PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Police forces have been referred to as the thin blue line, but with funding cutbacks and an increasing number of violent attacks on officers, police are looking for new ways to defend themselves.
“We may only have 35 to 40 hours to teach a young recruit who’s never even been in an argument – let alone a fight – how to save his or her life. That’s a lot to ask of a young man or a young woman,” Sgt. Michael Davis said.
Now, they are being taught Krav Maga.
It is a self-defense system perfected by the Israeli Army, where everyone must serve two years regardless of athleticism or skill in martial arts.
“Police officers, we only have a limited amount of time to train. We have to make it fast and effective so they can take it with them and use it effectively on the street in a reasonable manner,” David Wright, owner of Wright’s Gym, said.
Wright is a Pittsburgh Police officer and a lead instructor in use of force at the training academy. Years ago, he traveled to Maryland to learn Krav Maga.
Now, he brought Sgt. Davis from the Los Angeles County Police Department to teach a week-long class in his Crafton gym.
Many of the students are local cops who will go home and teach their local forces.
“You hear about different schools and different guys go to different things and in order to get a more holistic approach, more well-rounded. With different techniques out there, I frequently go to schools to see what works and what doesn’t and this definitely works,” Paul Petras said.
“Police officers think the same all over the country. And what I mean by that is we all have the same threats. One area may be busier than another, but guess what? It doesn’t matter how busy an area is for someone to take your life. It only takes one person to do that,” Sgt. Davis said.
Pittsburghers know that too well with no less than seven officers killed in the line of duty in the last three years.
“The reality is, if you have to think about what the defense is, you won’t do it and we can’t afford that. Too many police officers die in the line of duty already, and if we can stop the ones that can be stopped, we will. And that’s what we do,” Sgt. Davis said. Said.
Gone are the days of the routine traffic stop. Large crowds like the Occupy Movement or G-20 protestors have forced police to adapt their training.
“For violent encounters, it really addresses a lot of needs. The gun defense system is really incredible. All different angles. Ground fighting, standup fighting, self-defense from all different angles and all different types,” Wright said.
Officers must defend themselves and protect others without the luxury of taking time to think.
“Krav Maga does not teach several different defenses for one attack. We teach one defense for several different types of attacks. So, there is no cognitive thinking events happening. Natural reaction happens,” Sgt. Davis said.
“It takes what you already know. Basic boxing, wrestlers. It brings it together into a quick easy type program. Their basic premise is go on the offense. Don’t just go on the defense and defend. Immediately go on the offense and strike so it’s nothing too technical. It’s easy to learn,” Petras said.
Davis hopes his work keeps other cops from facing a reality he knows all too well.
“In the last 11 years, I have lost 10 of mine. I don’t want to lose any more. They don’t want to lose any more, so we will go anywhere we have to go to give the message to people to help save their own lives. That’s what it’s about,” Sgt. Davis said.