Author: Al Arsenault

Back Home in Canada and Off Again I Go

Back Home in Canada and Off Again I Go

So, after my exhausting flight back to Vancouver on May 21, 2024, I realized I had travelled 35,500 km (mostly by air – 23,100 km – in 34 hours of flying time). I drove 7,700 km in Australia (1,900 km of which was in a motorhome with my gal Laurence HOFFMANN) and 4,800 km traversing both islands in New Zealand, so my fitness level has taken a real beating with all of the sitting around I have been doing. I did as many micro-burst exercises along the road as I could, but overall I am turning to mush. I hit the gym near my home 5 days a week for the month that I was home. Thanks to Jane DENIZMEN, who is renting my place while I am away, I am generously allowed to be a guest in my own condo. It takes me two weeks to normalize after my hectic and stressful pace Down Under. I visit friends for coffee in an effort to unwind and decompress; I make many phone calls; the Police Judo crew has a farewell dinner for me, I get as caught up as I can.  I will miss them all when I hit the road again soon. I go to the Odd Squad-sponsored Gord Spencer Memorial Golf Fundraiser established by retired VPD member (and Odd Squad’s gang expert) Doug SPENCER. I saw many retired pals of mine and pondered my career. I feel lucky to have been a member of the VPD…

I find far less attachment to my comfortable home as I set to embrace the suck of loneliness, discomfort, and uncertainty that drifting down the open road brings. I look forward to downsizing soon. It is time to let go of the old and get to know a newer version of myself. It has been said that to find yourself, you have to lose yourself–travelling on the razor’s edge can provide this opportunity for growth. I am forced to listen to myself in those quiet moments of uncertainty. I am careful to answer back with all of my collective positive wisdom that I can muster.

I begin prepping my leased car, a 2023 Nissan Rogue, which will be first-class transportation, but 3rd-class accommodation. I visit my sister Marilyn and her husband Joe in Victoria then see my lovely daughter Shimona HENRY and her partner Kane before driving to the west coast of Vancouver Island, to thank my retired Parks Warden buddy, Dan VEDOVA, for starting me on this law enforcement instructional career three decades earlier. I ended up being the tactical communications / use-of-force instructor for Parks Canada (coast to coast) for a decade in the 1990s. I presented Dan his second degree black belt in Nisei Karate-do a few decades ago, but we are both students of life and are happy to learn from each others as we age.

I reach out to another martial arts pal (and co-author of my first book), Joe FAULISE, who lives in  Tok, Alaska, to see if he has any police contacts up there. If not, I would likely have given it a pass, as it is a 3,000 km drive north of my cross-Canada trip route. As it turns out, two of his former martial arts acquaintances, twin brothers Jack and Jess Carson, are now both Lieutenants in the Anchorage and State Troopers respectively. Did they attend a clinic I put on in Tok in the early 2000s? They graciously agree to help me in my quest to make policing safer for both the officer and offender alike.

I feel like I have stayed too long at home, as I have so many miles to cover. The upcoming winter cold will chase me towards the southern border of the USA. I toss so many things into the back of my car after picking up a foamy on which to sleep and hit the northern road on June 23. I drive a very short distance to Chilliwack, so that could say goodbye to my brother Kevin STRAND and see my cats Ceate and TLO. After a 2 nights stay, I make my way to see a Police Judo instructor friend of mine, BC Sheriff Sgt. Brad Endean, who lives near Kamloops. We spend a few days to get caught up.  He was saying, his right arm in particular, was still sore from being tortured as my arrestee in my last book on joint locking. He felt so bad that he bought himself a new pontoon boat on which to cruise around Shuswap Lake, which he has moored a short walk from his place.

I visit my judo friend, John HUNTLEY (7th dan), for a coffee and look at his martial arts library in Kamloops. I drive north on Hwy 97 for 7 hours to sleep in a Walmart parking lot in Prince George. I see drug addicts and homeless people everywhere, like I so often witnessed in our Skid Road beat. I feel sorry and dismayed about our societal decline…

I celebrated my daughter Shimona’s 39th birthday over the phone with her. Gee, I am getting old! I am so proud of her efforts to re-invent herself as so many obstacles fall in her path. She is full of strength and creativity! I drive through the Cariboo to Houston, BC, where I am stopped by heavy rains, so I sleep in a random rest stop. It is now Friday June 28, and I wake up and listen to bits of  the TRUMP/BIDEN debate, if it could be called that. I have trepidations about the future of the world and worry that my tour may get shortened due to travel complications with WW III, another plandemic, or enhanced climate crisis strategies looming like a black cloud on the horizon

I remind myself that I only have here and now in which to live my life. I heard the comedian Jimmy CARR, of all people, provide an interesting perspective about seizing the day. He suggested that in thirty years (or how many decades that would make you very elderly) we would give up everything we had to be where we are today…so much younger and way more healthier. We cannot live in the future anymore than we can live in the past. We only have now, imperfect as it may be. Our past has been laid out by what we are doing in the present moments; our future is also being laid out by what we are doing today. Today is indeed precious, fleeting, and irreplaceable, so do your best now while you can, was essentially his message. This reminds me about why I am on this lonesome, less travelled road. I feel that it’s a bit of a race against time while trying to smell the roses along the way. I have to try more to do the latter. Carpe diem, indeed…

I got to meet an RCMP officer as I was speeding through the tiny town of Smithers, still in northern BC., then I decide to drive to Prince Rupert, just to say I saw it. The Skeena Valley was very beautiful–Prince Rupert was a rose indeed…a nice, small, friendly town. I boot it part way back up the valley and find a great rest stop where I could have a short rubber band workout around a covered picnic table. VPD Chief Adam PALMER called to get an update about my tour thus far and I lament to him about a recent letter of rejection from a Communications Sgt. at the RCMP training Depot in Regina. Adam is willing to help me get in to monitor their training. He is such a great supporter of both Odd Squad and Police Judo. Who could say that my quest is not an honorable one (besides the Goulburn Academy in New South Wales and the one in W. Australia). Who knows, maybe there is crushing political pressures at play that squashes transparency. Adam wishes me safe travels on my trip to Alaska, one that he wants to do. I hope he does it too.

I make it back to the well-maintained Stewart/Cassiar Highway (Hwy 37 N) that had light traffic, mostly RVs. I relax at the Nass River rest stop to eat more gas station food I bought earlier. I long for a salad! I divert westward along Hwy 37A to drop into Stewart. The road skirts very closely to excitingly beautiful mountains south of the road, complete with glaciers and tumbling, near-vertical waterfalls. I chat with three friendly Indo-Canadian males in their white SUV bearing the sign “Surrey to Alaska”. I dive into the back of my car to avoid pulling in mosquitoes with me and get back on the road north. I am always sleeping now before darkness sets in, well after midnight. I see a few bears and other animals too (a fox, wolf, etc.). I stay overnight in a rest stop just short of the Alaskan border after seeing two crows in the middle of the highway pecking another crow to death.

I wake up and cross into Alaska at Beaver Creek. The border guard was very friendly. I am now 174 km from Tok, on an extremely new and smooth road. This lasted for a few miles before the road became poorly maintained. Darn! I buy a can of “Alaskan cologne” (bug spray) as the little buggers are everywhere.  I pull over anywhere along the highway and it almost seemed that they were just waiting for me! I saw a fox and an Interior Grizzly along the side of the road. I scared the later animal own with my terrifying whip-poor-will call. I go to the Tok Information Center, one that is nicely adorned with stuffed wildlife and information stations, until Joe’s wife Tess appears and guides me to their home, a few miles out of town. Joe comes home hours later and we quickly get caught up since we last got together, far loo long ago. Joe is in the firefighting business  and is looking to retire soon. We have many evening sessions of recollecting his training days in Vancouver under the tutelage of Master Shou-Yu LIANG, in his International Wushu San-shou Dao Association located in our notoriously drug- and crime-infested Downtown Eastside. he recalls fighting off two robbers with his gym bag while walking to his first class with us. Welcome to the Skids! We also talk abut our experiences going on the 1994 North America  Martial Arts Tour to China. This “Friendship Tour” was an amazing experience, but that’s a tale that be told another time.

For now, I have to finish lining up my contacts in Anchorage and Fairbanks. My vehicle is at last fairly well kitted up for the road. bring it on!

 

 

Auckland In-service Training

Auckland In-service Training

A blur of towns, crossroads, and touristy sites, many with long unpronounceable Maoritized names, are passed as I make my way up the picturesque east coast of the North Island. There are massive rolling hills populated, even on the steep bits, by daring sheep, cows, and even domesticated deer! Twisted gnarly trees look like Mother Nature has had a few lessons in the art of bonsai, so beautiful they are, especially when they sprout along from the side of a cliff being perpetually pounded by waves, or when they proudly stand atop otherwise denuded hills as sole survivors of the devastating effects of over-deforestation. White Feather Pampas Grasses (resembling golden feather dusters), glow brightly in the sunlight, adding a surrealness to the landscape. I make slow progress with all the pulling over that I am doing (especially around the Coromandel Peninsula) to try and digitally capture the fantastic scenery en route to my destination.

I wake up before my alarm goes off at 0545 hours on May, 16, 2024, and make my way to the Tamaki Makauru Tactical Training Centre (in-service training centre) where James PLATT welcomes me and introduces me to some of his training staff (Troy, Ben, Al, etc.) working the day shift (the 1300-2100 hr afternoon shift allows them to offer a good spectrum of training and qualification times for the frontline staff). I meet all 16 of them over the next few days (5 are unsworn members – they may have previous police experience). All are friendly and easy to share knowledge with.

I start off by visiting their 12-bay, 50 m. range where they use their limited rounds (90) to practice their marksmanship and to ultimately qualify (@ 10 m.) with their additional 10 rounds (training on the Bushmaster using 556 rounds @ 20 m. is another matter). Putting 4,000 members through in three 6.5 hour sessions per annum is no easy task. Although they do not carry firearms, the vehicles are equipped with a trunk safe for their Glocks and rifles. They are looking at AirSoft and virtual reality training now, and are transitioning from the T-2 to the Taser 10. It is interesting to note that there are two levels of shooters on the force: Level 1 are regular force members, while Level 2’s are more of the desk-jockey types (“office dwellers”), so they require only a single 4.5 hour session to practice and qualify, as well do a refresher on OCS and batons (no Taser carry for them).

All are supposed to pass the Police Competency Test (PCT) every two years, which consists of 10 physical tasks in a timed 400 meter obstacle course (pushing a trailer, carrying a wheel assembly, doin a 200 m. run, walking along a raised beam, a 1.8 m. long jump, 1 m. vault, 30 m. agility zig-zag run, including crawling under hurdles, and climbing through a window then climb over a 1.8 m. wall, a 75 kg body drag for 7.5 m., and finally a 2.2 m. wire fence climb). This makes me think about the purpose of our long-used Police Officer Physical Abilities Test (POPAT) developed in the mid-80s by Doug FARENHOLTZ. I was one of his test subjects, wh0 wore a heart monitor and filled in green activity sheets during my patrol shifts.

I also remember seeing a “sweat track” in Australia in 1986 which was an outdoor obstacle course, and if I recall correctly, one not used for testing, rather for self-training purposes. New recruits here must have passed the initial Physical Appraisal Test (PAT) consisting of a 2.4 km run, a vertical jump, grip strength test, push-ups and a few anthropometric measurements to ensure that they are reasonably fit enough to do the job. Getting on the job is one thing; staying on is another. Many officers seem to be migrating to Australia. As with other agencies, the recruiting pools is getting more shallow by the day.

The trainers tell me that, like Australia, domestic violence is of great concern to the force. Why? There must be some deep-seated cultural problems brewing in their societies. We have our share of this crime, but not to the extent seen down here.

James takes me to the nearby Tamaki Makauru Training Village, a scenario site where $1.2 million NZD of a large warehouse allowed them to put in modular “Trango” buildings (for $300,000 NZD). This sim village has cars, furnishings, and other common items that can be safely employed in their reality-based training sessions. I think of the sad state of our own simulation rooms and feel embarrassed. I do have hope that changes will be forthcoming, as evidenced the the installation of a top-notch training floor.


To get a better perspective on their municipal problems, I ride shotgun in their police helicopter with Scott and his crew. While the pilot and co-pilot get the beast up to the 2,000′ altitude and make slow circles about the city and its environs, I watch Scott work through a list of places that he has to check for vehicular activity (he can read and record a plate from that height).


Back at the training centre, James arranges for his crew to bid me farewell, including a Maori safe travels prayer with the whole group. It was very touching. This was a great way to end my police training visit to New Zealand. Thanks guys!

I do a fast run up to the north end of the island and later take a flight out of Auckland on May 20th after 82 days on the road (4,800 km of driving). Apart from a short nap, I stay up for 33 hours. I realize that my pace has been very challenging on my ageing body. Despite my tiredness, I look forward to my cross-Canada portion of my tour.

ROYAL NEW ZEALAND POLICE COLLEGE (Wellington)

ROYAL NEW ZEALAND POLICE COLLEGE (Wellington)

On May 9, I arrive at the RNZPC bright and early to be greeted by Insp. Derek SARNEY, who was proven to be a gracious and knowledgeable host. He gave me a tour of the college complete with defensive tactics, gun range, scenario village, etc. I was impressed with the sim village as it was brand new ($12 million) boasting several multi-level houses, all wired for video and feeding to a control room.  In my view, videotaping scenarios is a real bonus to complete the learning experience. Some details are obviously lost in the moment, so feedback is less impactful compared to the ability to debrief a scenario using video playback. The interior walls look like painted gyprock, but are actually made of plywood, making for a durable set. Even the thinly carpeted floors have a drain in them making for easier and complete clean-ups (especially when medical scenarios involving fluids are used). The doors and windows consist of break-away openings that can be repeatedly hammered in and reset during forced-entry practice, which is very useful.

Team Leader, J.K. KORENT, kindly took over my tour. An older simpler scenario room had a mezzanine surrounding the action area for unintrusive viewing, and other rooms were also available for gentler (less destructive) scenarios. A large range with at least 20 shooting bays was available for training use (they do not carry guns, rather Glock 17s and rifles come with their patrol vehicles). Vehicles can be driven into the range building to practice Code V road stops. The spacious central gym used puzzle mats that need frequent placement and packing up. There were other padded rooms in use for defensive tactics and Taser training they are currently transitioning to the Taser 10 (as with Brisbane police).

I met A/Supervisor Darryl HIGGS, and later, unsworn members Sarah THOMAS and Luke WAHREN. This latter trainer took me for lunch and we had a great discussion about use-of-force training, which turned into a technique-sharing session on mats located in one corner of their office. I like the fact that they could “throw down” and otherwise workshop ideas as they arose. Luke was very interested in the twistlock, so hopefully it will work itself into their curriculum which is currently under review.

Luke testing out the twistlock on me.

I enjoyed watching their team tactics in making physical arrests. They tended to make “seatbelt” and body lock types of takedowns, rather than judo-style ones. Indeed, there are more than one way to skin a cat. Surprisingly, they still were teaching striking techniques (punching, kneeing, etc.) to create space, whereas other agencies tend to steer clear of these kinds of techniques, given their optically negative association with “police brutality”. The NZ officers are not immune to public and political pressure though (e.g., they do not teach neck restraints), but there seems to be fewer constraints on the kinds of force that are not generally palatable to the public these days.

Putting through 600-800 recruits a year helps to replace 500 officers per year they lose through attrition. There are upwards of 16,000 staff members (a sizeable portion are admin members). I was surprised to learn that they hire recruits in the 18-55 year age range! Their fitness standards, like others, are relatively lax, as they too are drawing from a small recruiting puddle. Their academy time was recently increased from 16 weeks to 20 weeks, with but a single week of practicum experience (Week 16). The recruits receive 48 defensive tactics sessions that are of 100 minutes duration each. These classes are interspersed with their academic studies, giving them time to assimilate these physical skills with theory. The class sizes are small (20) with at least two instructors overseeing these classes. About half of the instructors are unsworn members and have varied backgrounds and skill sets. On top of the recruit training, the in-service members receive at least 3 training days per year (PITT: Police Integrated Tactical Training), so the instructors are busy indeed.

After two days at this fine facility, Insp. SARNEY kindly sets me up with a visit to the in-service training being done in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. I eagerly await to hear from my contact there, James PLATT as I hit the road for the north part of the island.

 

New Zealand Road Trip

New Zealand Road Trip

Glacial blue waters of Lake Tekapo at their best!

Having departed Australia on April 29, 2024 (by plane from Sydney), I landed in Auckland, on the North Island of New Zealand, where I rented a small car. My contact with the RNZPC, Insp. Derek SARNEY, was very accommodating and he suggested that there would be more to see if I came by the police college on following week, so I did a quick run down south to Wellington. There were some amazing views to take in en route such as geothermal spots (Craters of the Moon National Park, Lake Taupo, etc.). I barrel through a flat expanse of semi-desert and I managed to get a souvenir from a road patrol officer for speeding. Fair enough. Though he was informed of my quest, it should not have included speeding (and I am no longer a police officer and worthy of “professional courtesy”), so I appeased the nearly-retired officer (who was very apologetic for issuing me a $400.00 coupon) by acknowledging that I deserved it. I paid it online a few days later. My bad.

I caught the 3-hour ferry from Wellington to Picton (on the South Island) and then scooted down the magnificent west coast. The mountains and ocean reminded how similar my home province of British Columbia was to New Zealand, especially as I passed three towns in a row on a 30km stretch of Highway 6 named Nelson, Richmond, and Hope, all of which have namesakes in BC (but not in that order). After driving through gorgeous vineyards, the coast leading south proved to be a beautiful drive also. This twisting highway (rife with roadkill possums!) skirted me between the shore, farmland and the “Southern Alps”, through the lovely town of Wanaka where I cut across SE to Dunedin (on the east coast). I meet a fantastic couple, Dave and Lesley HOWARD, that fellow Oddsquadder, Chris Graham, set me up with. It was great to talk to people that I now consider to be friends. Life on the road can be quite lonely…

After staying the night with the HOWARDs, I started up the east coast, going inland towards the mountains to take in the two spectacular lakes of Pukaki and Tekapo, with their light-blue glacial waters, then I boot back over to the east coast, around Christchurch, and back up to to Picton to catch the late ferry over to Wellington. I find a some great places to sleep as I visit the police college starting on May 8th.

Great hosts for a wayward and lonely Canadian, Sunday, May 5, 2024.

 

 

QUEENSLAND POLICE SERVICE ACADEMY (Brisbane)

QUEENSLAND POLICE SERVICE ACADEMY (Brisbane)

After my wonderful visit with the Melbourne training crew, I make the 1,800 km drive (18 hours) up the east coast of Australia to Brisbane in the state of Queensland. I overnighted in Holbrook (a quiet farming town sporting a submarine!) and then to the surfing paradise of Newcastle. On April 15, I make my debut at this police academy, meeting  Sgt. Jimmy DONNELLY at their training facility in Wacol. They put recruits (600-900 annually) through a 32-week program. A recent election promise was poised to add many hundreds recruits by the year 2025, but to date only a few have been hired.

Like Melbourne, they use use-of-force data to help direct their training, as gleaned from mandatory reported data and body-worn cameras. They also acknowledge the terrible physical fitness state the recruits are in. Many could not even scale a 1.8 m. fence and only a 5.7 was required on the Beep Test (something I am sure I could do running backwards at age 71). No fitness classes are in the curriculum, but more than 40 hours of drill is deemed necessary. A degree of box ticking without failing them is suggested in order to churn as many recruits out as possible. With a police force strength of 12,500, there is a battle to replace those lost at an annual rate of attrition of 5.8%.

All of the defensive tactics training is done after the first 16 weeks of academic training – as a single block!  It is an acknowledged “pump and dump” way of teaching, but this type of intensive training is seen as a cost-saving measure in terms of working out curriculum date-planning. There is no practicum built in their academy training, rather there are 8 weeks of this upon graduation. Often they are paired with senior field trainers afterwards. Remote postings may require some additional training, as would the specialty squads.

No role players are used in their simulations, so the physical contact is kept to a minimum to keep injury rates low (especially on the older instructors acting out the roles as arrestees). The recruits must also complete a total of 58 on-line sessions that are of minutes to hours in duration with a loose testing system in place.

Some of the trainers are not even police officers as this is viewed, again, as a cost-saving measure. At least these trainers are not involved in creating curriculum. I believe that such development should be left by those who have actually put handcuffs on people in real life. As with other Australian agencies I have visited, none use the twistlock, a technique that is far superior and versatile than any other joint lock that I know of. I have spent that last four decades researching this group of techniques. I challenge anyone to show me a more practical, tactically effective, and ethically superior technique than that of the double twistlock. This technique will catch on (I will write a book just on this series of techniques alone).

I really do like the “wrist weave” shown to me for escorting and even taking down an arrestee (taken from the popular ISR Matrix program – Intercept, Stabilize, Resolve) which is essentially a forward Figure-4 technique. It is very useful when done as a partnership tactic (see isrmatrixonline.com for this technique).

And speaking of  team tactics, they do practice them using two to four officers to deal with solo miscreants. They use simple takedowns like the “easy chair” whereby the arrestee’s arms are controlled by two officers (without resorting to wristlocks as with the wrist weave) and the legs are essentially grabbed by the third officer (the fourth officer must stay out of the fray to provide a critical cover role).

Handcuffing is done with hinged cuffs (for the past two decades). No knees on the back are allowed, so a modified three-point prone cuffing is used by having the officer put one knee across the waistband and the other on the ground while a bent armlock is applied. Solo officer takedowns do not seem to be a high priority training goal, and given the limited training time available and that fact that they usually work in pairs, this seems to be reasonable. Officers are allowed to use OC spray (and on themselves voluntarily at a rate of 60% compliance). The Taser is now used more sparingly due to critical reviews by groups like Amnesty International who are bent on stripping these “torture” devices out of the hands of the police (even recruits cannot consent to something that is tantamount to “torture”). They were using the very old Taser X26P, but now they are becoming the first state in Australia to roll out the new Taser 10. It was interesting to watch these singly-fired barbs (at 205-235 ft/sec.) being shot from up to 12 m. away. One shot to each thigh and you can guess what dangly bits the current may pass to complete the circuit! The voltage was dropped way down to 900 volts (from a purported 50,000 volts), while keeping the amperage very low, but the cycle rate was doubled from 22 to 44 pulses/second to keep it as an effective means of dropping an arrestee.

In 2018, lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) was taken out of their curriculum due to two unfortunate deaths that were associated to “chokeholds”. They too, do two-day update/recertification training days (6,000 annually). This includes topics like Tactical First Aid (emergency medical training such as wound packing, chest sealing, tourniquet applications, etc.). According to Insp. Anthony BUXTON, a $52.8 million “skills training building” was created in 2020 that is quite advanced (simulation control room, two large indoor ranges, etc.). There are usually 5 deadly police shootings annually, but there have been 16 in recent times due to an increase in the numbers of mentally ill people being addressed on the street. Keep those Tasers handy!

Both Insp. Steve EVANS from the AFP and Insp. BUXTON asked Sgt. Derek SARNEY from the Royal New Zealand Police College to entertain the prospect of hosting me in the next few weeks, so I await his response. In the meantime, I will fly to Auckland to tour the North and South Islands.

VICTORIA POLICE ACADEMY (Melbourne)

VICTORIA POLICE ACADEMY (Melbourne)

After  7-hour drive from Canberra, I arrive in Melbourne and stay at the Gateway on Monash Motel. On Monday, April, 8, 2024 at 0700 hours, I arrive at the front gate of the Victoria Police Academy. This fine institution is in the Melbourne suburb of Glen Waverley. Inspector Mel NIXON and A/Sen. Sgt. Mirsad HODZIC greeted me warmly and walked me into their security area, which I do remember from 1986, so magnificent it is. Just past this checkpoint is an elaborate hall (a church really – this was a convent) and then they showed me their Monday morning outdoors parade consisting of 700 hundred recruits! Their walk onto the parade square in a seemingly endless stream, complete with fife and drum, was truly a treat to behold!

The force has over 16,000 officers.  To train all of these recruits is one thing, but bringing the serving members back in twice annually for a day of training updates (based on their use of force reports and data gleaned from their use of body-worn cameras since 2019) is very remarkable. Sgt. Bob MASLEN toured me around their facility which has gun ranges, Taser rooms, and modular rooms for ERT style training (room entries). They sport a 20-year-old outdoor “scenario village” which has a number of buildings found in any metropolitan area (pub, houses, and even a train station).

A new one was built indoors in Craigieburn (more than an hour away – but it was well worth the drive!) in 2015 at a cost of $32 million. The entire village cab be electronically shuttered to create a nocturnal environment, and it can even then be lit up in a variety of ways. The only such facility more impressive than that I have ever seen was the one that our Police Judo instructors witnessed at the Beijing People’s Police College a few year back. It was HUGE!

This Victoria Police Academy has a recruit training program of  31 weeks duration. After week 13, they learn office duties for 5 weeks followed by a few weeks in the the street (and later in the paddy wagon with two other members). I like that they film some of their training sims for debriefing later. The recruits are required to debrief the instructors with the usual “What did you see, what did you do, and why did you do it?” type of fashion – but with video playbacks being used to tighten up the learning process.

They had some cool equipment ranging from air pressure sim guns, shock vests (to sting when correctly targeted), etc. There are several “soft floor” rooms where blue-matted rooms facilitate defensive tactics training. Our own JIBC has just completed the installation of a “sprung” floor (metal coils under 2 layers of plywood, all which is under the usual matted surfaces found in most training halls). I imagine that there would have to be some major money here to train recruits (and in-service members) in these numbers. As with many agencies, fitness standards have become an afterthought, given that the recruiting pool now has no deep end.

They recruits are on probation for 2 years and all patrols are “2-up” meaning they always work in partnerships at the constable level. There have been a lot of car jackings, home invasions (many by groups of new, young, immigrants). Outlaw motorcycle gangs prefer the lax “anti-bikie” laws here, so there are many to contend with. There has been push back (for political reasons?) for Taser use (now using Taser-7), pressure point use, kneeling on the back types of uses of force. “Pain compliance” is now a dirty term.

A/Sen. Sgt. Chris DOUGHTY and Sen. Sgt. Bernie JENKINS were great contacts on the defensive tactics side of things. They showed a good deal of interest in my use-of-force study and in Police Judo. They say that “pushing” kinds of assaults outnumber the number of incidents of officers being struck, by a factor of five, but they also recognize that being on the ground with an arrestee should be avoided where possible.

I sat in on an Armed Active Offender class led by Craig BLUMERIS. He kindly gave me a few minutes to tell his class about my mission. His lesson to the class must have increased in importance and relevance because only a few short days later, as I was driving past Sydney to go to the police academy in Brisbane, there was a mass killing by a knife-wielding man at a mall at Bondi Junction. he was appropriately and solely dispatched by Insp. Amy SCOTT, the first police officer at the scene. That was a job very well done to take out a person who targeted mostly women (he killed 6 people  and hospitalized a dozen more).

I take a three days to drive the 1,800 kms to Brisbane while listening to the non-stop reporting of this tragedy and reflect more on my mission to make policing safer for all.

 

 

 

AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE (Canberra)

AUSTRALIAN FEDERAL POLICE (Canberra)

It was Easter weekend, so I had time to visit my new martial arts friends, as just described, while waiting for the Australian Federal Police Academy to open on Tuesday April 2. I was kindly greeted at the front gate by both Insp. Steve EVANS and Steve BOOTH. The latter Steve showed me around this facility to watch some Realty-Based Training (RBT) simulations, Taser training, and the gun range. Greg McRAE then took me to watch some of their handcuffing and searching class and then we went to the defensive tactics facility in nearby Fyshwick.

Use-of-force curriculum meeting headed by Insp. Steve EVANS (April 5, 2024).

Today I got a letter of rejection from South Australia in the form of: “We are not in a position to engage in your study at this point.” Maybe the recruits are away?

I find myself struggling to add blog and vlog posts due to my unfamiliarity with anything even slightly technical, not to mention that I am making my digital documentation from my ever-present notetaking and phone camera pics/vids of what I see. I always get back to my motel/hotel absolutely exhausted. I struggle to do but a few short workouts each week (sometimes in mini-microbursts of rest stop calisthenics/stretches. Getting up before noon too really sucks for this long-retired night hawk!

The next day I was up at 0700n hrs again to watch more Taser training (on the newer Taser 7 [2018] with the newest single-barb, multiple-shot capability of the Taser 10 [2023]). It is interesting to note that on August 12, 1993, I received a letter from Tasertron to get information about their product, as I was the VPD non-firearms weapons expert for almost two decades, and I wanted to look at the efficacy of using this tool. Then-Cst. Brad FAWCETT and I pitched the use of this less-lethal weapon to our Emergency Response Team with the ERT members loving it, but the Inspector was totally disinterested in it, given that it was “more tools and training” to deal with. A member from Victoria Police Department on Vancouver Island, Darren LAUR, later picked it up and their Department adopted it. We became followers instead of leaders. I could clearly see that this would be a useful tool that would spare some peoples’ lives under certain conditions. This was proven to be true.

The inventor of this complicated electronic mechanism, Jack COVER, told me over the phone that it was originally developed in the mid-60s as a less-lethal weapon for use in riots (and later for Air Marshal use). Taser International replaced Tasertron in 1993 (now Axon has captured the market) and they have made great strides in further developing this tool for law enforcement purposes.

In any case, there is a strong tendency to rely on belt tools in the AFP, which might be expected given the relatively less frequent number of street arrests that they make. Being Federal police, they are spread far and wide (beyond the borders of Australia, SE Asia in particular) to conduct major investigations. They do have a contracted municipal police service to the Australian Capital Territory, aka Canberra. They too are susceptible to public condemnations arising from Taser use (multiple drive stunning in particular), vascular neck restraints, pressure points use, three-point hold-downs (by kneeling on the back), Figure -4 leg locks, etc., and have multiple levels of oversight to deal with perceived excessive uses of force. Even the 21″ ASP batons (used 53 times last year – including the busting of windows), though a light-weight baton, has come under scrutiny (post Rodney KING). The 26″ Cam Lock Bon Wi is the preferred baton as it needs but one solid hit to get the job done. How much force the AFP uses is kept in tight control within the PROMIS system (Police Realtime On-line Management Information System).

The trainers use Tony BLAUER’s SPEAR system of defensive tactics to deal with assailants. The AFP rely on their Tasers (and other belt tools) given the brevity of their training, so they do not accentuate joint-locking or ground fighting. About 20 of their 60 trainers country-wide instructors spend the 30 days of training going over a wide range of defensive tactics (including firearms, active shooter, driver training, and scenarios). That’s a lot of ground to cover! Currently there are 155 recruits in training. Eddie SHAW (and his son Nick of their “SENSE Corporation”) trains and oversees the use of role players in the AFP training sessions. Like our own JIBC police training program, the AFP recognizes the significant value that players offer in their RBT sessions. Instructors (older police trainers) tended to get injured and sometimes lacked the acting expertise needed to make the scenarios realistic. Role players are a great option to have.

Eddie SHAW and his son Nick take me out to lunch (April 4, 2024).

General observations on current fitness abilities are that recruits are of a weaker generation lacking in sports and life experiences, so recruiters must draw from a pool (now a puddle) focusing on students often living at home, with poor situational awareness, and lacking in interpersonal skills.

I later attended the AFP’s Melbourne in-service training centre hosted by Sgt. Roger WATTS (Wed. April 10, 2024). This new facility (2023) occupies two floors and sports a gun range and a number of basic skills training rooms for its 600-700 members.

Sgt. Roger WATTS and a senior instructor at their new in-service training facility.

Insp. EVANS kindly arranged a visit to the police academy in Melbourne, so off I went to the state of Victoria, after having a farewell with Steve and his family (I do remember from 1986, the magnificent entrance to this facility).

What an excellent host Steve was. His lads were top notch. Many thanks guys!
Friendly Martial Arts Faces

Friendly Martial Arts Faces

My on-line martial arts buddy, Matt D’AQUINO of “Beyond Grappling” fame (from Canberra) put me in touch with the owner of the Goulburn Martial Arts Academy, Craig HARMER, and on Tuesday, March 26, we had a pleasant chat over coffee about the state of affairs in Corrections and martial arts in general. The next night I dropped into his club to watch his class and found it a very positive place to train. His students were very polite and welcoming, which speaks volumes about the instructor(s).

On Thursday, I drove one hour to Canberra and that’s when I received the good news from Insp. Steve EVANS! I had coffee with Matt D’AQUINO, meeting him for the first time in person. He helped buoy up my spirits with his camaraderie and martial arts contacts. I arrived just as the very long Easter weekend was starting, so once again rooms were at a premium, although this time I went upscale to the Mantra MacArthur Hotel. No crappy place for me, thank you.

Matt put me in  touch with Ben TURNBULL (Turnbull Martial Arts Academy) and Mitch LANGMAN (Dark Carnival Martial Arts) in Canberra. I meet Mitch through Eddie SHAW (Sense Corporation – run with his son Nick) who was managing his role players at the AFP, and all three of them attended a two-hours joint-locking seminar I put on at Matt’s request at his club on Thursday, April 4th.

Eddie and his son Nick took me out to lunch that week and we had a great chat about role players and martial arts. The use of role players has long been adopted by the Justice Institute of BC (Police Academy). They are recruited largely from our Police Judo student classes, as they are strong, fit, and can take a beating. They love getting tossed around!

So the martial arts brotherhood made me feel very welcome in these early stages of my tour, especially Matt. Thanks you guys!

Now on to my wonderful AFP academy experiences…

Joint-locking class at Matt D’AQUINO’s “Beyond Grappling” Judo Club., Canberra, ACT, (March 27, 2024)

 

 

Shut Out

Shut Out

Well, I was crushed to find out on Wednesday, March 27 that the police academy in Goulburn did not wish to entertain me as:

“There are some public liability issues around us divulging much of our use of force curriculum, which we are very protective of in the current legal environment.”

I mean, if I haven’t spilled the beans about their “secrets” since 1986, I might be deemed to be somewhat trustworthy. I was free though to make up a list of questions, but I could do that from back home instead of taking the show on the road as the Travelling Tactical Trainer. I feel sorry for them for having to circle their wagons because of political machinations and repercussions, rather than being open and transparent about how they do business.

I basically wasted an entire week. I arrived on the previous Friday (March 22) and was forced to stay in a really slummy room in the Alpine Heritage Hotel, which really needs a good bulldozing to fix all its problems. Some festivals were in town so there were no decent rooms available. The next night I slept in my vehicle in an otherwise totally vacant parking lot in a park until 03oo hrs when a large vehicle parked beside me with its music blaring, forcing me to move. WTF? I came back after daybreak and slept for an hour. I did find a great place to stay that Sunday night (Black Sheep Motor Inn).

So, you can see why I was depressed that when I got the word that that I was persona non grata at the academy. Despite this horrible start, I knew that my plan of getting my foot in the door would work, so I fanned out a few more emails of introduction, and by April 2, Insp. Steve EVANS called me up from the Australian Federal Police Academy in Canberra (Australian Capital Territory). To to my huge relief, he invited me to his facility with open arms! What followed was been amazing…

Australian Police Academies

Australian Police Academies

I am now on the Gold Coast of Australia looking to go to the police academy at Goulburn first. I was there in January of 1986 as you can see from the two previously posted pics. There’s been a lot of water under this bridge since then and I am excited to share use-of-force techniques and tactics with law enforcement trainers across this great country. If you are in law enforcement, what would you like to know about how police do their jobs in various countries? If I were to make up a list of control tactics rules (akin to range safety rules) what would they be?

  • Always watch their hands
  • Never turn your back on an arrestee
  • Stay off the ground if at all possible
  • Handcuff before searching
  • Always search the crotch

Please send me your suggestions. I will compile and condense the top ones for use in my book on this matter.

Please follow me on Instagram as the Traveling Tactical Trainer (@al.tt.trainer) and send me your thoughts. Help guide my travels and study. If you have solid contacts anywhere in the world please pass them on and I will do my best to show up. Cheers!