FIGHTBOOK

Black Belt - - CONTENTS -

Al­bert dotay — high-ranked black belt in karate and judo, for­mer boxer and NYP' of­fi­cer for 28 years — sounds off on what cops can do to cut down on in­ci­dents in­volv­ing al­le­ga­tions of ex­ces­sive use of force while still stay­ing safeK

It’s be­come an all too com­mon sight on the nightly news: al­le­ga­tions of po­lice of­fi­cers us­ing ex­ces­sive force, which lead to fu­ri­ous protests from out­raged cit­i­zens, fol­lowed by a vo­cal de­fense on the part of the law- en­force­ment com­mu­nity.

egard­less of which side of the de­bate you fall on, you’ll agree that at­tempts should be made to limit th­ese kinds of in­ci­dents. But is this pos­si­ble? What mea­sures can be taken to re­duce the use of ex­ces­sive force while at the same time keep­ing po­lice of­fi­cers safe? ºC74A4 0A4 B><4 com­mon-sense things that can be done, but no one wants to pay for them,” Al­bert Go­tay said. “In the long run, it might be better for cities to just in­vest more money in po­lice train­ing — in­clud­ing self-de­fense train­ing — rather than pay the cost of law­suits.”

When it comes to train­ing po­lice, Go­tay knows better than most. A high-ranked black belt in karate and judo, as well as a for­mer am­a­teur boxer, he served for 28 years in the New York Po­lice Depart­ment. He worked on the elite tac­ti­cal pa­trol force and even­tu­ally ran the depart­ment’s phys­i­cal-ed­u­ca­tion unit, which in­cluded all self-de­fense train­ing for po­lice re­cruits. Although he re­tired from the force in 1990, the man­ual he wrote on the sub­ject is still in use. He’s also quite can­did on the pros and cons of the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion with law en­force­ment.

“I imag­ine there are still in­ci­dents of of­fi­cers us­ing too much force, and the me­dia at­ten­tion on this is good in a way be­cause they’re be­ing held

The rear choke used to be a key com­po­nent of an of­fi­cer’s ar­se­nal, but it’s no longer em­ployed by many de­part­ments be­cause of safety con­cerns that have re­cently come to light.

more ac­count­able,” Go­tay said. “But it can also be bad for the pub­lic as a whole be­cause of­fi­cers are be­com­ing more timid. They don’t want to get into trou­ble, so they’re slower to re­spond to sit­u­a­tions, and con­se­quently cit­i­zens are get­ting less cov­er­age. We call it of­fi­cers be­com­ing ‘flower pots.’ They just stand there and do noth­ing.”

THE SO­LU­TION to the prob­lem of lawen­force­ment of­fi­cers us­ing too much force, Go­tay said, is to have them en­gage in more train­ing while they’re at the po­lice academy and more fol­low-up train­ing af­ter­ward. For ex­am­ple, the NYPD has one of the long­est and most rig­or­ous train­ing courses in the United States for its re­cruits. The empty-hand self-de­fense cur­ricu­lum Go­tay taught there in­cluded punches and de­fenses against them, kicks and de­fenses against them, es­capes, and coun­ters to grabs, take­downs and ground at­tacks — in ad­di­tion to body lan­guage.

All that had to be ac­com­plished dur­ing a six-month pe­riod with only 40 hours of de­voted train­ing time. Un­for­tu­nately, many po­lice de­part­ments around the coun­try are forced to ed­u­cate their re­cruits with even less train­ing time. Clearly, po­lice of­fi­cers are be­ing asked to ac­com­plish a nearly im­pos­si­ble task when it comes to skill ac­qui­si­tion.

And that doesn’t even take into ac­count our evolv­ing knowl­edge of defensive tac­tics. Case in point: The rear choke used to be a key com­po­nent of an of­fi­cer’s ar­se­nal, but it’s no longer em­ployed by many de­part­ments be­cause of safety con­cerns that have re­cently come to light.

“It was still al­lowed when I was on the force, and I’d use it all the time to fin­ish sit­u­a­tions quickly so I didn’t have to re­sort to my night­stick or hit­ting the sus­pect,” Go­tay said. “I re­mem­ber one in­ci­dent when I was a sergeant at the 20th Precinct in Man­hat­tan and a fam­ily called in about their son. I got to their home with an­other of­fi­cer, and this kid was about 200 pounds and act­ing crazy, so I told the other of­fi­cer to en­gage him from the front. Then I stepped around be­hind him and ap­plied a choke­hold. It only took about two sec­onds to take him down.

“If I hadn’t been able to do that, we prob­a­bly would have had to start punch­ing and kick­ing him and us­ing our ba­tons. There would have been blood all over the place. In the hands of some­one who knows how to do it, the choke­hold is an ex­cel­lent tool.”

Given the cur­rent amount of train­ing most of­fi­cers re­ceive, Go­tay said, choke­holds have been deemed un­suit­able for many po­lice de­part­ments be­cause of the danger that some­one who lacks ex­pe­ri­ence might ap­ply them for too long, which could lead to a fa­tal out­come.

EVEN MORE wor­ri­some to many are in­ci­dents in which po­lice shoot un­armed sus­pects. Although each of th­ese cases must be ex­am­ined in­di­vid­u­ally be­fore as­sign­ing blame, Go­tay said that in some of th­ese in­ci­dents, of­fi­cers do not seem to be fol­low­ing ba­sic self-de­fense guide­lines that say they should take cover when talk­ing with a sus­pect who may be armed.

“If you’re be­hind cover, when he turns to­ward you, you don’t have to let go a round — you can wait to make sure he does have a weapon,” Go­tay said. “But this is also some­thing that needs to be em­pha­sized con­stantly in train­ing.”

Clearly, there’s not enough time in the av­er­age academy course for re­cruits to mas­ter ev­ery as­pect of po­lice work, par­tic­u­larly when you con­sider all the sub­tleties of close-quarters com­bat. This is why on­go­ing train­ing and re­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion are so im­por­tant, he said. But con­vinc­ing over­worked of­fi­cers to de­vote more time to de­vel­op­ing dif­fi­cult phys­i­cal skills can be an up­hill bat­tle.

One so­lu­tion was im­ple­mented dur­ing Go­tay’s ten­ure with the NYPD: To im­prove the phys­i­cal fit­ness of its rank and file, the depart­ment be­gan of­fer­ing any of­fi­cer who vol­un­teered to take a fit­ness exam — and pass it — an ex­tra quar­ter point to­ward a pro­mo­tion. While that might not sound like much, Go­tay said in a depart­ment where thou­sands of peo­ple might take the exam to be­come a sergeant, some­thing that moves you up a hun­dred spots on the pro­mo­tion list could be ex­tremely valu­able. He said he doesn’t see why sim­i­lar in­cen­tive pro­grams can’t be in­sti­tuted to en­sure law-en­force­ment of­fi­cers con­tinue to im­prove their self-de­fense skills.

IN THE END — for better or worse — much of the bur­den for train­ing will fall on the of­fi­cers them­selves.

“I al­ways told re­cruits in the academy that when they’re on the job, one of the big­gest things is go­ing to be self-de­fense,” Go­tay said. “The main rea­son peo­ple give for not be­ing fit is that they don’t have the time, and you hear that same ex­cuse when it comes to learn­ing self-de­fense. So I’d al­ways tell them [that] what you have to do is make this your per­sonal hobby. Find a school, get in­volved with it and get good at it so it be­comes part of your normal life­style.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.