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.



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01/14/2016 6:25pm

I might add that nunchuks can be dangerous to the user, I recall news stories of people killing themselves while training with them.

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