By Chris Offer, Chair, The Rotary Foundation’s Peace Major Gifts Initiative Committee, and a member of the Rotary Club of Ladner, Delta, British Columbia, Canada
I had the opportunity recently to visit the Police Tactical Training Center in Vancouver, British Columbia, a state-of-the-art facility complete with firing range, simulation rooms, gymnasium, and classrooms. My guide was Rotary Peace Fellow Bryan Nykon, who graduated in 2010 from the Rotary Peace Center at Bradford University. After graduation, he joined the Vancouver Police and worked as a patrol constable before his transfer as an instructor in the training center.
Bryan is putting his police experience and his education as a Rotary Peace Fellow to work training police members to de-escalate unpredictable situations and use words in place of force, when possible, to control confrontations.
I watched Bryan instruct a judo class for police officers and volunteer role players in a variety of training scenarios. Bryan’s duties include teaching high-yield, low-risk judo combined with the tactical police judo, focusing on control tactics best suited to street-level policing and self defense. The approach incorporates empty-handed control and defensive tactics like arm-grabbing or using pressure points.
The highest risk of violence generally occurs during an arrest. Bryan pointed out to the class how the risk can be avoided by something as simple as altering your arm grip. One grip gives the person enough room to swing around with a kick, while another can prevent that from happening. Everyone’s safer when a fight is avoided.
Law enforcement agencies have policies that guide the use of force, describing an escalating series of actions to resolve a situation. Police officers are instructed to respond with a level of force appropriate to the situation. The policies acknowledge that the officer may have to move from one part of the continuum to another in a matter of seconds. This is a key area where Bryan’s training at the Rotary Peace Center influences how he instructs recruits and experienced police officers.
The use of words, or when necessary open hand control, can reduce the need for a baton or Taser-like device, thus avoiding interactions that can intensify into prolonged confrontations with a community lasting weeks.
Byran told me critical listening is the most important lesson he learned at the Rotary Peace Center, which he uses now in training police officers. “Police officers need to listen to find out what is happening, how they can help, and who is responsible before applying any kind of force, whenever possible. You need to really listen to understand what the person is saying. Do they understand what is happening, is there a language barrier, drugs, or a cognitive challenge?”
It is rewarding to see a Rotary Peace Fellow applying their skills, experience, and training to reduce the need for the use of force in the community.
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