The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Louis Hayes, Jr.

I woke up this morning to find a half-dozen stories in my newsfeed regarding a small Northern California police department adopting nunchuks as an approved use of force tool. The decision is incredibly irresponsible…and the news accounts must be a parody. Or are they? In each of the stories, I searched for signs this was a joke. Unfortunately, all signals point towards reality.

As such, I’m taking this opportunity to make some points about police force and tool selection. I hope you see this decision to use nunchuks in American policing to be just as ridiculous as I do.

HIGHLY TECHNICAL. Oftentimes, police uses of force (especially the high profile cases) occur in highly dynamic, chaotic, stressful circumstances. Human performance science tells us that humans’ technical skills undergo great degradation under hormone-induced stress (such as a police-suspect encounter). Tools, techniques, or weapons should be those that do not require fine motor skills, dexterity, or precision/coordinated movement. The most effective and reliable tools, techniques, and weapons during these encounters are those that rely upon “caveman” skills – gross motor movement, simplicity, and allow for wide margins of error. Caveman skills and thinking are those that we lose last during physical and analytic skill degradation.

BULKY EQUIPMENT. Equipment is only good when it’s with you. Why do most American police officers have collapsible/expandable batons on their belts? Because they were leaving the wood or composite batons in their cars when they got out – and didn’t have them when they needed them! Will the same happen with nunchuks? Will they too be left in the cars? Or will leather and nylon companies design a police duty nunchuk pouch? Maybe in MOLLE? (Yes, that’s me laughing hysterically at my own sarcasm.)

TRAINING TIME. Because nunchucks are highly technical, they demand a lot of training and practice time. One news source cites that police officer training for nunchuks would be “three days;” another cites “sixteen hours.” I cringe at hearing of using two to three days of use of force training at becoming proficient with nunchuks. There are a whole lot of topics, drills, and scenarios that can be done in two days! Learning how to use a highly specialized tool (with what I claim to be ineffective too) is not making the most of precious training time and money.

CONTROL VERSUS IMPACT. The police department is encouraging the use of nunchuks as a “control” tool, rather than an impact or striking device.  The two batons are to be twisted around a suspect’s joints to escort or control their movement. Similar justifications were used for the old PR24 side-handle baton (think: TJ Hooker television show). Very, very few police departments are using PR24 batons anymore. Why? See also HIGHLY TECHNICAL and BULKY EQUIPMENT above. These come-along movements are so complex, only a sliver of police officers could ever replicate them in the heat of the moment.

INJURIES TO SUSPECT. News sources say that the department training recommends police officers target a suspect’s hands, wrists, or knees when the nunchuk is used as an impact weapon. Really? That goes against the nationally-accepted practices of targeting large muscle groups with impact weapons, tools, or projectiles. If you want any of my support of nunchucks, at least say the impact targets are thighs and buttocks…so I can defend these injuries in a court of law. Don’t get me wrong…if deadly force is authorized, I’d target the head. But this is not how the police department is selling the application.

We do not need another use of force tool in American law enforcement. And if we did, it would not be nunchuks. What we need is better decision making training…but that’s a discussion for another time.

This blog post uses a condensed summary of some highly complex issues of science, human behavior, risk management, and police use of force policy to make a case against the use of nunchuks in American law enforcement. I’m more than ready to defend my position on any of the above five pillars (or the ones I’ve omitted for the sake of brevity!).

I would embrace the opportunity to discuss my position with the person in the police department who decided to adopt nunchuks. He or she can reach me through this website.

In the meantime, I’m hoping I missed something in the news…and that this is all a joke. I fear not.


Louis Hayes, Jr is a system thinker and provocateur for The Virtus Group, Inc, a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. He is a law enforcement trainer with biases in Constitutional law, crisis intervention, and tactical policing. Lou can be reached on Twitter @LouHayesJr and under #ThinkLE.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.

The following is a post from The Virtus Group member Louis Hayes, Jr.

Ask any American police officer how to secure a suspect into handcuffs and the response will be the same: Behind the back, palms out. It’s one of the few standards on which all cops agree. It’s also a practice that most every cop has violated at some point or another, with the best of justifications.

Last week, the NYPD announced a policy change allowing its police officers to handcuff arrestees in the front of their bodies in select circumstances. While I haven’t seen the actual written policy proposal yet, I have read a fair share of criticism of the new policy in social media and online comments. I just can’t figure out what all the drama is about.

In 18 years (and counting) as a police officer, I’ve handcuffed easily more than a thousand arrestees.  Charges range from murder, to rape, to domestic terror, to home invasion, to robbery. But let’s face it: the bulk of the offenses are drunk driving, possession of drugs, underage alcohol consumption, disorderly conduct, unlicensed driving, or other “petty” arrest warrants.

As such, I’ve arrested: grandmas; guys in wheelchairs; fat guys (really fat!); people with casts on their broken arms; pregnant moms (like really pregnant too); the guy I “knocked-out cold” when he attacked me; the guy with only one arm; another man with a missing hand; countless single working moms who forgot to get their minivans’ emissions tested…resulting in their drivers licenses being suspended; a man who was shot lifeless by police officers; the driver in a 100mph car chase with a driver who turned out to be NINE years old. We handcuffed them all.

Some of them, I even “front cuffed.”

All of these suspects posed some danger during the arrest and booking process. But equal threat? Absolutely not.

However, what I am reading in comments about the NYPD’s new “front cuffing” policy is that cops should always cuff arrestees with their hands in back of their bodies. The critics are basically arguing for a single solution to multiple problems.

And that’s just nonsense.

Most of these comments are, of course, coming from cops, unions representatives, and law enforcement trainers. What I see as ironic is these are typically the same groups of folks who demand more flexibility and more discretion and more alternatives in police agency procedure and policy. Yet here they call for keeping a rigid, absolute, zero tolerance policy that requires handcuffing all arrestees “in back” in the same manner regardless of circumstances - with suspects’ hands behind their bodies.

The logic is flawed. If we street cops (and our unions) demand open, flexible, discretion-rich policy to account for the complexities and uniqueness of problems in the field, shouldn’t we be openly accepting the same when it comes to tactical options of handcuffing? If we want wide discretion for issues such as use of force, stop-and-frisk, and decisions to arrest or not…why can’t the technical aspects of handcuffing be just as flexible?

I’m sick of seeing agency policy and training designed around anecdotal stories that begin with, “This one time…” They are anomalies. Yes, they are real, but we cannot be hanging all our practices on isolated and unrepeated instances. Should these remind us to be aware? Yes. But we cannot become hyper-vigilant exaggerators of risk as some of these stories tend to do to us.

Will conniving suspects fake injuries or claim disability when they learn of more “front cuffing” options? Will we have arrestees who complain because they weren’t afforded the comfort of front cuffing? Will we be open to discrimination for our decisions on how to handcuff? Absolutely!

But what else do we have? We have cops who are some of the most ingenious, adaptive, and creative problem-solvers in the free world. We have a judicial system that gives tremendous allowance to officers engaged in dynamic street encounters. We have hinge-style handcuffs that restrict twisting movements. We have leather or nylon restraint belts. We use suspect’s own pants belts to further restrict the range of movement. We have zip-ties and flex cuffs to attach cuffs to belts or around waists. We have leg shackles and hobbles. We link together multiple sets of cuffs to “lengthen” the chain.

We have options. Lots of options. And in policing, options are good. They allow us to solve problems creatively – accounting for the uniqueness of each and every situation. Just like use of force tools. Or crisis intervention resources. Or SWAT tactics. But we need more cops who can better navigate the challenging questions of “how” or “why” certain decisions were made.

Fighting against a policy that gives us, as police officers, freedoms to exercise our discretion makes no sense to me. Especially when we have so many restraint tools, equipment, and techniques available to us to keep us safe – and display some aspect of compassion and humanity at the same time!

Robotic obedience to a zero tolerance “always cuff in back” policy is really doing nothing except handcuffing our police officers from being thinking humans. Let’s prove to our communities that we’re smart enough to figure this out on our own.

But then I look at the one odd-looking handcuff key I keep in my drawer at work. A handcuff key that had been in the pocket of an arrestee…who I had locked up in my handcuffs…who twisted his “palms-out” hands from his back into his front…trying to unlock himself with the key I missed during the initial patdown search. I thwarted his escape that night. Who knows what his real intentions were? Only he.

It’s a case of “this one time” that keeps me on my toes - to be ready for all the really bad people that have been in my handcuffs over the years…and for those who I’ve yet to put in them. How will I cuff them? Behind the back, palms-out. But not always.


Louis Hayes, Jr is a system thinker and provocateur for The Virtus Group, Inc, a firm devoted to developing public safety leadership. He is a law enforcement trainer with biases in Constitutional law, crisis intervention, and tactical policing. Lou can be reached on Twitter @LouHayesJr and under #ThinkLE.

Be sure to follow these ideas at @TheVirtusGroup.

By Judy Bethge

Convenient.  That's what has been running through my mind the past few days. The news of the NYPD executions keeps ruminating in my mind as the media, celebrities, pundits and politicians issue their statements.  It's a convenient time to make statements in support of the police. It's a convenient time to change your tune, to condemn violence, to measure your words, to latch onto the next wave of emotion in order to promote yourself in the public eye.  But what about when it is inconvenient...like last month or last week? When the totality of the evidence, science, human factors and the law speak--yet people refuse the listen or alter their opinions and agendas because it's not convenient to do so in the face of an angry rioting mob. What about supporting the police when it costs you something and makes you less popular?  Where is the voice of reason and understanding when it's complicated?

I support my law-enforcement officer every single day. Not just on the easy days when the whole world seems to support him. But on the hard days. And the days when it feels like the whole world is against him.  My law-enforcement officer knows that words have consequences.  He is keenly aware that evil exists in this world and that we are all one breath away from eternity.  My law-enforcement officer knows that he serves a complex and noble profession.  So to all the pundits, politicians, and professional panderers, welcome to our bandwagon-the one that has always loved, always supported, and always been proud of our law-enforcement officers.