An officer carries a small arsenal of weapons in his utility belt, but in close-range situations the few seconds it takes to reach for a weapon could mean the difference between life and death.
That’s why cadets at Augusta Tech’s Peace Officers Training Academy tested their spontaneous knife defense after a week of training that was anything but easy.
“The first week of class was tough,” said Cadet John Hill, at 35 the second-oldest of the 24 cadets. “You have guys 10 years younger than you swinging you by the arm.”
Hill spent more time on a mat Monday after he pointed a red rubber knife at his partner, who took control of the knife and threw him to the ground. Later, he got to practice control when his partner brandished a knife.
The cadets’ movements became more fluid after the week’s worth of training, but J.D. Allen, the captain over the cadets, said it didn’t start out that way.
Initially the class was nervous about throwing their friends to the ground, but as the week progressed it got easier.
“We’ve had no injuries other than soreness,” said lead instructor Eric Snowberger.
During training, officers learned seven lines of defense against a knife attack. Cadets have already completed the first portion of their defensive tactics training, in which they focused on pressure point control.
After Monday’s testing, cadets will move on to a week of firearm training.
“Defensive tactics will probably be used more than firearms,” Snowberger said. “If that firearm comes out, it’s usually a life-or-death situation.”
Maj. Archer Bell, the field training manager of the Operations, Planning and Training Division of the Georgia Department of Corrections, said learning to depend on a weapon at all times is dangerous.
In some situations where weapons aren’t allowed, such as booking areas, officers need to rely on their hands to keep a suspect under control.
A knife is one of the most common weapons officers run across in the streets, and in the corrections system it is the main thing officers run up against.
“They can make stabbing (objects) out of just about anything,” Bell said.
Even if a weapon is accessible, Richmond County sheriff’s instructor John Nguyen reminded cadets, an officer has to justify everything he does, and using a weapon can be a liability.
Cadets will graduate June 26, and a new crop of future officers will begin classes July 9.
The Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council requires that officers have at least 20 hours of training a year to maintain their certification. Additional hours depend on the agency.