Clayton Police Department rolls out ju-jitsu training for officers as de-escalation tactic

Published: Nov. 25, 2022 at 6:33 PM CST
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ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KMOV) - Officers within the Clayton Police Department will soon have another tool to protect themselves and others when involved in a physical altercation on patrol.

The department recently implemented ju-jitsu training after the program was delayed due to the pandemic.

“Our hope is that our officers can control any resistance using these techniques,” said Cpl. Joe Stevens, who played an integral role in getting the program started. “We want to provide our officers with the most tools or techniques that will increase the likelihood that a use of force situation is going to end safely for everybody involved.”

Twice a month, officers are able to take part in training sessions, with subsequent lessons in between to reinforce techniques learned in the class. Rodrigo Vaghi and Mike Rogers teach the class, which offers tailored skills for situations officers may find themselves in.

“They can rely more into body positions and angles to get a hold of the situations or get out of some situations,” said Vaghi. “Or, know enough to keep them alive as they wait for backup.”

Ju-jitsu is a form of martial arts that uses leverage and technique to overcome a difference in strength. In doing so, officers would be able to regain control of a situation or person without injuring themselves or the suspect.

“A lot of these altercations we see end up on the ground,” said Clayton Police Chief Mark Smith. “Ju-jitsu gives officers opportunities to defend themselves from the ground, but they can do it in a safe manner that results in less injuries to the officer and the public.”

Learning different techniques can also instill confidence in officers who may find themselves in dangerous situations and lessen the likelihood of the situation escalating, Smith said.

“If they have confidence during an altercation, they’re not going to escalate it to an unnecessary level of force which can cause injuries and controversy,” he said.

Cpl. Andrew Blandford is taking part in the class and said the skills build upon what officers learn during the academy.

“I went many years without skills like this as an officer and it made my life much more difficult,” he said. “I’m not a very big person, and I can feel confident going against someone who’s about twice my size.”

The program is currently voluntary, but Smith hopes to make it a mandatory part of defense tactics training moving forward. The last time a Clayton police officer used deadly force was in 2007, after a suspect attempted to run the officer over in his car. The suspect suffered minor injuries and served prison time, according to a department spokesperson.