Have You Ever Been Punched in the Face?

By Shane S. McSheehy  |   Nov 27, 2019

The day will come when it just doesn’t matter. The suspect has nothing to lose and simply does not care. He is not daunted by your position of authority. He does not fear your physical size. He is not concerned about your gender type. He could care less about your race, sexual preference, or who you may have voted for in the last election. The suspect does not only want to escape- he intends on physically assaulting you with all of his might and will. When you have been in this business long enough, there will come a day when the bad guy doesn’t care that you wear a badge and carry a gun. And when that day comes, you better know how to fight.

“Have you ever been punched in the face?” It’s a fairly straight forward question I ask each recruit I instruct during day one of his or her academy defensive tactics block. Normally, and oftentimes predictably, less than one-third of police academy recruits have. While this may seem shocking to some, it is a stark reality. Whatever the reasons are, and perhaps an entirely different article altogether, our future officers are hitting the streets without any real knowledge of how to actually fight. Officers receive training on firearms, Taser, O/C spray, and sometimes a straight baton- all great things; however, what happens when overdependence on these tools causes a critical failure in basic self-defense? In other words, when the firearm is taken away from the officer, the Taser doesn’t work, the O/C spray is ineffective, and the baton strikes do little to slow the attacker, what’s left? Hint: it’s not the badge pinned on your uniform.

The annual FBI publications of Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted are a helpful tool in determining the most common, predictable threat to law enforcement. Take away all other factors including time of day, day of the week, age and sex of offender, age and sex of officer, years of experience of officer, agency type and geographic locations. When you remove all of the filters, the end result is glaringly clear. Year after year, officers are assaulted with “personal weapons”—hands and feet—far and above all other types of assaults combined. The latest available data revealed 60,211 officer assaults in 2017. Out of these assaults, 76.8 percent of these incidents involved attackers using “personal weapons”. In contrast, only 4.4 percent used firearms, 1.8 percent used knives or other cutting instruments, and 17.0 percent used “other dangerous weapons”. Data from previous years are strikingly similar. Why is this information important? It confirms that the largest, most predominant threat to law enforcement safety is from physical assaults from attackers using their hands and/ or feet.

This raises interesting questions worth discussing.

Are your DT programs including scenarios that integrate hand-to-hand/feet combat and levels of impact that are—as reasonably as possible—reflective of reality? Or are restrictions hindering your ability to prepare officers for what they may really confront?

What are officers doing on a personal level to increase their proficiency? What would you recommend? Boxing? Martial arts?

How can administrators and policy makers influence commitment to effective agency training programs taking these officer assault statistics into serious consideration?

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