Training helps Oklahoma City police keep ahead of suspected criminals

During the 28-week Oklahoma City police academy, recruits learn self-defense and control techniques meant to keep officers — and the people they're trying to control — safe, Chief Bill Citty said. On the streets, officers sometimes have to make split-second decisions on how to apply force.
by Juliana Keeping Modified: October 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm •  Published: October 21, 2012

When police cadet Kelley Chase suffered a fatal head injury Oct. 12 he was participating in a demanding test of his ability to defend himself in life-or-death situations.

Chase, 38, died the morning after he hit his head on a mat and passed out while being tested on a takedown maneuver with an instructor. While it was not a violent hit, his unprotected head had hit the mat several times during the test, police Capt. Dexter Nelson said.

The state medical examiner reported Friday that Chase died of blunt force head trauma.

Chase was in great physical shape, and he was something of a mentor to younger cadets, Police Chief Bill Citty said.

A new policy will now require that cadets wear protective head gear in the self-defense course.

The fatal injury occurred while Chase, an Air Force veteran, was concluding a 78-hour course of defense training for cadets.

The course culminates with a six-minute exam during which cadets are rigorously tested by different instructors on a host of techniques. During a rotation of simulated fights, he went to the ground several times with different instructors.

“You stress them over the time period because you want to see what they've learned,” Citty said. “It lets them know even if they're tired, they can fight through it.”

Preparation is crucial for police

That kind of preparation is important for the unpredictable nature of police work.

“You have to be prepared to protect yourself,” said Sgt. Keith Cornman, a police trainer. “We don't want them to quit on the street if they're in a fight to save their life or to save somebody else's life.”

Due to the physical nature of the training, injuries are common, from bumps and bruises to strained muscles and the occasional broken bone.

When he was a patrol officer, Cornman found out the importance of this training.

He was in southeast Oklahoma City when he tried to put handcuffs on a wanted man after a traffic stop. The officer found a gun in the man's waistband.

Without using the proper technique to stabilize the man's hands and handcuff him, the encounter could have ended much differently. The skills Cornman used were among many he learned as a recruit during control and defensive tactics training, where cadets learn how to gain control over suspected criminals and protect themselves from attacks.


by Juliana Keeping
Enterprise Reporter
Juliana Keeping is on the enterprise reporting team for The Oklahoman and NewsOK.com. Keeping joined the staff of The Oklahoman in 2012. Prior to that time, she worked in the Chicago media at the SouthtownStar, winning a Peter Lisagor Award...
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