View Full Version : Ground Fighting -- Assaults On Police Officers

02-05-2003, 03:16 PM
By : Mark S. Dunston, Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar Instructor

Dr. Darrell L. Ross, Ph.D. CJ Professor, East Carolina University/Calibre Press Litigation Consultant

Ground fighting. The very term elicits visions of grappling and control holds, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and all the cool stuff we get to do in training. Recently, the authors, along with Calibre Press and PPCT Management Systems, embarked on a research project designed to determine the frequency with which police officers are forced to the ground by attackers.

Additionally, facts and circumstances surrounding the attacks were measured to the effect they had on the attack and the outcome. During the research project, over 1,400 cases were measured based on information from officers attending the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar throughout the United States. The officers who responded were from every walk of our profession, from federal agents to street patrol officers and every conceivable position in between. Not surprisingly, a majority of officers had less than five years on the job at the time of their reported attack. Also not surprising, is the consideration that a great many agencies have a large number of newer officers. occurred. Of those attempts, it was reported that 60 percent of attackers were successful in taking the officer to the ground.

To initiate the research, respondents were asked whether or not there had ever been an attempt by an attacker to force them to the ground. A slight majority of respondents (52 percent) reported this event as having


Where given, officers responding to the study related that the attack occurred most often at domestics or other disturbance calls, followed by making contact on traffic stops. This should come as no surprise, as these are the very same reasons for contact that find a high number of officers assaulted and killed each year. The most recent FBI release reports that of officers assaulted, 31 percent occurred at disturbance calls, causing 15.6 percent of officer deaths, followed by traffic stops with 15.1 percent.

Of the encounters, the specific activity being performed while on the stop or call when the attack occurred was reported as conducting the interview portion of the encounter (field interview) 45 percent of the time, followed by 40 percent of the attacks coming at the point of handcuffing. These high frequency events were followed by escorting (10 percent) and booking (5 percent) after the arrest was made.


While it is considered common knowledge that officers are frequently assaulted by offenders who are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, the research revealed that of the incidents reported, 68 percent of the attackers were under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. Again, this finding coincides with many studies dating back as far as 1978, when it was reported (Meyer, et al 1978) that 64 percent of attackers who assaulted police officers were under the influence of alcohol.

The Orlando (FL) Study (1984) on the police use of force reported that almost 50 percent of suspects who resisted with violence were under the influence of alcohol, and the Croft study (1986) revealed that a majority of resisted encounters involved arrestees under the influence of alcohol.

METHOD OF ATTACK Combined, being kicked or punched to the ground accounted for only 15 percent of successful attacks.
A majority of attacks reported in the study involved the suspect pushing the officer to the ground (28 percent), pulling the officer to the ground (33 percent), or tackling the officer to the ground (24 percent).

Observing that pushing, pulling and tackling types of attacks are gross motor events that do not require a great amount of fine motor skill ability or precision movement supports the philosophy and practice of training officers to perform gross motor skill movements under the stress of being attacked.

The issue of multiple attackers was also addressed in the study. Respondents indicated that of their reported incidents, 87 percent of their attacks involved one suspect. However, there was not an instrument for determining the number of suspects involved at contact, number of by-standers or accomplices who did not actively attack, etc. From a training and officer safety perspective, it should not be inferred that attacks happen with only one attacker.


The study revealed that once the attacker forced the officer to the ground, the attacker continued assaulting the officer on the ground 64 percent of the time, followed by fleeing only 31 percent, with 5 percent of the attackers reportedly waiting for the officer to get up to continue the fight.

Given this high percentage of continued assaults, the study provides law enforcement leadership with a view as to the probability of what will happen when an officer is taken to the ground, allowing use of force policy concerning the escalation of force and tactical response options in such attacks. From a training perspective, it must be stressed to officers in training that an incident involving being forced to the ground is not a low level of suspect resistance.

The continued attack on the ground was performed through a majority of offenders using a combination of grappling and pinning (77 percent), punches and strikes (66 percent) against the officer.

As for position when landing on the ground, 50 percent of the incidents were reported to have found the officer landing on his/her side, followed by their back (30 percent) and then their stomach (20percent). Relationship to the attacker once taken to the ground showed officers landing on top of the attacker (42 percent or to the side (38 percent) as opposed to landing under the attacker 20 percent of the time.


Of the assaults on officers reported in the study, 21 percent of attackers attempted to disarm the officer. Of those, 5 percent were successful in removing the officer's weapon. Similarly disturbing in the FBI study, of 594 law enforcement officers killed between 1992 and 2001, 46 were killed with their own weapon.

Once attacked and forced to the ground by a suspect, responding officers reported that the threat was countered with non-lethal use of force options 95 percent of the time. While there were obviously scenarios related in the study that had the officer responding with a variety, of escalation and de-escalation of force options, the sole use of personal weapons (feet, hands, holds, etc.) by officers was reported at 24 percent.

Officers who had available to them, and chose to use, intermediate weapons such as OC spray and impact weapons did so 29 percent and 26 percent of the time, respectively. Of the impact weapons used, most were standard and expandable straight batons. Variations that were reported included 4 uses of 'flex batons' (nunchaku), 3 uses of our police radio, 1 use of keys and 1 use of a sap.

When asked about firearm usage by the officer, respondents cited 13 uses of a firearm to counter the attack, with three suspect fatalities. This reported usage of a firearm indicates that less than 1 percent of attacks involved the use of lethal force via firearm.


Respondents to the study indicated that 52 percent of them had received ground control training prior to the reported attack, with 40 percent indicating that they received such training after the reported attack.

There is no question that training officers to fight on the ground is imperative to winning such confrontations. When conducting such training, the use of grappling and escape techniques are critical to the officer's success in getting off the ground and back to a standing position. Our goal in training is to emphasize getting up from the ground and to not remain in a grapple event.

We as officers are neither designed nor suited for staying on the ground to participate in a grappling or wrestling contest with a suspect.

-- First, we do not know when and where the suspect's back up is coming into the attack.

-- Second, we are wearing equipment that strongly inhibits our fluid movement on the ground.

-- Third, as evidenced by this study, we face an aggressive, continued assault once on the ground. Officers should be trained to meet this high level assault with a high level response. Tactics should be designed for the officer to end the attack quickly on the ground to regain their position of advantage. Trainers should not hesitate to teach tactics that cause unconsciousness when faced with this level of violence.

Further, as evidenced in this study, if officers are escalating their force responses to include OC spray, impact weapons, and environmental weapons, training should include scenarios that provide these options.

02-05-2003, 03:18 PM
Not a troll by any means, just a perspective from men & women who are out in the street everyday.

02-05-2003, 03:21 PM
I think cops are always a good source on what really happens in the streets. Not only are they involved but they see it much more so then your average person.
However I still think it is sad and frightening that cops are generally way undertrained for this sort of thing.

02-05-2003, 03:27 PM
also cops must abide by a set of "restraining" rules unlike the criminal/suspect.

02-05-2003, 03:29 PM
Political correctness within the deptartments and a fear of being sued cause cops to receive unrealistic, less brutal training. Time and money issues are another thing. So cops have to sort through what is out there on their own and search for realistic hand to hand if that's what they want to know.

02-05-2003, 03:32 PM
Well stated Carly.

02-05-2003, 03:32 PM
Originally posted by carly
Political correctness within the deptartments and a fear of being sued cause cops to receive unrealistic, less brutal training. Time and money issues are another thing. So cops have to sort through what is out there on their own and search for realistic hand to hand if that's what they want to know.

sounds like a great argument for teaching them grappling.

02-05-2003, 03:33 PM
"with 5 percent of the attackers reportedly waiting for the officer to get up to continue the fight."

I didn't think it would be that high.

02-05-2003, 03:37 PM
Seven star, I'd guess a combination of intoxication and "tunnel vision" probably make that statistic so odd to us.

logic would say :cop down, criminal up. criminal run away. but logic is distorted.

02-05-2003, 03:39 PM
and that many people don't think of "fight" as being on the ground. despite the obvious advantage teh criminal has, he can't see it because he assumes he has to be standing toe to toe. Ironic that in frustration or accident that they will grapple 60% of the time..

02-05-2003, 03:51 PM
carly - I think more of it can be attributed to money and ignorance. Too many cops don't really understand how important good CQB training is and that it really can save their lives. I always encourage my cop freinds to join me in class, so far two have!

02-05-2003, 03:53 PM
QUESTION HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET GOOD AT GRAPPLING AND WOULD THE GRACIE FATHER BE **** caps able to defeat one of the younger fit gracies in a fight...is bjj applicabble at old age?.

two whats the diff between bjj and jjj who did the gracies bvorrow from agian jjj or judo?...do kungfu have any old systems like this?.


indians etcetc why brazil?.

02-05-2003, 03:54 PM

"Political correctness within the deptartments and a fear of being sued cause cops to receive unrealistic, less brutal training."

This is why! Brutality! brutality! my lawyer is going to sue you! brutality!!!!

02-05-2003, 04:10 PM
"This is why! Brutality! brutality! my lawyer is going to sue you! brutality!!!!"

I don't buy it. Talking to my cop freinds lately, especially since some close freinds are just about ready to graduate but hae been working volunteer neighborhood patrols for a few years now, They get classes, and some of them show some pretty brutal ways for dealing with criminals. some of it is probably too much for what they need.
The issue is that the training is not ongoing, it's a class here or there, maybe once a year they may have to certify or something. In general, it doesn't matter who you are getting the training from. I know my buddies are encouraged ot go out and find their own thing, but mostly because the money isn't there. why would you bother teaching them to protect themselves on that level when they already have guns!?!?

02-05-2003, 04:34 PM
Not surprisingly, a majority of officers had less than five years on the job at the time of their reported attack. First they ought to see what those officers with more than 5 years on the job are doing right.

Can they back up those statistics from another independent source?

02-05-2003, 04:44 PM
good point rouge.

why an independant source? I don't believe that these statistics were taking with the purpose of proving that "grappling" is superior", I believe it was more as you mentioned, of "what the hell are you guys doing wrong?" category. and that the statistics are probably an accurate depiction.

btw: I was once arrested for A&B (got in fight and grabbed his beer bottle and proceeded to beat him with it). You cannot imagine the feel of a gang of cops tackling you (the polyester pileup) until you've experienced it firsthand. good times..

02-05-2003, 04:51 PM
"(the polyester pileup)"


02-05-2003, 04:54 PM
oh yeah. Everytime I see "cops" I think of how 4guys with their knees on my neck & back kept screaming at me to put my hands behind my back. *******s you're sitting on my back!

I like cops. its a crappy job and to be a fair enforcer and remain above the mentality of the street is a hard thing to do.

02-05-2003, 05:29 PM

I got arrested once, they seemed very gentle.


02-05-2003, 05:41 PM
Have any of you guys seen that clip of those two idiots in a car. One has a video camera and he's telling his mate how, if his mate doesn't actually touch a cop, the cop can't do anything to him. So when a cop comes along, the dude jumps out of the car and starts leaping around in front of the cop, waving his arms and acting like a complete psycho, thinking the cop will just have to endure it.

Then the cop pulls out his baton and beats the dumb kid all over the body with it.

Bloody funny.

Not sure how relevant it is to the topic, but reading the thread made me think of it.


02-05-2003, 05:41 PM
Were you bouncing a 40oz half full bottle of St. Ides off someone's bleeding head?

I should explain, lest I b thought of as a short tempered *******:rolleyes:

My friend and I were walking in Georgetown and returning to our car parked a few blocks north of the main avenue. My friend's girlfriend was Indian and he and myself are both caucasian. Two skinheads walked past us and then after passing us said aloud "could you imagine sticking your **** into that? It would smell like curry!" As soon as my brain was able to make a reaction, I ran after them (they didn't expect me.) I pushed one down to the ground and tackled the other. My buddy Bob immediately started to beat on guy on the ground.

So I'm sitting pretty on top of skinhead#2 and proceed to smash him a few times until my hand started hurting! OUCH! jerk was holding a 40oz bottle wrapped in brown paper bag, and i just picked it up and started smashing into him!

Girlfriend had ran back south and there was a cop across the street (georgetown, Sat night. lots of cops) Well cop#1 radioes cops #2-10 and they come hauling ass. Me oblivious to this didn't hear cop#1 tell me to ge off the punk, and thus i didn not expect the tackle I then recieved. I'm screaming "Its not me! its that *******!" and meanwhile he's laying on his back groaning. (I can still see him amid the legs and arms of the restraining officers.

so we all go around the corner of the station. At first skinhead wants to press charges against me, but when we tell our side, he took a bandage and ran for it. I got a ticket for disorderly conduct and spent the next sat washing cop cars instead of paying for it. :)

02-05-2003, 05:56 PM
Good for you. Rascist arseholes.

02-05-2003, 07:11 PM
My old boss, who was also a retired cop, chicken choked a guy (this is now illegal). The fight started with drawn weapons, and ended in a "ground fight". He learned this move from a karate instructor that was brought in by his department. The criminal subsequently died, and my boss was *kindly* asked to retire from the force. I know similar moves from kung fu that don't take a lot of set up. BTW, a chicken choke for those who don't know, is when you dig your knuckles in someone's carotid/trachea.

02-05-2003, 09:08 PM
why an independant source? Just was wondering ST00. After all 90% of all statistics are made up.

Well cop#1 radioes cops #2-10 and they come hauling ass. Me oblivious to this didn't hear cop#1 tell me to ge off the punk, and thus i didn not expect the tackle I then recieved. I'm screaming "Its not me! its that *******!" and meanwhile he's laying on his back groaning. (I can still see him amid the legs and arms of the restraining officers. See, if you had only practiced your forms instead of that silly contact stuff you would be the one groaning and the other guy would be getting creamed by the cops and washing their cars. C'mon ST00 admit it, those old Asians knew what they were doing when they invented forms.:p

02-06-2003, 03:48 AM

BJJ is highly applicable in old age. Grappling is a bit easier on the brain case and body than, say, kickboxing, although I have to say I've had more joint injuries (grumble)... Could Helio compete with the young bucks at the highest levels? I doubt it. He's 91, after all, and competition is a far different creature. He is well known to be able to roll with his students and sons, however.

I mean, when I went to Brazil, I saw a 50 year old Black belt compete in the adult division at the worlds, and he made a **** good showing. Beat a couple of opponents before losing. Nice work! One of my previous training partners was nearly twice my age and was one of the toughest SOB's around--and you wouldn't think it a bit to look at him!

Ground Dragon
02-06-2003, 07:17 AM
Heck, the officers here don't even receive any regular firearm training, much less any form of martial art training. Or at least that's my understanding of it.

But I think I'd like some ethics classes for them before I'd vote on grappling though, taking into account some of the podunks running around here with a badge.

02-06-2003, 07:24 AM
Sounds like the more veteran cops know enough not to let a perp get too close or at least make sure he has backup, where a rookie may go after someone solo. I think some training in BJJ would be good but could lead the rookie cops into more close quarter altercations.

02-06-2003, 12:15 PM
There is usually a cop or two in any martial arts class i go to, means i can claim to spend my tuesdays atacking police officers :) They do a great job though.

On the old age jjj practitioners Its always impressive to meet one of therse experts, they all seem capable of springing a few surprises.

02-19-2003, 01:17 PM

Rouge, about >5yr. exp cops. - LEO's that read this post on other board said that older cops are lazier, smarter, and generally much less aggressive where a young guy will chase, and run and fight a criminal.

02-19-2003, 04:04 PM
I am probably going into law enforcement after I graduate from college (next semester). I am in the selection process for the LAPD. Reading stuff like this really makes me glad that I am trained and that I have grappling experience. I spoke to my recruiter regarding martial arts training. She's been on the streets for almost 20 yrs and in her opinion, having kickboxing and grappling skills is a very strong asset to have as an officer. And sadly she also recognizes that the police academy does not emphasize these things enough.

I hope I make it through selection:(

02-19-2003, 04:34 PM
To be fair, I think those instructors pushing for better or some grappling training for police should try some of the techniques wearing a level III+ vest.

your range of motion is very different, and it is harder to do many things they we take for granted when not wearing a vest.

This is not a flame or a troll, just a suggestion to put a slightly different perspective on what's involved.

02-19-2003, 04:39 PM
Aslan - great point. the military must also address similar issues when training groundfighting.

And I think most importantly how to negate the "push/tackle" attacks that get them inot this situation.

D - Good Luck. Being a LEO is a tough job and requires a level head and more patience than I'll ever posess.

02-19-2003, 05:56 PM
I sponsored a BJJ seminar with my friend Caique (so actually it was a CJJ seminar) last year. I hit up our county hospital po-lice since they deal with a lot of inmates, as well as the campus 5-0 at UT-San Antonio. They all laughed at me and said basically "that's what these are for" pointing to their guns and improvised tonfa (night sticks). Typically the same sociopathic, I know-it-all types become cops and criminals, I guess. It's the same isht some broke gang-banger would say. They were fat arses and wimp-types.

If they ever fought for real in their life it was probably as a result of being squares and irritating cool types, or bullying weaker people. I tried to emphasize the importance of being able to handle yourself without a "crutch" or security blanket. I got fed up when they just stared at me like I was speaking Mandarin. I laughed, said it's your health, preparedness is the best insurance, just ask military cats. They laughed again and said "goodbye".

Anyway, fairly recently there has been a couple of local cases of cops getting took out with their own weapons. This was after they grappled with the suspect. Uh-huh... There's no need for plain clothes cops unless some severe civil disturbance ensues anyway. Go buy a gun and protect yourself. F'em! Hope they laugh their controllling arses to hell, hahahaha!!!!

Only 15 or so folks showed up to the seminar. I posted here and around town, as well as ebudo,the UG and other MMA and grappling sites. With South Texas having absolutely no legit brown belts or higher it was a chance for San Antonians, Austinites and other nonDallas or Houston types to train with the highest ranking GJJ guy outside of the Gracie family. Oh well you snooze you lose. That's why I'm moving to LA.

People if you can't "wrassle" please learn a little. Don't believe the "I'll never grapple" BS. If a big, strong or experienced grappler wants to get you, prepare to hit the ground.

02-20-2003, 03:34 AM
Rogue, I kinda find your argument about the cops learning a little grappling to be sort of like "If we teach kids about safe sex, they'll just have sex more."

02-21-2003, 12:54 PM

Experience from men and women out on the streets ever single day facing criminals and apprehending them.

Groundfighting, not the ideal situation but the reality, so be prepared.