Sponsored by Complete Tactical Consultants
By Police1 BrandFocus Staff
As more police departments come under scrutiny over use-of-force training, top commanders in agencies across the country are re-assessing what officers have been taught for decades. Sensing that changes in policing practices are coming, Ryan Jensen wanted to offer law enforcement agencies new tools and strategies to prepare officers – physically and mentally for their police duties.
Soon the founder of Complete Tactical Consultants, wellness specialists, law enforcement officers, doctors, martial artists, professional athletes and legal experts collectively put together a six-part course for instructors and officers. The Tactical Athlete Program combines the best lifestyle practices followed by professional athletes with realistic use-of-force techniques used in modern day law enforcement training, martial arts and combat sports.
“We build officers into better officers through consistent training and daily routines,” said Jensen, founder of the Omaha-based company and a senior defensive tactics instructor who has been a personal trainer for police officers for over 20 years. “Being a police officer is similar to being a professional athlete. It starts when you wake up, all the way to when you hit the bed and you go to sleep. You are always working and dealing with high levels of stress. The way you think, live and train is going to impact your performance and your team’s progress.”
In addition to the fitness, nutrition and tactical use-of-force skills modules, the program’s comprehensive curriculum includes sections on de-escalation techniques and legal matters relevant to law enforcement agencies across the country.
Healthy body, healthy mind
For many officers, long shifts, administrative pressures, and other demands of the job make it hard for them to stay as healthy and fit as they were when they were hired. Considering that shift work and job-related stress have been associated with poor health, it is not surprising that research shows police officers are more likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure and struggle with obesity more than their civilian peers. Studies also suggest police officers are more likely than adults in the general population to die from cardiovascular disease.
“What you do both on and off duty – what you eat, hydration, the stress in your life – all of those things can impact your performance,” said Jason Cvitanov, an Omaha Police Department officer who has been in law enforcement over 20 years and is a senior defensive tactics instructor with Complete Tactical Consultants.
In the wellness module, instructors have access to fitness and nutritional guides that include videos and programs to help police exercise and eat similarly to professional athletes. For example, there are materials with strength and conditioning exercises. They can also find “on the go” recipes and grocery lists put together by a nutritionist to encourage officers to plan their meals and consume quality food that will impact their performance on the job.
The program also drives home the message that a healthy mind is as important as a healthy body. Compared with adults in the general population, police officers may be at a higher risk for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome, due to in part because of workplace stress and because they are more likely to be exposed to traumatic situations than civilians. In addition, job-related stress may make officers more vulnerable to substance abuse and divorce. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, police officers are more likely to die by suicide than from a job-related incident.
To address these mental health issues, Jensen sought guidance from one of the most recognized performance psychologists in the United States, Jack Stark, PhD. Dr. Stark has been a part of 22 national championships in his career and has seen over 10,000 clinical patients in his medical practice. The lessons Dr. Stark has created for the Tactical Athlete Program not only address how officers can best respond to members of the public experiencing mental health issues, but it also incorporates stress-management techniques for the officer. These insights are gleaned from decades of working with college sports teams, NASCAR drivers, Olympians, and professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, and UFC among others. Together with video lectures and audio tracks, Dr. Stark has put together solutions to help officers who may be struggling. The lessons review the different ways the body responds to stress and how those physiological reactions can affect judgment. Officers will learn how to correctly use calming techniques, breathing and relaxation exercises when facing stressful situations – on and off the job – they can use to help keep their emotions in check.
“We want to make sure we train our officers so that they don’t overreact or underreact in high stress situations,” says Jensen.
Effective training keeps officers, communities safe
The demand for better police training has intensified in recent years. Police officers, including top commanders, are among the vast array of people who think that police academies aren’t doing a good job at preparing officers for the realities of their jobs. Some are not fans of teaching officers to control people using pressure point techniques or defensive tactics that may cause life-threatening injuries.
The Tactical Athlete Program leans heavily on the application of set principles and use of force strategies to take control of a person, without escalating the situation. Instructors who take the course learn how to teach officers new ways to handcuff people, control unruly suspects while standing or on the ground, and ways to defend themselves in case they are attacked during an arrest without hurting the person(s) they are trying to restrain.
“Really, the end game is to control the situation with the least amount of force necessary,” said Cvitanov.
Cost-effective, consistent training
The Tactical Athlete Program was designed to be implemented in multiple ways making it easy and convenient for the individual officers, defensive tactics instructors, and the departments.
For police departments, the Tactical Athlete Program offers something that can be hard to come by: cost-effective, safe and consistent training. Finding comprehensive courses for officers has become even more important now that the coronavirus pandemic has all but shut down in-person learning.
Because law enforcement officers are among the experts who have put together the curriculum, Jensen says he hopes that agencies across the country consider the Tactical Athlete Program as one of the tools they can use to improve their agency’s training.
“There are no other programs or online platforms on the market that have everything we included in the Tactical Athlete Program,” said Jensen. “Everyone knows consistent, cost effective, realistic, and safe training is needed now more than ever in our departments. resulting in officers that are mentally, physically and emotionally fit so they can, in turn, serve their communities better.”