Law Enforcement Journal

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Editorial Forward:
This article is a brief summary of Lt. Pollaro’s presentation at the last Trainers’ Conference here at ILEA.  He presented on Ten Myths of Physical Tactics for Law Enforcement, which was lauded by all who attended.  He was kind enough to emphasize two critical points in this article: frequency of training and diversity of training, both of which help each LEO to get home at night.]
~ Tim J. Cain

Are Officers Rolling The Dice When It Comes To Hands-On Techniques?

By Lt. Nick Pollaro - Physical Tactics Instructor, Indiana Law Enforcement Academy

Being a police officer can be a dangerous job.  When going hands-on with a suspect, officers rely on techniques that their physical tactics (defensive tactics) instructors have taught them.  However, are some of the techniques being taught really that good or are officers rolling the dice?
Are there bad techniques out there?  Absolutely.  So why do these bad techniques continue to work? 
There are two reasons:

1.  The suspect does not attempt to counter the officer and complies.  

2. The suspect does attempt to counter the officer but the suspect is not skilled and the officer is able to take control.

Both situations build a false confidence and then the officer starts to believe that the technique cannot be countered.  Every technique can be countered.  Anyone who says that a particular technique can’t is not being truthful or doesn’t train enough to understand how the counter might work.  It is important for trainers to get in the gym and figure out how these counters work.  Now of course no one is going to figure it all out but having some type of game plan will definitely help.

When I see techniques that are not tactically sound, I often ask the officer showing me, “why are you doing it that way?”  The response is always the same, “well that is what they showed me” or “well we have been doing it that way for the last 40 years”.  It is time to rewrite the book, so to speak.  Now are there “old” techniques out there that are solid?  Absolutely.  If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, and that can surely apply.  But if there is something that is being shown and is not solid, then the technique needs to be adjusted or discarded.  A punch is a punch and a kick is a kick, but with the revolution of mixed martial arts (MMA) and the grappling arts such Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ), officers need to be even more aware of some suspects’ capabilities.  Every art has strengths and weaknesses, trainers need to be training officers in every range of the fight.  Kicking range, punching range, close quarter range (elbows, knees head-butts) and grappling range.  As an officer, you never know what range you might be in.

Unless the suspect is wrapped up like a mummy, no position is 100% safe.  Handcuffed suspects have killed officers.  Just because a suspect is proned out, on their knees, standing with hands on head, with their hands up on a wall or car, doesn’t mean that suspect cannot move.  Officers may think they have the tactical edge but that suspect can still move.  And if that officer is not ready for that counter they are going to be a ‘deer in the headlights’ when something does happen.

Officers need to train, PERIOD.  Departments cannot deliver the amount of training needed for officers to become proficient in hands-on techniques.  Also trainers need to get out there and train.  Trainers are supposed to be the department guru, and they also need to be proficient.  If you were going to fly somewhere and you knew for a fact you were going to run into bad weather, who would you want piloting the plane, the pilot that flies four times a week or the one that flies twice a year.   The answer is obvious.  Law enforcement administrations should encourage their officers to seek training on their own.  Do not tell your officers that the only techniques that they can use are the ones taught at physical tactics training.  You are limiting officers on what they can do.  Remember, the courts only look at if the force was objectively reasonable.  They are not concerned about policy, SOP’s etc.  If an officer is training in some type of martial art, wrestling, etc., they are less likely to injure someone compared to the officer who doesn’t train, maybe panics, and oversteps the objectively reasonable standard.  So get out there and train.  You owe it to yourself, your communities, your brothers/sisters who wear the badge, and most of all to your families.

Lieutenant Nick Pollaro is a Physical Tactics Instructor for the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy with over 30 years’ experience in Law Enforcement.  He is also a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt and a Jeet Kune Do Instructor.

Anyone interested in submitting an article to the Journal is invited to do so by emailing: Tim J. Cain @ with a copy of the article attached to the email.

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