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Manteca Police Adopt Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Use-Of-Force Training

MANTECA (CBS13) — A force for change is leading to newly trained police officers, and they're taking an element from one of the world's most violent sports: mixed martial arts.

One local police department is turning to Brazilian jiu-jitsu as a new training tool. The philosophy is pretty straightforward: You don't want to fight a suspect, you want to fight their will to fight.

For the Manteca Police Department, it's an approach that's not only helping more officers get home safely, but keeping use-of-force complaints down.

"Our main goal is to keep our energy up, while he depletes his energy," Manteca Police Officer Matthew Gardette said of the methods.

The moves look sophisticated, but the strategy behind them is simple.

"In jiu-jitsu, if there's distance, strikes can hurt you," said Manteca Police Officer Jose Plascencia. "The closer you are, the strikes don't hurt as much. They don't have as much force."

A system of holds and locks is paving a new path in policing, cultivating more confident and more self-controlled cops.

"The FBI's come out with recent statistics that, in upwards of the 90th-percentile range, that a confrontation will end up on the ground," Manteca Police Sgt. Joshua Sweeten said.

Nearly all officers in the Manteca Police Department are trained in Brazilian jiu-jitsu — a common technique used in mixed martial arts, or MMA fighting.

One of the loudest proponents of this type of training for law enforcement is Rener Gracie, a third-generation teacher of jiu-jitsu.

"Every untrained officer is an accident waiting to happen," he said.

Gracie helped launch Gracie University and is the co-creator of Gracie Survival Tactics — the only curriculum in California to be certified by the commission on peace officer standards and training.

"All the techniques have been adapted for the law enforcement consideration that need to be brought into the equation: weapon retention, handcuffing, multiple attackers potentially, confined spaces," Gracie said.

In an age of viral police videos, transparency and accountability have never been more important.

Manteca police see about 6-7 use-of-force complaints a quarter, but the chief says those numbers are on a downward trend, due in large part to jiu-jitsu training.

"With the officers that have had the training, we've seen the incidents where they've actually had to use force," said Chief Mike Aguilar of the Manteca Police Department.

"When police officers get better training like we have in Manteca, their use-of-force intensity will go down," Gracie said. "And they will be closer to a point where the expectation from the public and the capabilities of law enforcement will be closer to matching."

In California, police are only required to take four hours of hands-on defensive tactics training every two years.

It's a standard Gracie argues highlights the need for change.

"Naturally, officers are going to revert the tools that are on their tool belt, the physical tools — whether that be pepper spray, taser, a baton, a firearm — and they're going to resort to those very quickly, because there are no empty hand skills being taught," Gracie said.

A shift in methods and mindset shows law enforcement's newest weapon doesn't have to be any weapon at all. A number of other local law enforcement agencies are embracing this type of training, too, including the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department.

Dozens of its deputies with that agency will be taking part in a week-long training course in March.

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