Written by: Greg Ellifritz
The internet has been abuzz with comments on the surveillance video of a cop who knocked out a burglary suspect by pistol whipping him across the face. The burglary suspect initially complied and but then began to struggle with the officer, eventually taking the officer’s back and gouging his eyes. If you haven’t seen the video, check out the incident narrative on The Bearing Arms website as well as Active Self Protection’s take on the matter as well. The full video is embedded below for your viewing pleasure.
I’m glad the cop laid him out, but it should have happened way earlier in the fight. The cop was trying to wrestle with the suspect and was not doing it well.
When the bad guy moves from “trying to escape” to “trying to hurt you,” officers need to dial up the intensity. I didn’t see the officer trying to strike at all until about the 1:48 point in the video. At that point the police lieutenant landed a couple of ineffective hand strikes. The cop also wasn’t trying to access any of his less lethal weapons such as pepper spray, a Taser, or an expandable baton. He was just trying to manhandle a suspect who was actively trying to cause the officer serious injury.
Everyone is commending the cop here. I like the pistol strike too, but to be honest, this cop really got lucky. Did you see how gassed he was at the end of the two minute fight? He couldn’t even handcuff the suspect. His backup officer had to do the handcuffing while the lieutenant leaned against the counter to catch his breath. If that pistol strike didn’t work, how long do you think the officer could have continued fighting? Not very long. As I said before, the cop got lucky. Good luck reinforces bad tactics.
Three learning points from this one:
-Physical fitness and fighting skills are important for cops to have. It doesn’t look like this officer had either. Unfortunately most other cops are even less fit and skilled than this guy is. Having sloppy physical conditioning and being inept at fighting is unacceptable for career police officers.
Unfortunately, it is the norm throughout the world. It takes time to become proficient with empty hand combatives. I don’t know a single agency anywhere in the country that provides officers with enough empty hand fighting training to generate true proficiency. Less than 10% of cops will seek out supplemental fighting training on their own. There would be a lot more problems if the criminals really knew how poorly most cops are trained.
-When the suspect is actively trying to take your gun or seriously hurt you (eye gouges), wrestling is not the proper response. Cops are worried about being judged for using “too much” force on a suspect, and often default to using force that is inadequate to effect the arrest. Inadequate or ineffective uses of low level force almost always result in more injuries for both the officer and the suspect.
Want another example where cops try to wrestle someone when they should have struck him or used weapons? How about the video below of the three Swedish police women trying to take a violent immigrant suspect into custody. Watch the video (the action starts around the :50 mark) and prepare to be underwhelmed by these officers’ skills.
The problem with wresting violent criminals is that most cops will tire quickly. When gassed, the officers can’t defend themselves nearly as well, nor can they effectively control the suspect. The officer in the jewelry store should have definitely used striking skills or a less-lethal weapon as soon as the suspect tried to hurt him. Environmental weapons are good too. Running dude’s head through one of those glass cases would be pretty easy and very conclusive. You aren’t an ape. Use a tool. It makes no difference whether it’s the weapons you carry or the environment that surrounds you, a tool will help you resolve the fight with much less chance of becoming injured or dead.
–Handgun strikes are important skills to have for anyone who packs a pistol. Know how to hit someone with your gun without breaking the gun, losing the magazine, or accidentally discharging a round. When I was the training officer for the department, I actually taught cops how to safely strike someone with a pistol if no other options were available. Few cops get that kind of training.
The strike the cop used, while effective, often causes the striker to drop the gun. If you choose to hit someone with a pistol, do a straight punch with the muzzle, or cant the pistol inboard and perform a hooking strike with the top of the pistol’s slide. Both are effective strikes, won’t break the gun, and minimize the chance of accidentally discharging the pistol.
Everyone likes to see a bad guy get what he deserves. Instead of merely celebrating just desserts, I would advise folks to better analyze the problem and ensure that the cops in your city are actually getting the training they need to apprehend the criminals they face on a daily basis.
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