The training protocol I was taught, and that I taught others during my years as a defensive tactics instructor, was to use a baton when faced with a knife — not a firearm.
Just to be sure and to test my memory I contacted a few of my peers from those days and they all verified this. So what happened? Why has there been such a dependence on one’s firearm? Why do we see, again and again, police surrounding a man with a knife and then everyone firing their sidearms almost simultaneously?
I think this is an important question. It is a question most of us would ask if we had a mentally-ill person in our family who was in possession of a knife and the police response was to take his or her life.
I do remember training police officers to approach a person with a knife at 45 degree angles and use their baton to disarm and, if necessary, to immobilize persons in these situations. It may cause injury, but not death.
More recently, I have reviewed a number of videos on YouTube in which no attempt is either made by police to de-escalate the situation or to use a less-than-deadly strategy to contain the subject.
I wonder, if a team of prison guards can use a mattress to contain and dIsabel a knief-wielding inmate, why can’t today’s police?
Now I know the arguments — it’s the old “21 foot rule” and “officer safety;” but one of these days police will need to start emphasizing the public’s safety and remember that a group of our nation’s leading police chiefs did exactly that when they published their “30 Guidelines for Use of Force.” The first guideline was that all police agencies need to make “sanctity of life” the core of all they do.
Our police today are more educated than they have ever been. Within their ranks are creative and innovative officers who have the ability to design and train on the use of less-than-deadly methods of using force. Let’s call upon this capacity and design new, less-than-deadly responses to these critical incidents.
At the same time, the public must demand that police do this and develop these non-deadly methods to contain emotionally disturbed people who are brandishing a knives or blunt objects without taking their lives.
It is the correct and decent thing to do.
Here’s three recent blogs I wrote about the subject:
- Thinking About “Less-than-Deadly” Force
- It’s Time to Stop Killing Our Mentally Ill
- Use of Force Expert’s Opinion (Mario Woods death)