The Future of Police Training with Sam Harris and Rener Gracie

The world held its breath as former Minnaepolis cop Derek Chauvin was tried in court for the killing of George Floyd. Chauvin was ultimately convicted of all three counts for which he was charged; second degree murder, third degree murder, and second degree manslaughter.

The tragedy resulted in extensive police reform that has been met with opposition, notably the infamous ‘diaphragm bill’ which became law in the city of New York. The law bans positions such as the mount, knee on belly, and any type of vascular restraint for on-duty police officers, making them potentially liable for a civil suit if they were to use one of these mechanisms of control against even the most violent and belligerent of suspects.

“It’s the most negative step that’s ever been taken,” says Rener Gracie, who was openly critical of City of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio for signing the bill into law. “It’s such a lost cause and it’s so sad for those officers.”

In the wake of the verdict and in light of the work he’s doing with police officers, Rener discusses on Neuroscientist Sam Harris’s podcast the implications that police brutality is having on public policy and the drastic overreach that certain jurisdictions are taking in an ill-guided attempt to address the problem. Retirement requests for officers reportedly has never been higher and many are afraid to go back to work under the new policies.

“Writing a bill into law that says we can not use the mount is written by a group of people that believe that cops are sufficiently trained in empty-handed control tactics to begin with,” he states. “They see the rear naked choke as a deadly weapon that warrants being banned. In trained situations, there are thousands and thousands of rear naked chokes applied safely around the world every day.”

Together, the two delve into the psychology of being put into a highly violent situation serving as a police officer with minimal training despite the tireless efforts Rener’s school is taking to address the problem with his nationally-accredited Gracie Survival Tactics program. The program certifies police officers and armed forces personnel around the nation.

“The fact that we are teaching the cops great techniques that are non-violent is really insignificant because the level of under-training can not be overstated. Police officers are expected to have the skills to arrest violent subjects while also having the added responsibility of keeping the subject safe in the process. Without the proper training, this becomes virtually impossible.”

“If what you do is deal with violent, physical altercations every day, you should be an expert in violent, physical altercations.”

He minces no words as he lays down the facts. In the state of California, it takes 664 hours of training to become a sworn-in police officer. By comparison, it takes 1600 hours to become a licensed cosmetologist and 1500 hours to become a licensed barber. Neither of the ladder two professions requires gun training, hand-to-hand combat, or being saddled with the responsibility of enforcing the law even against the most violent of suspects.

“When you’re talking about the tools available to police officers, the tools they have are quite limited,” states Rener. “There’s certainly no tool that is better than being a true expert on knowing how to physically control people without causing lasting injury to them.”

In California, the undertraining has reached epidemic proportions.

“Cops receive 4 hours of arrest and control training every two years, one of those hours being physical control tactics,” he says. “I have students that train one hour a week, two hours a week, and they’re still white belts after a year who can finally put this stuff together.”

“The more trained a police officer is, the less likely they have their gun taken from them or knocked out. If we can simply increase their capabilities, we will lower the level of force across the entire country. Every department in the country needs to be brought up to a reasonable amount of training.”

On the podcast, Rener describes in detail the ground-breaking data coming out of the Marietta Police Department in Georgia as a result of formalizing a privatized contract that enables officers to train jiu-jitsu without them bearing the cost.

Two years ago the Marietta Police Department had a public relations fiasco as a video went viral where two of their officers were violently striking a suspect in an effort to incarcerate them. The Marietta Police Chief, reportedly a fan of jiu-jitsu, agreed to overhaul his program and put in a grant request to increase officer training. Officers would be charged only 10 dollars a drop-in at a carefully vetted local BJJ school and the department would be sent an invoice at the end of the month. Officers could opt-in to the program or opt-out, with 97 officers opting to partake and 50 officers declining to do so.

The rookies on the police force were used as the guinea pigs and the results have been nothing short of remarkable.

In one year of the pilot program, taser deployments are down 23%. Use-of-force injuries to officers faced a 48% reduction department wide, with 0 reported injuries occurring in the group that practices BJJ. Suspects were 53% less likely to experience injury.
The department saved over $66,000 in workers compensation claims, when you factor in the cost to the police department of its officers training jiu-jitsu the end result came out to a $40,000 net savings. It’s become a win-win scenario all-around; for the officers, for the department, for the public, and for the jiu-jitsu instructors that add traffic to their schools. Veterans on the police force have began to jump on board.

Rener understands that on a police officer’s budget a lot of them can’t afford a $200 a month membership. This is where something akin to a punch-card ‘pay-as-you-go’ model at a discount has proven successful for all parties. The best part is the department bears the cost.

“We’re not trying to get rich off of these partnerships with the community. I’m just trying to be part of the solution that makes training available at a cost that is acceptable for the city.”

In light of the ground-breaking data, he explains that the program has been so successful that a lot of police departments around the country are following suit.

“The challenge we’re having right now is that we have more inquiries in locations than we have schools to meet the demand. It’s a crazy time.”

Learn more about the program here

Listen to the podcast here.


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