Atlanta

Martial arts training is shaping the future of policing

NORCROSS, Ga. — Another metro Atlanta police department is turning to martial arts – hand-to-hand combat training – to protect its officers and citizens.

Use-of-force encounters between police and those they are trying to apprehend have often become controversial and, in some cases, deadly.

The Norcross Police Department is training its officers in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Captain Robert Braud told Channel 2′s Michael Seiden it’s making policing safer for everyone.

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“Our use of force numbers have dropped between 21% and 23%,” Braud said.

The department started incorporating the training in the fall of 2022.

“I think times have changed in policing,” Braud said. “It gives officers the confidence and the ability through this training to feel comfortable and confident they can actually apprehend, detain, and the ultimate goal is to do that safely.”

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One year ago, the Norcross Police Department decided to turn one of its storage facilities into a training facility.

Three days a week officers spend several hours before and after their shift training with two black belt world champions.

The training is certified by the Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Council.

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Unlike the world-famous UFC, choking, striking and tapping out is not a part of the curriculum. Instead, it’s about preparing the officers for real-life scenarios.

“There’s no technique for killing people in jiu-jitsu. You know, most technique is for neutralizing. We don’t teach any kind of kicks, elbows. It’s all about body control,” instructor Roan Carneiro told Seiden.

“There’s no rules here. There’s no ref here. This is, most times, a life-and-death situation. Even today, after a couple of hours they might go in the street, and it might do that. So these techniques are very useful,” instructor Rodrigo Artilheiro said.

The Norcross Police Department gave Channel 2 Action News dash camera video of an incident earlier this year.

It shows Master Patrol Officer Spencer Gilmore successfully taking down and arresting a suspect. He told Seiden used the training learned just weeks before.

“At the time, I wasn’t thinking about the jiu-jitsu we were doing, but afterward I was like, you know, that stuff that we are learning is actually very beneficial,” Gilmore said.

Detective Yadisha Rosa said she has not had to use her training yet, but after several months of the classes she demonstrated why she feels more confident in her own ability.

She told Seiden it’s a life-saving method.

“Because a person my size, you know, I’m five foot tall and I know biology is against me in a lot of situations out here,” Rosa said.

Norcross is not the first police department in metro Atlanta to use this technique. Channel 2 Action News visited training with the Marietta Police Department in 2021.

Since the department signed on its program in 2019, a spokesperson for the Marietta Police Department told us they’ve seen a significant decrease in use of force complaints. They also now require all officers to take at least one law enforcement Brazilian jiu-jitsu session per quarter.

In Norcross, about half of the entire police force is participating.

Braud told Seiden he sees this training having a larger presence in future policing.

“I see this type of training being implemented with all departments, whether it’s from Georgia POST to individual departments,” Braud said.

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