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The Reality of LEO UOF and Martial Arts Training

I recently commented on an article published by CBC titled “RCMP not banning controversial neck hold despite instructions from minister” This following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.

As the article already clearly stipulates, the hold that was applied and had caused the death of George Floyd is not the same as the Vascular Neck Restraint (VNR) taught to many law enforcement agencies in Canada, including the RCMP. The VNR, when applied properly, compresses the carotid arteries located on both sides of a subject’s neck, resulting in the individual being restrained to become unconscious, usually within 20 seconds. The technique used to restrain George Floyd applied pressure to his neck with the use of a knee for several minutes.

Much of the conversation in the comments to which I responded, revolved around the fact that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) and Mixed-Martial Arts (MMA) practitioners apply the same technique, commonly referred to as a “rear naked choke” without causing serious harm to the recipient. Although I agree with this premise and support the decision made by the commissioner of the RCMP not to ban the VNR as a valuable tool when used in circumstances that the officer is facing grievous bodily harm or life-threatening situations, my concern pertains to the training. It is here that I believe we should look at the differences between both the Use of Force (UOF) training provided to law enforcement officers and those involved in the martial arts.

In the province of Ontario, with which I reside, the core competencies and standards require law enforcement officers to have a minimum of 8 – 12 hours of UOF recertification annually. This training includes review of the Use of Force model, de-escalation strategies, handcuffing, open hand techniques, baton, OC (oleoresin capsicum) spray, search and weapon awareness to name a few but not all topics to be covered. Although this is the minimum, many services are unable to provide more than what is required due to manpower restraints within their organizations. One should ask themselves if this is enough to remain competent in the skills that the officer may and often times be called upon to use daily during their duties.

In comparison, a martial artist trains a minimum of 2 hours weekly to become proficient in skills that they may use on average in sports competition 2 – 4 times a year or in self-defence situations, less than once in their lifespan. Additionally, when comparing martial arts to UOF, the martial artist competing in a sport will have a referee as well as a panel of judges present to ensure the safety of those competing as well as the rules of the sport are adhered to. Although the law enforcement officer also has rules of engagement found in standard operating procedures, laws and regulations, they do not have someone there to referee their actions to which the subject, that they are attempting to control, does not have to abide by.

So, while it may seem by my rant, that I am against the use of the VNR, I am not. I agree with the statistics provided in the attached article and believe that is a valuable to tool to not only law enforcement but anyone involved in a life-threatening situation, providing they are competent in the technique. Competence is obtained through hard continuous training as is evident by the most elite athletes in their fields. For this reason, I believe that our first responders are undertrained. We are quick to point the finger of blame to those that we hold to a higher standard, but perhaps we should look harder at the standard to which they are trained.

Before the haters start to hate…I’m not condoning the behaviour of any law enforcement officer who has used excessive force, but merely saying that perhaps, less questionable incidents would occur if the officers had better and frequent training. In the future, I will discuss ‘Impact factors’ and how they play into the decision making of an individual who is under added duress during these potentially life-threatening situations. These factors which would include personal skillsets, sleep deprivation and cognitive dissonance could play significantly on how one would respond to the situation before them.

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