Defensive tactics training: 2 things female cops should know

Telling a female or smaller stature trainee that there is only one acceptable way to do an arm bar takedown or a weapon retention technique does every single one of us a disservice

In May, an officer in Appleton (Wis.) lived out many cops’ worst nightmare — certainly one of mine. While confronting a felony suspect, she was viciously attacked. Despite putting up a brave fight, including deploying her TASER, she was disarmed and shot with her own weapon.

One of two civilians who stopped to assist her in the struggle was also shot. The suspect then raised the gun to his head and reportedly took his own life. Early reports indicate that the officer and the civilian (heroes) will both survive their injuries, and a full investigation of the incident will be conducted by the Green Bay Police Department.

Before we proceed, I would like to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude to the officer, her family, and her agency for the difficult job they do each and every day; and for demonstrating courage and commitment in keeping their community safe. I would also like to thank the two civilians who stopped to help the officer rather than just pulling out a cell phone and recording it. Many communities in this nation would be far safer if more people had the courage to do what those two did. I pray they each have a speedy recovery, and quickly return to doing the things they love with the people they love.

2 Lessons Learned During Boxing Week
As more details become available with respect to this incident, I am confident there will be much discussion on use of force topics — less lethal (TASER), defensive tactics, weapon retention training, security holsters, and the like. We may never know precisely what motivated the suspect to attack the officer. Unless he left behind some indicator, he is no longer available for comment.

We know, now, with the benefit of hindsight, that he had a death wish because the violence only ended when he took his own life. Perhaps he would have attacked any officer that confronted him. What if it had been you?

From a personal perspective, the fear of being disarmed during a struggle has always been one of my worst fears. I went through the Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy in 1985, when “Boxing Week” was still a mainstay of the training curriculum. I understand why those methods have evolved over time, but I will share two very important life lessons (that came with a cracked cheek bone and broken ribs) I learned that week.

Lesson #1: Don’t quit.
I am not a quitter. After a week of skill drills and ring time, we were all required to fight two three-round matches with opponents selected for you by academy staff. They made sure you took at least one good beat down. I remember the man who gave me mine.

I remember the apology before, and after, but mostly I remember the flurry of punches that rained down on me for what seemed like an eternity. I did not stay down. I did not curl up in the fetal position. If we had been keeping score, I would not have won but I did not quit.

Lesson #2: Pursue training that fits you.
I was not happy with my skill level in this area. It needed to improve. Fast. I joined a local martial arts academy shortly after OSHP graduation and spent the next 20 years improving a skill set and experimenting with a variety of disciplines in search of an approach suited to my individual strengths.

What was provided to me by the OSHP and later the FBI — while well intended — only scratched the surface of developing the kind of technique and muscle memory I needed to ensure my success in a life-threatening situation. I made sure that I got the training that suited me.

Women in law enforcement have chosen to work in what we recognize is a male-dominated professional environment that has traditionally used a male model of approach. That model is not always a good fit for many of us female officers.  

As women continue to increase in numbers and in voice (command staff), it is incumbent upon us to advocate for the integration of other models and options into our culture and our training that are more diverse. Telling a female or smaller stature trainee that there is only one acceptable way to do an arm bar takedown or a weapon retention technique does every single one of us a disservice.

We need to be open-minded and provide realistic options so trainees can adapt those techniques best suited to their individual strengths. That is how competence and confidence in acquired skill sets is successfully accomplished.

The Appleton officer fought valiantly to keep her weapon and subdue a violent felon. She will go home to her loved ones. This could be asked of any one of us at any moment.  

What have you got in your tool bag? Is it enough? If it’s not, fix it. In the end, it really is up to you. 

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