krav Maga – perform better in control and arrest situations than those who do not. Is there any truth to this comparison in your experience?

Martial arts training has, in my personal experience, increased my confidence to both use what I’ve learned to take down and control a much larger person and not escalate any given situation, unless other outstanding factors force to escalate.

Based on your experience, are there any differences between officers who continue to train in martial arts than those who do not? Is there any credence to “martial arts making a better officer?”

Like I said previously, the martial arts, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu-based training has increased my confidence to take on different situations that I don’t think I would normally have done. But this is only one officer. I know that the others who train in those types of arts and such have a more confidence air about them

In regard to media coverage, any type of physical or weapons force is quickly reported and populated on social sites. Though there are many of those types of news reports, how often does the average officer encounter such situations?

Given the recent turn of events, the way in which police officers conduct themselves regarding the use of force is under more scrutiny than ever before. While there are many possible solutions to such issues, where do you see martial arts training and unarmed defensive/arrest tactics fitting into a solution?

With such press mounting on the police, the issue of militarization has been asserted as a leading factor of the American police force’s current state. In your opinion, how much should the police be militarized, if at all? What ways could individual police departments decrease or reverse the effects of militarization?

I think the larger question is what are people defining or categorizing as “militarization?” Granted, allowing police departments to own and operate a full-blown tank and destroying buildings with it is unacceptable, however the police should at least have some of the more updated or modern equipment to be better prepared if ever such an event arises.

I recall two examples of militarization: one being too militarized and another being not. The first is in Russia, where citizens are not allowed to own firearms, as it is against the law. There was an armed shooter in a building, hiding out, and before the Russian version of SWAT moved in, the police brought in a tank-like vehicle that fired not only a heavy machine gun but also some tank rounds into the building. When everything was said and done, the shooter lay dead with only a silenced pistol by his side. All that firepower for only one guy with a pistol! [Laughs]

The second comes from the eerie documentary Terror in Mumbai, where a group of terrorists committed many mass shootings while the Mumbai police struggled to control the situation due to their outdated equipment and tactics, which were all based on World War Two tactics and equipment.

So I think that there should be some militarization of the police, so we do not have a delayed response as those in Mumbai. A great event that demonstrates the quickness of the American police’s response and mobilization is the Boston Marathon Bombing, to find the perpetrator of the event. On the other hand, the police should not be militarized to the extreme like the Russian police, because then things get authoritarian and dictatorial and I don’t think Americans would enjoy that much.

Additionally, other factors that stem from militarization is the so-called Warrior Mindset, which creates and furthers an “Us vs. Them” mentality and distrust between police and public. Is such a mindset suitable for policing civilians and, if not, what type of mindset should replace it?

Inevitably, there will be an “Us vs. Them” mentality to some degree because there are aspects of policing that many who are not police will not get or fully understand, only those who partake in policing. This, of course, has its pros and cons.

The Warrior Mindset, on the other hand, I feel, has some merit in policing. The Warrior Mindset goes hand and hand with adrenaline. While most people understand what adrenaline is, there are fewer who know how to utilize that adrenaline to their advantage, and that’s where some of the militarization comes in. In the military, recruits and soldiers are placed into high-stress situation during training to better develop skill under such conditions. When veterans come into the police force, most, if not all of these veterans have an understanding and ability to use that adrenaline for good use, which could mean a quick decision as a situation begins to escalate.

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