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Jiu-jitsu trains Ariz. police officers for safer outcomes

Jiu-jitsu, a martial art that uses the body as leverage, can help officers more safely get control of suspects

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By Suzie Ziegler

MESA, Ariz. — Police officers in Mesa, Arizona, are trading in their duty belts for black belts. It’s part of a new training program that teaches officers jiu-jitsu, a martial art that uses the body as leverage.

According to 12 News, the training aims to give officers a different use-of-force option to promote safer outcomes.

“We call it police jiu-jitsu,” said Chad Lyman, trainer and owner at Code 4 Concepts – a use-of-force program that includes subject control, physical defense and combatives instruction.

Lyman, a police officer himself, is teaching Mesa officers to get control of suspects.

“We do the traditional jiu-jitsu control holds, we also defend against strikes, defend against weapons systems and also work on retaining our weapons systems,” Lyman told 12 News.

Lyman credits his training with helping him to think critically in high-stress situations, according to the report.

“What I noticed is everything slowed down,” he said. “I was able to respond appropriately depending on what my suspect was doing. I was able to use a reasonable amount of force in a controlled manner.”

Mesa Assistant Chief Dan Butler says the department had been researching jiu-jitsu in law enforcement for over a year.

“It’s really about safety,” Butler told 12 News. “What it allows us to do is use lesser amounts of force.”

Other agencies have seen success with this style of training.

According to the 12 News, the Marietta Police Department in Georgia said its officers who were trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu saw a 23% drop in TASER use, a 48% drop in injuries to officers using force and a 53% drop in injuries to the person being arrested.

Mesa Police will be doing a similar study, Butler said. The department has collected data from the last three years to compare it going forward with the officers trained in jiu-jitsu. Butler says all 800 sworn officers will have completed basic jiu-jitsu training by the end of 2022. Mesa currently has one police station where officers can train, but Butler says they plan to outfit more stations and work with certified jiu-jitsu gyms in the community.