By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo police officers are paid to protect the public, but this week they’re learning to protect themselves.
Seven officers are going through the Strategic Self-Defense Grappling Tactics instructors course to gain their certification and, in turn, teach the rest of the department and possibly the public on how to defend themselves.
Chief Tony Carleton said officers having a knowledge of self-defense is just as important as protecting the public.
“Officers have to make sure they are safe themselves if they are going to protect others, so this type of training is very serious,” said Carleton. “We have Tasers and firearms but can’t always get to them. Sometimes attacks are spontaneous and our guys have to react fast. Knowing what to do in those situations will prevent injuries.”
Officer Gary Garrett will be one of the instructors for the department once he finishes the 40-hour class.
“This is all about officer safety,” said Garrett. “We aren’t learning any strikes or anything like that, just how to protect ourselves if something does happen.”
Johnny Lee Smith, founder of SSGT, said with 55,000 officers assaulted each year while on duty, defensive-tactic training is probably the most important tool they can have.
“Our goal is to teach the officers how to survive and prepare for the unexpected,” said Smith. “They have no control over someone just sucker-punching them but they need to know what to do if that does happen. We want police officers to be able to survive common attacks because those are the attacks that result in most officers being injured.”
Carleton said when the officers are certified, they will teach the department and the public what they’ve learned.
“This training will benefit the whole city,” said Carleton. “We are going to have a public self-defense class for women and teenagers in the near future. We want everything we do in the department to benefit Tupelo.”
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.