Bargaining in Blue, a monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia, provides news and information on police collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), including the latest news, policy debates, and insights from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this month’s edition of Bargaining in Blue, we examine martial arts training requirements for law enforcement officers. We review martial arts training developments in Ashland, Missouri; arguments from scholars and the media on martial arts training for law enforcement officers; and insights on the topic from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population.
In this edition:
- On the beat: Ashland Police Department pilots new jiujitsu training requirement
- Around the table: Arguments from the negotiating table, scholars, and the media on martial arts training for law enforcement officers in police CBAs
- Insights: A closer look at martial arts training requirements in CBAs and key takeaways from Ballotpedia’s analysis
On the beat
Ashland Police Department pilots new jiujitsu training requirement
The Ashland Police Department in Ashland, Missouri, on May 12, 2023, announced a six-month trial of a new jiujitsu training requirement for law enforcement officers. Officers are required to attend training once per pay period, which equates to twice per month. If the six-month trial is deemed successful, the department will commit to implementing the training requirement for a full year.
Jiujitsu is a form of martial arts training that teaches methods for fighting or subduing an opponent without weapons. Martial arts training for law enforcement officers is taught in an effort to equip officers to de-escalate situations without weapons.
Ashland Police Chief Gabe Edwards argued that jiujitsu would benefit law enforcement officers and the community by teaching a more gentle approach to engaging with civilians. Edwards said, “[W]henever an officer uses some sort of technique that they learned during jujitsu training, the appearance of it isn’t near as ugly as if it were a baton or a taser. Also it teaches officers skills that can help them control a subject until their backup arrives,” according to KOMU News.
Want to go deeper?
- States and cities with police union agreements that require law enforcement officers to learn martial arts
- Reform proposals related to police officer hiring, training, and discipline
Around the table
Arguments about martial arts training requirements for law enforcement officers
In a January 2023 article, writer Steve Janoski assessed a new jiujitsu training program for law enforcement officers in New Jersey. Janoski wrote that Elmwood Park Police Chief Michael Foligno argued in favor of martial arts training for law enforcement officers in an effort to reduce deadly force incidents:
The way the officers conducted themselves — and the fact that they were able to arrest without incident an erratic man bent on resisting — buttresses Foligno’s long-held contention that teaching officers to use their hands is the best way to end the string of controversial police killings that have tormented the country in recent years.
When you teach officers proven techniques to properly restrain suspects, he says, those officers are much less likely to reach for their handgun or use the potentially deadly locks and holds that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis and Eric Garner in New York.
In a 2021 article published by The Marshall Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to provide nonpartisan news about the U.S. criminal justice system, writer Jamiles Lartey wrote that activists have argued against martial arts training, stating that equipping officers with it could make them more likely to engage in confrontation. The article analyzes a case involving an individual named Lewis, who spent a month in jail and suffered head injuries after a martial arts-trained police officer in Marietta, Georgia, intiated an encounter:
“The presumption that jiu-jitsu leads to fewer injuries would almost require that we look at the circumstances surrounding Mr. Lewis’s incident like he was doing something wrong,” said Kamau Mason, who is representing Lewis. “The idea of equipping or continuously training officers, who simply have the wrong mental capacity, in an additional form of martial arts does not help the community at all.”
CBAs on martial arts training requirements
Ballotpedia’s analysis of all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population found no CBAs requiring law enforcement officers to participate in martial arts training. Police departments could establish certain training requirements outside of the scope of their CBAs, however, the negotiations that took place between police departments and associations did not specify a requirement for police officers to participate in martial arts training.
The Ashland, Missouri, police department was not part of Ballotpedia’s analysis of all 50 states and the top 101 cities.
Key takeaways on martial arts training requirements
Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 100 cities by population featured the following information about martial arts training requirements in police CBAs:
- There are 0 state or city CBAs that require martial arts training
- There are 22 states and 17 cities that do not have police CBAs
- There are 2 states and 4 cities in which the request for information on police CBAs was denied or information could not be verified
Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs also featured the following information about union authority over new training programs for law enforcement officers in police CBAs:
- The following seven state CBAs grant unions power over establishing new training programs for law enforcement officers:
- New Hampshire
- New York
- The following three city CBAs grant unions power over establishing new training programs for law enforcement officers:
- Austin, Texas
- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
- Phoenix, Arizona