Austin police union: Officers lack training in hand-to-hand combat

Austin police cadets at their graduation on July 8, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)
Austin police cadets at their graduation on July 8, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A call from Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo for officers to utilize hand-to-hand combat over weapons when a person is resisting arrest has been met with some backlash from some officers and the Austin Police Association president.

In cases where an officer is trying to subdue a suspect who isn’t complying, Acevedo is recommending officers should first try to use their fists instead of their weapons, such as a stun gun or firearm. Controlling a subject with bare hands is a level three use of force, the lowest level of force an officer can use.

APA President Ken Casaday says training in defense tactics will need to be increased if officers are expected to use what he calls “perishable skills.” In a newsletter, Casaday says if this training is not given every four to eight months the skills diminish and need to be taught again.

“We have provided extra training at the APA Hall, but were told to stop because the training didn’t fit the standards purported by the academy,” wrote Casaday in the newsletter. “Officers are willing to spend their own money, but they are told the training doesn’t fit standards, or we can’t let you go, because the Department is too short staffed in our critical patrol positions.”

Break down of police training: 

  • Punching, kicks, elbow strikes: 8 hours
  • Pressure points: 2 hours 
  • Ground fighting: 16 hours 
  • Weapons defense: 8 hours
  • Hobble swarm: 8 hours
  • Self-defense: 6 hours
  • Weapon retention: 4 hours 

“Austin Police Department policy requires officers to use only the amount of force that is reasonably necessary to overcome the resistance they are encountering,” a spokesperson with APD said Wednesday afternoon, “While all officers are given significant defensive tactics instruction during their cadet training, we recognize this is a perishable skill and are providing mandatory defensive tactics refresher courses for all officers beginning January 2017.”

In the newsletter, Casaday cited fired Officer Geoffrey Freeman’s case as an example of what happens when the department doesn’t provide enough training. “The Department and the City should be ashamed for not listening to their academy staff after the Freeman shooting.” Freeman shot and killed unarmed, naked 17-year-old David Joseph in February.

Freeman is set to have an arbitration hearing with the city in November. He could be reinstated back on the force, if the arbitration board finds that he followed proper protocol. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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