Senior Police Managers must not kowtow to political rhetoric

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

A recent article I read in the globe and mail has pushed me to where I can no longer bite my tongue and remain silent. It is a part of a continuing onslaught at undermining police efficiency and as a consequence, police officer and public safety. “RCMP Commissioner urged to issue directive on use of knee to neck”   “RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki must issue a clear directive to officers that this measure is prohibited and unjustified, a defence lawyer and a New Democrat MP say.”

The Street Fight

When a peace officer, who is, by law, required to intervene in the actions of an individual by virtue of preventing an assault, self harm or lawfully take in to custody, and that person fails to comply with a lawful command then the situation often deteriorates into a physical conflict. The conflict amounts to a “street fight” as there are no Marquis of Queensbury rules at this point. There are, of course, limitations on the actions of the officer dictated by the Criminal Code and as an extension of that, the department policies. All of this having been instilled by basic training classes and in-service refreshers.  The “suspect “follows no such limitations. They, essentially, dictate the level force required by the officer. This means that the officer must adjust their response to enable them to overcome the suspect’s actions as failing cannot be an outcome. Why? Having already mentioned the officer’s requirement to ensure safety, it must be realized that, at every conflict that occurs, there is a firearm present! Should the officer be overcome by the suspect, the firearm, a deadly force option, is now available to the suspect. Do we see why losing that street fight is not an option?

Tactics to Success

Police Defensive Tactics is the term often used to describe the skills taught to aspiring street cops. There are actual physical techniques learned, as well as some philosophical and of course, legal components. This is where the public, the elected officials and sadly, some senior managers are oblivious to reality and the street cop suffers accordingly. Defensive tactics taught (fighting skills), include body positioning, balanced movements, body targets, impact strikes, joint locks, restraint techniques and use of weapons. Pain and muscular/nerve dysfunction are referenced as goals. Reference is also made to assessing the environment and “reading” the suspect. This list is not exhaustive. What is important here is to understand that the variety of situations/conditions/suspects is virtually infinite. The goal of training is to convey enough skill and confidence that a street cop will be able to safely and successfully fulfil their duties. The reality is that there is a limited amount of time to dedicate to this training, and trainees vary in their ability to learn, absorb and ultimately apply the skills. Training has evolved over time to focus on concepts, with a variety of options to achieve an outcome. As an example, a strike to the bronchial plexus origin may cause the suspects arm to go limp and he drops his weapon. That strike may be taught in class as a “karate chop”, but trainees are encouraged to apply the concept in the field by using an elbow strike, baton strike, shin strike etc , depending on the circumstance. This relies on the resourcefulness of the cop and ability to react quickly under the dynamic circumstances occurring in real life and as per previous reference, there is not an infinite amount of time in class to cover all available or practical techniques. To say that a particular technique is “not taught or endorsed” is misleading. What I am getting at here is, when a decision maker decides to eliminate a particular option, because it becomes politically unpopular , they are reducing the toolbox and ultimately the effectiveness of the officer and with that, public safety. As I used to harp:

 “If a member is kicking and gouging in the mud, the blood and the beer, and an “RCMP approved” technique doesn’t readily come to them, are they to just  sit there and take a beating? “The highest level of force, Lethal Force Option, is permissible and will always be an available option, as governed by law. That being said, any application of force, which is less than lethal, is thus also a  legal option. The more any organization chips away at a particular tactic as unacceptable the more one is left with that ultimate level of force as the only option. We have seen this, in Canada as well as the US if we have been awake over the past few years.

Knee on the neck

Brian Beresh, a criminal defence lawyer: “Commissioner Lucki must clearly communicate to the rank and file that the use of a knee to the neck is not appropriate. The procedure is simply unreasonable” “Passing that message to the ranks could occur very quickly, as quickly as the dissemination of an e-mail. That kind of conduct has to stop. ”So I am not sure where this idiot draws his logic, just trying to defend his client by shifting blame I suppose. The fact that his client was ultimately controlled indicates the effectiveness of the technique. The fact that he suffers physical discomfort as an outcome reminds him that compliance with the lawful commands would have been the better choice. A flailing fighting suspect can be difficult to control. Taking them to the ground is a start, as mother earth won’t budge so you have some restriction of their movement. Now you must “pin” them there, while trying to manoeuvre into a handcuffing position. This is where body weight on body might serve, however, unless you have the whole football team with you “dog piling” isn’t an option (which by the way, also gets significant criticism.) If you are 5’4” and 125 lbs, you will have difficulty pinning that 240 lb logger, or screeched out meth addict. This is where a concept must be applied. Knee on the neck is a very valuable tactic in this circumstance, and it is actually more likely shin-bone across the neck when you look closely. It will be uncomfortable when the right nerves are impacted and the suspect is actually receptive to pain stimulus, or it may work as carotid-control and actually render the suspect unconscious. A similar option is knee-bone on the temple or jaw, very uncomfortable, as part of “control the head, control the body” philosophy.  The bottom line is, you are working toward winning the fight and controlling the suspect. At any point, the suspect is free to stop fighting, comply with commands and the discomfort ends. This particular technique is valuable as it allows the officer to be heads-up, scanning for the “plus-one” or other threats, to apply cuffs or to use the radio to call for assistance. For Beresh, what tactic would you recommend under this circumstance?

Carotid Control

A passion of mine, so this could get lengthy. This technique is also referred to as “Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint -USA) or in Judo as “shime-waza” or MMA as a “choke hold”. A bit of a misnomer perhaps as the technique is about restricting blood flow to the brain (hypoxia) as opposed to compressing the windpipe and affecting air to the lungs( not recommended). It’s been 29 years since I waged a battle with policy on this and here we are again. That battle included a presentation to the Public Complaints Commission group, when similar public concern and political rhetoric was being bandied about. They left the presentation essentially shrugging their shoulders and saying “what’s the big deal with this, doesn’t seem to be all that bad”. It had been explained to them that, following a study with judoka in Japan, the experience of being rendered unconscious with this technique, at worst, was like drifting peacefully off to sleep. In over 100 years of being applied, millions ofttimes per year in martial arts combat, where it is much more aggressively used than on the street, there has never been a single injury or death attributed to it. What seemed to cinch it was when I described the various scenarios, one example: You are a battered wife taking a licking from your husband when the above mentioned 5’4” member arrives. When the ape-like husband turns his attention to the member, the fight is on and there is no way that member can take the husband…..as long as he is conscious. Options to render unconscious : shoot the husband, strike him hard on the head with a stick, or apply carotid control. (tasers weren’t available at the time, and have been demonstrated to have limitations). I asked the group what technique they would prefer, if on the receiving end. The response is obvious. Unfortunately that didn’t stop the policy from being modified, removing a very valuable tool from the repertoire, for those that would adhere to it. The ridiculousness being “The RCMP has recognized the inherent dangers of this hold by restricting its use in policy, which clearly states that the carotid control hold can only be applied in a life-threatening situation.”…nooo, that’s when Smith and Wesson come in to play. Carotid control is way below that. At the same time the Rodney King event was referenced, for those that can recall back that far. I was watching a talk show which followed, can’t recall which one, maybe Oprah (no it wasn’t a habit). Guests included jury members and a police officer. The officer was asked “Was there not some other technique that could have been used, besides extensive striking with batons?”  His response included “Well, we used to have something called lateral vascular neck restraint but it is now prohibited and we couldn’t use it”. They simply moved on in the discussion, didn’t pause on that comment at all. The point, remove options and you limit response techniques. In this case the police force had pretty well been relegated to using the baton exclusively, for escort, for take down, for impact strikes, to be ceased when the subject complies with the lawful command, which is typically “police, don’t move”. The message, you want a hundred Rodney King incidents a year, take away Carotid Control.

George Floyd ‘et al’

Reference was, and is continually being applied in these stories, as though the drama cinches it for the rhetoric . We can go as far back as the Dziekanski incident at the airport or for some of us, the “cocaine psychosis” guy on the front lawn in Surrey in the 1980’s. This has been somewhat lengthy and that is a whole separate rant on Excited Delirium, Restraint Related Death and the application of the Polyvagal Theory(Stephen Porges)

Note: Randy Wilson is a retired C/Supt with the RCMP. He holds Black Belts in Judo and Karate and has extensive other martial arts training. He taught as a Self-Defence (Police Defensive Tactics) instructor at the RCMP training centre (Depot) and has additional training from the Koga Institute (Robert Koga), The Verbal Judo Institute(George Thompson) and Pressure Point Control Tactics (Bruce Siddle).He is Emergency Response Team trained with experience in frontline deadly force conflicts in the Lower mainland and Vancouver island. He is VIP trained with extensive experience, nationally and internationally travelling with protectees in the capacity of bodyguard and security coordinator. Not the least, he was an experienced street cop, walking the beat at Granville and Hastings, high intensity with 15 cops in a 2.0 sq Km zone as well as Northwest BC with 1 cop in 10,000 sq km.

53 Comments

  1. Ron Roth says:

    Great read and so true Randy. Thanks to all the guys and gals keeping our communities safe from coast to coast while facing the unknown each time you leave the office. If it wasn’t for all your hard work and dedication the defence lawyers wouldn’t have a job. Maintien le droit

  2. Gary Coulter 21140, O.1255 says:

    Hi, Gary:

    Thanks for this. Interesting set of experiences and perspectives. Led me to a number of rambling thoughts.

    As I was reading it I was impressed by the fact that the police experience is not appreciated by much of the public. I was also reminded of a comment that I saw recently – I can’t remember who said it – that, unless you can start from an agreed basis of facts, rationale argument is not possible. If, for example, people are arguing from a different understanding of how someone died it is difficult for them to reach the same conclusions.

    At the same time, I thought the lawyer raised some good points. It does seem to me that members of police forces face the dilemma between fostering a sense of mutual support and dealing with bad apples. They are not unique in this respect, the medical profession has a similar problem. This has to be exacerbated in the current environment where one must assume that every action is going to be examined in minute detail by people who were not involved and may not have the experience to make a judgement. On a more trivial level I experienced this when I was Dean: I would make what I thought was a simple statement to find that it was being analysed by my colleagues as though they were examining the text of Shakespeare’s first folio in order to demonstrate the unconscious bias I had revealed.

    We no longer seem to have a grey area where people are neither angels or devils but just made a mistake. Of course, when that results in death or injury it is more difficult to deal with. I am still on the list server for the Ontario Psychological Association and am just thankful that I did not have to deal with the morass of regulation and legislation with which clinical psychologists now have to deal.

    Stay safe,

    Alistair.

    Alistair W. MacLean, Ph.D., C.Psych. (Retired)
    Professor Emeritus
    Department of Psychology

    • Thanks for your words Randy. Only those who have had to fight those real, life threatening, fights know. Too many folks who’ve never experienced that, are the ones making the decisions. I don’t wish that on them. I only wish they’d let those that have to do the job have the freedom to do it. Like those that make these policies from their hallowed halls, the police officer on the street wants to go home to their family too.

  3. Gary Coulter 21140, O.1255 says:

    My experience in the field was limited to four years in J Div. During that time I had to resort to physical restraint on one occasion and the individual was successfully handcuffed. He was under the influence of alcohol and was unharmed. I shared the G&M article with a retired Queens University Dean and friend for his comments. He has given me permission to share them with you.

    “Hi, Gary:

    Thanks for this. Interesting set of experiences and perspectives. Led me to a number of rambling thoughts.

    As I was reading it I was impressed by the fact that the police experience is not appreciated by much of the public. I was also reminded of a comment that I saw recently – I can’t remember who said it – that, unless you can start from an agreed basis of facts, rationale argument is not possible. If, for example, people are arguing from a different understanding of how someone died it is difficult for them to reach the same conclusions.

    At the same time, I thought the lawyer raised some good points. It does seem to me that members of police forces face the dilemma between fostering a sense of mutual support and dealing with bad apples. They are not unique in this respect, the medical profession has a similar problem. This has to be exacerbated in the current environment where one must assume that every action is going to be examined in minute detail by people who were not involved and may not have the experience to make a judgement. On a more trivial level I experienced this when I was Dean: I would make what I thought was a simple statement to find that it was being analysed by my colleagues as though they were examining the text of Shakespeare’s first folio in order to demonstrate the unconscious bias I had revealed.

    We no longer seem to have a grey area where people are neither angels or devils but just made a mistake. Of course, when that results in death or injury it is more difficult to deal with. I am still on the list server for the Ontario Psychological Association and am just thankful that I did not have to deal with the morass of regulation and legislation with which clinical psychologists now have to deal.

    Stay safe,

    Alistair.

    Alistair W. MacLean, Ph.D., C.Psych. (Retired)
    Professor Emeritus
    Department of Psychology

  4. Ron Osika says:

    In my day senior members had the gonads to support members. Awesome to see this kind of rebuttal to all the negative MEDIA political/hype. ABOUT TIME. THE CURRENT COMMISSIONER should be taking a walk out the door with the disgraced GG.

  5. D.C. Hughes says:

    Thank you to all police officers for the job that they do. Also thank you to the wives and children of the police officers who were blessed when their parent came home safely at the end of the day ! May God bless you all.

  6. Jerry clarke says:

    If you have never been involved in a knock down arrest you have no idea what you are talking about. Served thirty five years. And in some cases my nearest back up was an hour away. Taught by George Franklin the choke hold saved me many times. Thanks George

  7. D. Frank McLeod (S/Sgt. Rtd) says:

    What a refreshing report in response to the Globe and Mail article, thank you to the writer. And the comments that follow reminded me of the integrity and desire to do the right thing of all the members that I served with for over 25 tears. My own experience seems to be some years before most of the comments that follow the article. My first detachment in 1961 was in central B.C. On arrival I was advised of the local group of hoodlums that used a small restaurant as their hangout. If problems occurred, your first stop was that restaurant. Sure enough, several months later a call came one evening of a sexual assault at that same restaurant. Both members on shift arrived in the 2-door Chevrolet patrol car. We were met at the door by one of the youngest member of the gang. Undoubtedly dispatched by their leader to earn his ‘bones’ for membership. The gang member interfered with us entering the restaurant, he was arrested and marched out to the patrol car. Upon arrival, the senior member dropped the arm he was holding and turned to open the door and move the front seat up so that the prisoner could be jammed into the back seat. As his arm became free, he turned and hit me in the jaw wirh his free fist. as I dropped to the ground, I could see, eye ball to eye ball, one of the leading citizens of the town, watching the events. I was able to get up and assist my partner with the arrest. And then off to the hospital to see if my jar was broken. Thankfully it was not.The prisoner received 6 months in jail, This is not the end of the story. 3 months later, our prisoners father came into the detachment to report that his brand new vehicle was stolen from the local Legion the night before. I was the Constable that took the report. After 2 days his vehicle was located at another detachment up the line. The prisoner was released and came to the detachment after arriving home to thank me for helping his dad. How things have changed since those days. My partner and I used the latest training to make that arrest , 2 door cars are a thing of the past. Many things have changed positively. I learned something important all those years ago. When Police Officers always strive to do the best they can when confronted with rebellious society they can depend upon each other and often that seems to be the only positive support they get.

  8. G.D. Kilvington. R.C.M.P., Ret'd. says:

    Being one who “has been there”, I was slammed into a concrete surface by a person who had been informed he was under arrest, and promptly went into attack mode. Fortunately, I was not alone, and had a backup member with me. It took both of us to finally restrain this person and get him to a police car for incarceration. He was charged with “Assault Police Officer” as well as some other charges. Once the case came to court, the “Assault P.O.” charge was dismissed by the Learned Judge, who stated “a police officer must expect to get hurt in the line of their duty”! Since when? All the de-escalating techniques failed, and raw force was required in this instance, and certainly, the Judges dismissal of the Assault P.O. and uncalled for comments placed a certain cynical edge on my future dealings with violent arrestees. The general populace, warm and content in their homes, has no idea what being placed in these situations means. The average street cop does not go to work each day thinking “I’m going to beat someone senseless today” but the criminal has no such moral restraint on his thinking, and is fully prepared to resist as strongly as he is able. The police need a varied and effective collection of physical responses and techniques at their disposal to effectively deal with this element, and protect the public peace. Randy, your article is timely and well said in a period that anti-police sentiment is at an all time high.

  9. Grant Wilson says:

    I’m retiring in a couple of weeks after 40 years. I spent about 6 of those years working pretty much alone doing rural GD & HP in the Chilcotin & Valemount/McBride/Blue River. I was injured several times, one of which was a shattered knee while arresting a very combative 19 yr old kid. I remember that I didn’t want to hurt him & chose not to use the carotid control technique. That was a life altering decision for me; a decision I’m reminded of every time I pull into that front row parking spot, put that little blue sign on the mirror & limp into the store. I can’t help but think that the vast majority of those who criticize that actions of police in these situations, have never actually been in any true form of physical confrontation. I’m sure their outlooks would quickly change if they had to suit up, hit the road & go 10-23 alone. Just sayin’…

    • Ron Angell says:

      Well written point. Congratulation on retirement. Thank you for your service and it was great working with you in Chilliwack.

  10. John D stowell says:

    I would love to comment in full.
    But I hesitate having some concern whether as a result one of you so terribly frustrated by your lot may take some adverse reaction and cause me harm.

    Now isn’t that a shame; to fear, irrationally or otherwise, a reprisal from my very RCMP that I can hopefully remain proud of. And it is not just my concern.

    And perhaps I will write further depending upon the reactions (if any) from your constituents. Thank you for this opportunity to comment and for Mr Dorosh for a far more balanced comment.

    I apologize if any of you are offended by me not addressing you by your rank. It’s only because I don’t want to try scrolling back & forth.

    I hope that my comments spark a lively, balanced discussion beyond the apparently popular confirmation, self aggrandizement and back-slapping from all other commentator in this site. Save Mr. Derosh. Hopefully it attracts some intelligent discussion.

    Apparently you all have a great need to emphasis the risks police officers face. We civilians know that. We know that, we know that, we know that, we know that.
    I’ll bet not one of you joined the force for the desk jobs it offered. You wanted the excitement, novelty and esteem felt by every one of you. And the steady pay cheque. But also the feeling of having an advantage over the ordinary citizen. Your special. Catching the bad guys; how exciting despite the risks. How emotionally elevating.
    Not one of you said “But wait, what about the risks ??
    If you don’t like the job and oppose your civilian authority quit. Or move to Myanmar. Stop managing like a 19th Century police force and come into the 21st.

    We also know that those of us who have schizophrenic family members go to bed every night knowing that there is an even chance that some officer WITHIN RCMP POLICY will shoot him or her to death with impunity if that son or daughter has an uncontrollable “episode”. Whether he or she has a box cutter or stapler or not.
    Why ? Because an officer is trained in very limited ways of the ultimate and commendable goal of the officer which is control at all costs. When it should be safety at all costs. You must take immediate control when your few tools consist of demands, cuffs and guns. And because you just won’t f’n listen.
    Like it or not and thank God we the people are both the beneficiaries and the civilian bosses of your conduct and we demand fielty to the civilian authority and no less.

    The point that your treatise ignores is in the very headline. And the comments. You seem to believe that your para-military force which was created remember for the sole purpose of subduing the native population in Western Canada should not necessarily listen to the civilian authority. You should set the rules for your conduct because as Mr. Wilson at length points out he has such tremendously detailed expertise.
    You are the servants of the people and subject to civilian authority. You know to follow orders or people die. Until perhaps you don’t like what your bosses tell you to do. Sweet baby Jesus explain why, in heavens name why do we need such heavy civilian oversight ?

    It’s a given that Wilson and you others are police force experts. His and your collective insecurities and disenfranchisement from we citizens is what is driving this article. His self promotion reads like the sales pitch that it is.

    I should let you know at this point that for 40 years I was one of those “idiot” or “back room chesterfield hugging lawyers” (or what ever he said) both for the Crown and the Defence referred to by Wilson and the others. I fought hard for either side. I too frequently had to fight hard on either side to keep the members honest in their testimony. Consequently, over those years I met many proud, humble, dedicated officers who never once had to use extreme force to enforce the rule of law and never once tried to “make their case” by embellishment, exaggeration or perjury in Court being unable to resist the lure of promotion or commendation if they did so.

    But I also don’t have enough fingers on 3 or 4 hands to count the number of officers who did so without question or embarrassment. Some had to be transferred because the local Judges refused to believe them anymore. You all know this even as you avoid it. I took satisfaction in trying to keep you bunch honest. I loved you guys or women who were professional.

    You might also learn that as soon as any of you servants reduce your comments to personal invective and character assassination as Mr. Wilson and some of you have, you have lost the argument and and any hope of support. This article and the comments serve well to illustrate the progressive deterioration of the relation and respect for what could be the best police service in the world. And attitudes such as expressed here at largely at fault.

    Many of you are not old enough to remember the MacDonald commission (1972 ?) highly critical of the unlawfulness of police conduct for the purpose of keeping us safe and “getting the bad guys”. Soon after which the slogan “To serve and protect” was taken off of the cars and replaced by you with the unspoken “To impose and enforce”. And the RCMP began to be a “us and them” police force.

    By no means do I expect to roll back the clock nor repair the dysfunctional relationship between the force and many of our our youthful population who don’t like you.

    I do think in fairness that this is enough well meaning, if critical, contrary comments from me for now but I would like the answer to one very simple question to finish my contribution to the dialogue.

    On what date and under what circumstances were the members of the RCMP no longer obliged to get between me and the bullet ? That’s what we were taught when I was a kid. Along with “the policeman is your friend”.
    If you don’t like citizen safety before officer safety, it’s simple. Quit.

    I’d like to relate one incident in my early education. I grew up in the Okanagan at a time when officers busted up our teenage beach parties and kept the booze for their Christmas parties. And rightfully so. One of the underaged drinkers was nominated to take the rap and pay the $52.50 fine. I did once.

    When I was 13 my parents adopted 3 children aged 3, 4 and 6. Who had been living in unsavoury foster care. I had one natural brother 15 years old.
    With father driving and 5 kids in the back seat we came to an RCMP check point. The 6 year old had a violent hysterical reaction shoving his 3 yr. old brother and 4 yr. old sister to the floor in the back seat so afraid was he of the site of an RCMP uniform. He was screaming and crying. Now why was that ? Obviously he must have witnessed the way at age six that his inadequate parents and the foster homes(s) parents were treated by the police. Too often you continue to treat the most inadequate in inadequate ways. I’ve never forgotten that experience.

    Thank you for listening. Now I’m going to go back and read Mr. Wilson again above as well as all of the comments.

    With best wishes for the safety of all of us, I remain
    Sincerely
    John D Stowell.

  11. Gerry Methuen says:

    How could I encourage my son or daughter to be part of law enforcement if I didn’t support their rights to safety along with their commitment to serving and protecting the public. High time we respected our police and the job they do!

  12. Murray Isnor says:

    About time someone spoke up defending the Police roll in our current Society. Thank you; Sir.

  13. Wayne Penway says:

    My understanding one had the right to use as much force as necessary to subdue a felon I guess it is the
    other way around now.

  14. Wes McCollister says:

    The progression of Mixed Martial Arts has upped the physical game hugely. The number of people training in the various arts ( jujitsu, wrestling, boxing,judo,etc.) along with weight training, has been a rapidly growing entity. The victor in the fights has either submitted, knocked out or Chocked out the opponent. The training given in ‘78 when I graduated, consisted of Self Defence, and firearms training. The most widely used control method, was the choke hold. Why? They can’t fight, if they can’t breath!

  15. Gary Leaman, Retired Insp. ,RCMP says:

    Sadly, this article will mainly be read by ex-members who have “been there” and know what it is really like to face a person intent on ruining your day by beating the hell out of you while you are trying to do your job. There is no doubt that, in many cases, you can de-escalate the situation through remaining calm and trying to talk the person or persons down but, when that fails and the fight is on, no sane police officer will be saying “I’d normally choke you to save my life but the rules say I can’t. Shooting you is an unreasonable option since you only have an axe handle and using my taser is way too controversial”. In a street fight there are no rules. Unfortunately in today’s environment we have too many political entities doing more to get re-elected that making sane decisions based on reality. They have never “been there” and the worse fight they have ever had was with their wife; who burned the toast that morning.

    I am a retired police officer and remember well the many times I tucked my revolver under the seat of my car when I went to the Saturday night fights at the local dance hall. I always felt that it was better to take a good beating than shoot some drunk. Fortunately, being sober and trusting my police training allowed me to do my job and stay alive.

  16. Mike Weightman says:

    Finally someone brings up the value of the carotid control. Many of us who were trained in 1977 had outstanding self defence instructors. This tactic always was the safest option for me. Wasn’t pretty but effective and rapid.
    I hope the officers of today learn the safest methods available. Stay safe out there.

  17. James Brown says:

    Excellent article. I personally have employed choke methods to subdue suspects on numerous occasions. Working in Alberta and many times very much alone with no option to lose a fight. If I had I would have paid dearly. If applied properly a carotid choke can render a suspect to your control within seconds. A lone member has about 2 to 3 minutes to control and restrain a suspect. I assure you that these people who are making up these restrictions have never been in a situation of life for death. One where if a control wasn’t obtained very quickly there could be deadly consequences. This is an article that is very much on point and expresses many things that many members would like to express but cannot for fear of reprisal.

  18. Stephen Mills, S/Sgt. (Ret) says:

    Very well stated and bang on. In all of my conversations with folks who wonder why these incidents happen, I tell them… taking someone into custody who does not want to be taken into custody is always a very ugly scene. There are no rules on the suspects part and no choreographed moves as seen on the WWE. The member is fighting for their lives and they have to revert to what has worked for them before. It becomes instinct and you can’t stop and review some ridiculous policy instituted because of political posturing. Overwhelming force in the quickest time possible is the only thing that works. There is no way to make it pretty!!!

  19. Neil says:

    I am not in law enforcement; I am a very ordinary Canadian. I have not broken the law/resisted arrest so have never had the need for a knee on my neck. I agree there is no place for unreasonable, excessive use of force. That said, I want law enforcement officers to get home safe at the end of their shift and criminals locked up.

  20. M B (Brian) Morrison, RCMP Retired says:

    Excellent article! I have always said that until the armchair analysts walk a mile in an active duty police officers boots, they don’t have a right to offer an opinion. When something bad happens, Ghost Busters don’t respond.

  21. Gill Vincent says:

    Well stated. Thanks for having our back.

  22. John White, S/Sgt. Rtd. RCMP says:

    Finally someone who tells it like it is. I hope politicians read this article. It is time for someone in high places to rebut the anti police rhetoric being published
    and promulgated in the media. (i.e. the RCMP are a bunch of untrained murderers) I really think that they have no idea what police officers deal with on a
    regular basis. Not every arrest goes well, especially when there is alcohol or drugs involved and in what seems to me an ever increasing violent society. Well said
    Randy.

  23. Parker Kennedy says:

    Well said Randy. While this brings back many memories of working in isolated communities of which many years were one-person one should consider the value this would have if shared with every police officer today. Losing is not an option.

  24. Garry Dyck says:

    Well articulated position. Thank you. Shamefully, the political positions are not interested in the practical issues of dealing with the problems as expressed in the article. Rather, they are looking to appease all (enforcement personnel excluded) and score votes.

  25. Bernie Corrigan says:

    Just finished reading your article Randy and couldn’t agree more. Having been involved in a number of violent arrests early on in my career I quickly realized how valuable the training I received assisted me in controlling the situation including those tactics referenced in your article. Without it I doubt if the results would have been the same.

  26. Rod Smith says:

    Excellent article, Randy. I presume you are retired, but if still serving your initiative in putting ‘pen to paper’ or perhaps more appropriately ‘keyboard keys to CPU’ might warrant a CO’s Commendation. I wholeheartedly agree with your ‘street fight’ comments. Most members have experienced tough situations where they were obliged to exceed certain restraints imposed by politically driven policy. In such situations, with no time to consult with policy or think about our own loved ones, we simply react in the most efficient and effective manner possible. Few police officers wish to intentionally inflict pain, suffering or the potential of death on any fellow citizen but sometimes, to safeguard yourself and others, it is all you can do. I do not use the term ‘fellow citizen’ lightly, because as we all know ,”…the police are the public and the public are the police.” (Sir Robert Peel, 1829). On the flip side of this discussion, we should recognize that senior law enforcement managers often find themselves between a rock and a hard place. They should defend their fellow members, while still being answerable to the public and of course their political masters or mistresses. It goes without saying that they sometimes have to pick their battles in order to ‘live to fight another day.’ Finding the right balance between competing interests isn’t easy and a misstep might find oneself along a slippery slope towards an early (forced) retirement.

  27. Grant Dorosh says:

    Your message is lost once you call someone an idiot especially a lawyer that in this case defends clients where excessive force is an issue. Very clearly given the realities of policing and fact that most Provinces have special investigative units that investigate after the fact, all actions during an apprehension become subject to scrutiny for criminal wrongdoing. What is concerning about this article is agreement as to accepted operational procedures and use of force techniques as opposed to verbal deescalation strategies that can be used even in street fights. As an ex insurance inspector whose function was to assess risk without a gun or who could be found liable civilly and criminally for physical actions taken against 3rd parties during an investigation, such techniques as verbal deescalation become automatic to protect your personal safety. It is also recognized that those parties under the influence of narcotics present a unique circumstance where the element of personal danger to attending police officers is at it’s greatest risk. Nor is it to be disputed that often the case is one where the suspect being apprehended is already known to Police where previous interactions have already indicated the need for caution in dealing with the suspect based on the CPIC file consulted prior to the involvement of the Police. It is sad reality that the vast majority of those in the administration of Justice have not been put in harms way to fully understand the danger of dealing with those persons who are re-released shortly after incarceration based on Judges not being made aware of the criminal past of a person who poses a serious risk due to untreated addiction issues. A better focus would be address the need for more scrutiny of how the administration of justice participatants be equally held accountable for allowing dangerous individuals the liberties to create chaos while breaching bail conditions. Something is very seriously wrong where criminal rights trump public safety. We all must accept civil interactions during policing incidents but the reality remains police oversight remains in place and this article unfortunately fails to recognize unlawful use of force is being judged by a higher standard these days. For those charged to serve and protect our society expect more scrutiny not less. Until society comes to terms that policing the hardened elements of the criminal mind is not social work during an apprehension we all become victims to those individuals who use excessive force and are then viewed as not being criminally responsible for their actions. Perhaps it is also time for police officers to be allowed a similar defense. This psychological advantage when entering into street fights might better deter those individuals from resisting arrest and negate the need for physical restraints that put police officers and suspects at risk to further scrutiny of those charged with the oversight of police accountability. The fine balance between police accountability and the rights of the individual have never been so questioned as is now the case. Regrettably articles such as this one will only reinforce the need for further scrutiny of police actions. Mr. Beresh very much deserves an apology and those responsible for the administration of justice must clearly begin to understand their role in also creating the current mess in addressing officer safety. No one wants to see a police state but who then will police our society when it is no longer safe to be a police officer?

    • Randy Wilson says:

      Mr Dorosh, your perspective on this is appreciated. First, to your comment on verbal de-escalation as a strategy. In fact that tactic is encouraged, in training, to be top of mind during interactions. (See Verbal Judo also known as Tactical Communication). At the end of basic training I, and my colleagues would emphasize the importance of verbal control. “In spite of the fact that you (recruits) are now trained and highly skilled at giving someone a licking, the real superior skill is getting the suspect to comply, get in the car, enter the cell, without having to lay a hand on him. After all, can you imagine going home after every shift with bruises, cuts a torn uniform etc.” This philosophy was emphasized by field-trainers and the “old timers” at detachments as a professional and safe approach to policing. The caveat is, those police officers must have the training, skills, practice and force options, leading to a level of confidence that permits them to continue “talking” to the point, if the wheels fall off, they know they can still recover and maintain control. I am not sure what interactions insurance investigators face but, yes, anyone in the service industry benefits from the skill , including bartenders, flight attendants and so on.
      I embrace your commentary on the importance of the greater justice system taking responsibility for public safety.
      On police accountability, and oversight, I could not agree more on how important this is. And, believe it or not, police colleagues will be the first to condemn the illicit or improper behaviour of another, as it taints the whole profession and in fact puts all at greater risk with growing public fear and mistrust. Many senior members have pulled another aside, following inappropriate conduct, and spelled out, quite succinctly, expectations of professionalism. What is important is that the oversight bodies be clearly independent, not only of policing organizations, but of elected officials who might have a vested interest in influencing the outcome. It is so critical that street cops trust these investigators so they are comfortable opening up to them, explaining, justifying and being truthful.
      As for Mr Beresh, I did extend an apology earlier on in the stream. In fact I think I would enjoy a face to face coffee/chat with him to discuss his value in the representation of members facing such tribunals, considering his experience and prowess with this issue, and he was favourably commented on by a colleague, again, earlier in the stream. He also appears to have a solid sensitivity to First Nation issues and I must say, much of my most memorable career experiences were in the numerous First Nations communities I policed, along with “Journeys ’97” paddling odyssey, where I was exposed to their traditions, culture and, of course, wicked sense of humour. They do truly apply the concept of “community” in community policing.

  28. Ron Casey says:

    Kudos to Randy Wilson for his accurate rebuttal. However someone should explain to the public, our law givers, and the media that George Floyd did not die from police brutality and systemic racism. He died from a Fentanyl overdose. I can only surmise that Mr Floyd was carrying the drug “for a friend” and he decided to save himself some cell time by ingesting same before a more comprehensive search could be administered at the jail. It should be noted that Fentanyl users are not famous for mental clarity.

    Moreover it is obvious (as per the body cam) that the Minnesota cops had tried to entice Mr Floyd peaceably into the police car several times with negative results. He refused to go. Physics here is an issue so what do you do when you can’t fit your client into your police car? That’s correct. You call for a larger vehicle. The arresting officer was not trying to hurt Mr Floyd. He was trying to safely control him on the ground until another transport vehicle was available. That is not police brutality. That is not systemic racism. However the narrative is too strong and even Canadian cops will now be vilified for years over something that didn’t happen. Yes, like the Fred Quilt case. Meanwhile 4 cops are charged and their lives have been destroyed.

  29. Bruce Salant says:

    finally some one steps up really rather simple listen to the police and do exactly as they say then nothing bad happens don’t and you deserve what you get.

  30. Doug Maynard says:

    Well said Randy. The educated voice of the Force like yours has for too long been muted. Speak loudly.

  31. LeRoy says:

    Speaking as a son of a member I seen how the hands off the police are slowly being tied. It is a very well articulated article. Because of some of the don’t do this and don’t do that my father was injured on duty. When does the tide turn back to the members. Yes put the politicians and the lawyers on the front line and see what they have to say then.

  32. V .colley says:

    Randy right on. What the Politicians many if not all could not fulfill the tasks of an on street officer. Many times as a young member in Red while on two particular reserves in Saskatchewan found myself in danger and having to resort to my martial arts training to control the situation. Once you loose a fight with a group you become a target and every time after you are guaranteed a fight.
    When I came to the EPS there was a particular beat where a well known group hung out and would target the new member. God help you if the group saw you in trouble. The others would jump you behind. At that time there was no taser just your knowledge to bring the situation under control by a submission control. Knee and shining accross the neck then handcuff after the subject became compliment.
    Should one read the medical examiners report on the Floyd incident he died as a result of a drug overdose. The shinbone across the side of the neck did not cause his death.
    When we have many members male and female who do not have the stature to go up against a larger person who maybe drunk and wanting to fight or a drugged person who is high it is incumbent to bring the situation under control quickly before it escalates and you resort to your training to do so.
    After being in many street fights and bar fights, using my training and putting suspects out cold using martial arts techniques, judo and karate not one person after many years on the street suffered long term ill effects but all remembered what happen when he/she became out of control.
    When we as police officers have these chesterfield back room lawyers making decisions that affect the lives of the people whom are charged with protecting for the sack of taking away some of if not the majority of the measures that greatly assist the members to control situations maybe you all should put the uniform on and live the life of fear that many officers live each day.
    I urge commissioner Lucki to put these so called stewards of parliament federally and Provincailly to resist this biased press to print the real story and re-enforce the training methods used at Depot and in most Police Forces in Canada.
    Lethal force is a last resort and not one Police Officer wishes that on any active members.

    • Don McDermid, RCMP Assistant Commissioner (Rtd) says:

      Well said Vern. Why is it that the Monday morning Armchair QBs always think they have the solution when in fact they have never been on the actual playing field.

  33. Miloslav Bozdech says:

    Outstanding write up. I could not agree more. I am tired of the ignorant politicians and lawyers distorting the facts out there and judgmental civilians that do not understand anything. Police need latitude/discretion to use as much force as necessary to perform their difficult job risking their lives daily.

  34. Randy Cunningham says:

    I was trained to use the choke hold in 1978 while at the 6 month RCMP Recruit training. Once in the field I would say I used it about 5 times in about 15 years of front line policing. In 1989 after the procedure was banned I used it and it saved my life. I answered a call at noon time while with the Moncton Police Force to the Social Services Dept on the 7th floor of the Assumption Building in Moncton NB regarding an unknown client who was refusing to leave their office. My plan was to use my great mediation skills and he would leave peacefully. Wrong. When I arrived off the elevator the suspect immediately attacked me. He was 26 years old 6.4 and 210 lbs. I’m 5,10 and 180 lbs. He was soon overtaking me until I was able to apply this choke hold. He lifted me off the floor and tried to shake me off him. I buried my head into his neck and shoulder with my feet off the ground and squeezed with all my might. Although he was all muscle I could tell it was affecting him and making him weaker. As a desperate move to get rid of me he backed me into the 7th floor window in hopes I would go through it and plunge to my death. Little did he know I wasn’t letting go. I believe because he was tired and weaker the force we hit the window with was less than it would have been otherwise. By this time frightened office staff had called for back up and members arrived shortly afterward with him still conscious and me still in control trying to choke him as hard as I could. We were both sweating profusely. It seemed like 15 minutes before help arrived, however in case review from the time I arrived until the back up arrived was only 7 minutes. Afterward we learned the suspect was wanted on a CW warrant for aggravated assault and Assault PO in Winnipeg. Every incident on the front line is different and it is hard to right a book on exactly how to handle it. Even though I applied this illegal hold I was trying my very best as a trained police officer to do my job properly.

  35. Dennis Ripley says:

    Great article Randy, well articulated from someone who has been in the trenches and the frontline.

  36. Murray Bartley says:

    I thank you so much for not being apathetic, but rather courageously stepping forward and addressing those who have no expertise or experiential knowledge concerning the use of force.
    Was this article published in the Globe and Mail? I ask because all of us (RCMP) will understand and support what you are saying. I am praying that the media outlets receive and publish it as well. It is the general public that need to read this as well.
    Lastly, I would like to encourage everyone to speak out in whatever way you feel comfortable, in support of the people who put their lives on the line every single day.

  37. M.E. (Max) Churley says:

    Finally, an intelligent, articulate and sane response regarding use of force. I really appreciate this Sir. The bottom line, seldom stated, is that winning is the only option for an officer, both for his/her safety and that of the general public. Comments by politicians who have little or no understanding of the issue have no scruples leaving safety in the lurch if it leads to political points.

  38. Claude says:

    I guess no one has ever been in a back alley with a suspect in full rage or 100 miles from the nearest back up. I always said this. “I’d rather answer to twelve people than being carried by 6”

    Good article

    Claude D

  39. Ken Allen S/Sgt. RCMP, Deputy Chief Officer Transit Police (Retired) says:

    Well said Randy. The use of force can only be truly understood by those who have been in situations where the various level of force have been used in an escalating manner in which all police officers have been or certainly should have been well trained. Some use of force situations escalate to “life and death” magnitude where if the officer does not use any and all use of force control options they have at their disposal the officer’s life and potentially other lives may be at risk. As I said, to fully understand one must literally “walk a mile in the shoes”. Videos taken as situations unveil most often do not portray the true level of violence an officer or officers face in dealing with the various violent situations they encounter. Another factor that is very seldomly referenced is that an officer usually will not have any knowledge of weapons that an offender may have access to when they physically attempt to control that offender and take them into custody.

  40. Russ Waugh says:

    Article read, and brought back many memories of policing in Northern Manitoba mining towns when we worked alone much of the time and faced odds that would not allow us time to think of what “was allowed” and what “was not”. It was just as you say win the “street fight” to live yourself to allow you to protect the public.

    • Jim Hislop says:

      Absolutely Russ. Many of those communities of which you speak, were experienced by a large percentage of RCMP members who served in “D” Division. There would be none who would dispel or contradict your comments here. And we all learned early on, that a suspect didn’t necessarily have to be a larger man to be nearly impossible to control. They come in all sizes and much depended on their mental state and/or the drug or substances that were in their system.

  41. Ian McDonell says:

    100% on the ball. Wish I could have explained to my bosses, lawyers and courts as clearly.
    Two pertinent points: It is street fighting, and you do whatever to win.
    I have known Brian BERESH for many years and he is very smart but, as a lawyer, tries very hard to get his client off. Would have considered hiring him if I ever got in trouble.

  42. Garry Loeppky says:

    Excellent overview of restraint techniques. Unfortunately the arm chair clinical analysis well after the incident is over does not and cannot comprehend the chaotic and rapidly changing situation the front line officer faces, often in the face of life threatening danger to him/her self.

  43. Randy Wilson says:

    A quick correction, perhaps typo, para 3, tactics – it is “brachial” plexus origin, a nerve centre. Apologies to Mr Beresh for the harsh label, appreciate his focus is on safety.

  44. John ZUBKOWSKI says:

    I found this to be an excellent response utilizing well articulated, down to earth language to explain the facts as they occur in front line policing and the options available to law enforcement with a duty to deal with violent individuals. Thank you for taking the time and having the courage to publicly reply to political demands affecting policing.

  45. Ken Coakley says:

    Excellent article!

  46. Chris Boomford says:

    Well stated Randy, well stated. I am afraid though that your very correct assessment will go way over the heads of the politically correct gang. Oh to have one of them at a bar fight and be able to send them in saying: “Go ahead you go stop it You’re the one who seems to know how to do it correctly without anyone being hurt.”

  47. Mitch MacMillan says:

    Well said Randy. Thanks for speaking out. I am in total agreement.

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