It is a situation that has played out all too often, here and around the country.
Law enforcement officers respond to a call, stop a suspicious person or just begin a seemingly routine encounter. Perhaps an officer perceives a threat or mistakes a movement. Adrenalin is pumping, and tempers may be flaring. A scuffle ensues, police guns are drawn and a a shot or shots have a fatal effect.
There is understandable outrage at what looks like – and often is – an excessive and unnecessary use of force. Inevitably, the question arises: Did the incident need to turn out this way? Should it ever have escalated to the point of lethal force? Could it have been resolved with far less serious consequences?
Recently, some 65 officers from Durham, Orange and Wake counties spent several days learning techniques to resolve a volatile situation without using a weapon. Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood called the course in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, “the best training, the best equipment and the best knowledge all rolled into one.”
Blackwood has been focusing on safety and training, and the jiu-jitsu course is a part of that. Blackwood’s approach is in part in response to the often controversial excessive-force encounters around the country.
“There’s a lot of stuff being written about law enforcement in the nation right now, but not a lot of people are taking the time to see the work that we’re doing a a whole to fix what have been identified as the problems,” he told The Herald-Sun’s Tammy Grubb. “This is probably the best tool we’ve ever put in our box.”
Course instructor Sunny Yu, who owns the Gracie Durham Jiu Jitsu Academy and teaches the technique at UNC-Chapel Hill, says the training is based on real-life problems and the course is designed so that someone with no experience can learn the skills. He noted that not all law enforcement leaders are as receptive to the course and similar training as Blackwood is.
Orange County Sheriff’s Investigator Jon Daniel was enthusiastic about the training, and said a goal is to help ensure that multiple officers responding to an incident or making an arrest are all “on the same page.” He wants the public to know the last thing he and his fellow officers want is to have encounters end in injury, or worse.
“Were not out to hurt people,” he said. “That’s not our goal. We just want to protect you.”
You couldn’t ask for a better law enforcement credo, and we’re grateful to Blackwood and to the officers who took part in the training he arranged.