LEO Defensive Tactics

Revolutionizing Law Enforcement Training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

LEO Defensive Tactics

Revolutionizing Law Enforcement Training with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

The Program

Over the past decade, there has been a national shift in law enforcement towards defensive tactics training,  particularly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.  Departments that prioritize defensive tactics over offensive striking have seen a reduction in instances of excessive force, officer and suspect injury, arrests, liability complaints, and an overall increase in positive public perception of  police (Offering 2016, Alvarez 2017, Blumberg et al 2019, Jimenez et al 2020, Marietta Police Department 2021).  In fact, when police academies center the curriculum on defensive tactics as part of a community policing initiative, it leads to new police officers feeling more secure in their position within the community, safer within that community, and a positive public perception of new police officers (Chappell 2008). 

For this pilot project we are using the model created by the Marietta Police Department (MPD).  MPD has been using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training for over twelve years, but it wasn’t until 2019 when they made it mandatory for new recruits that the department started to see major improvements in data.  According to MPD, “officers participating in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) training, as compared to their coworkers electing to NOT participate, had the following statistics for 2020:  48% reduction of injuries to officers using force; 53% reduction of injuries to the person being arrested when force was required; and 23% reduction of use of Taser.”  Although the success of the program is evident in the data, MPD members Major Jake King and Sergeant Clayton Culpepper write, “In order to convince the rest of the command staff to consider adopting the program, it was immediately clear the program needed to consist of three things; to be reasonable, sustainable and affordable.”  Here are two links for more information on MPD's experiences and statistics since implementing BJJ training- Police Say Jiu-Jitsu Can Make Them Less Violent During Arrests and  Cops Are Turning to Jiu-Jitsu to Curb Harmful Force, Boost Mental and Physical Health.

With these three core concepts in mind, we propose a six-month pilot project that consists of the following:

● Two mandatory BJJ classes per week, with class times based on what works best for the department/academy

● Surveys filled out at the beginning, mid-point, and conclusion of the training

● Tracking of field data to measure frequency of officer/suspect injuries, arrests, and any physical encounters for longitudinal, simulation modeling, and efficacy determinations 

As Police Chief Dan Flynn writes, “Traditional police use of force tactics basically prescribe justified ways for the police to beat combatants into submission using pain compliance, striking, and blunt force techniques that never look good; particularly on camera or video.”  Police officers who have trained under Tallini commented that they noted a positive public perception towards the use of defensive tactics in CNY. One officer noted, “It looks better to hit a double leg take down and then go to mount and restrain a person instead of using excessive strikes.”  The key here is that these techniques give police more confidence when restraining individuals, makes police more aware of how they are being perceived in the  public, while also reducing injuries, liability, and excessive force. 

People in charge of police policy and training need a better way to overcome combative active resistance.  BJJ training is a top solution to not only reduce injuries but also to help with public perception of police.  However, retention of BJJ, just like any skill a person is looking to acquire, works best if the student is consistently attending class and doing live grappling, not just attending a week long training program.  Therefore, in the development of this program, we were determined to find a solution to ensure that regular, weekly training could fit into a department or Police Academy schedule.  The program we created will be able to balance those needs.  Finally, to better assess the effectiveness of the program, participants are expected to fill out surveys documenting their experiences and participate in focus groups during study.  In addition, after the conclusion of the training program, officers incidents of use of force are tracked for 6 years by a researcher from the United States Naval Academy.

For a quick synopsis of the study, check out the video below, which aired in 2022.  In addition, here's a link to the article on LocalSyr.com.

Meet The Team

Ben Tallini

Coach Tallini has been training BJJ since December 2005, teaching since 2012, and earned his Black Belt in July 2017. 

He has helped train top level Mixed Martial Arts fighters and several successful amateurs and pros. Tallini has produced students who have placed at the World Jiu Jitsu Championship, like Jason Iorio who most recently took second place in his division. Tallini’s student, Dan Dantuono, was ranked number one for a period time in the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF). 

He has also trained multiple super fight winners at pro grappling events like Ed Abrasley, Dickie White, and Alec Callahan. Tallini has made the podium at every IBJJF tournament he has done at black belt, along with placing at multiple North  American Grappling Association tournaments and smaller shows throughout his BJJ career. Tallini has a 1-0 record in amateur MMA and has competed in combat  sports since 2006. 

Chief Jerry Unger

Chief Unger is a two stripe blue belt in BJJ, Blauer spear combative instructor, and a veteran attached to Navy Special Warfare community.  He served in the U.S. Navy 1992 until 1996 and has been a Liverpool police officer since 2009.  In December 2020, he was promoted to police chief.  In 2014, he won the Liverpool Elks Lodge Officer of the Year Award, the Onondaga County Traffic Safety Advisory Board’s Overall Performance Award and CNY Chiefs of Police Law Enforcement Commendation Award. Unger was named the Liverpool Police Benevolent Association Officer of the Year and the 2015 Liverpool Elks Club Police Officer of the Year. 

Clark Petri, MS, PhD student

Clark Petri is a senior military officer, possesses a master’s degree in Operations Research from the Naval Postgraduate School, and is a CSS PhD candidate at George Mason University. Upon completion of his PhD, he will serve as a Professor of Operations Research at the United States Naval Academy.  His research interests include infrastructure optimization, agent-based modeling, and electric mobility. He has trained various martial arts for over twenty years, including twelve years of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in which he is a brown belt.

The Study

This comprehensive study seeks to quantify survey responses from officers who have undergone BJJ training and present insightful qualitative analyses derived from their feedback. By exploring field statistics, such as use of force rates, officer injuries, and suspect injuries, we aim to provide a holistic understanding of the tangible benefits that BJJ training can bring to law enforcement.

By gathering and analyzing survey data, we aim to provide a nuanced perspective on how BJJ influences officer performance and community interactions. Additionally, the incorporation of qualitative analyses based on officers' feedback enriches our understanding of the subjective experiences associated with BJJ training. The long-term goal of this research is to parameterize simulation studies of law enforcement activity, leveraging the aggregated data to inform future training protocols and contribute to the ongoing improvement of national policing strategies.


What is the cost?

What if someone gets hurt?

What does DCJS have to say about this?

Legal protection if an officer gets sued for using a technique?

Is there a certificate at the end?

What departments are currently participating in this study?

How did this study develop originally?

Before Covid, Chief Unger, a long time friend of Tallini, approached him about teaching a seminar to all of his officers because he wanted them to have exposure to Jiu Jitsu.  During that time, Tallini and James Knoll had been discussing the idea of using his psychology background to develop a survey to measure how confidence from Jiu Jitsu could be beneficial with law enforcement.  During the Covid shutdown, Tallini and Chief Unger continued to brainstorm ways of bringing consistent training to law enforcement.  While in the process, the Marietta PD study by Major King was brought to the team's attention.  Ari Knazan from Invictus put Tallini and Unger in touch with Major King who, through several Zoom calls, gave them a foundation on how to implement Jiu Jitsu in law enforcement.  However, there was one missing piece that Tallini and Unger knew had to be included in the training- a peer-reviewed study.  Without peer-reviewed research, Tallini and Unger knew that regardless of the findings in Central New York, they knew they wouldn't be able to impact law enforcement at a national level.  With this additional focus, they started to build out their team for the pilot program.  They brought in Lt. Don Patti from the Syracuse PD, who is an expert on defensive tactics and also a black belt in Jiu Jitsu.  Lt. Patti's knowledge was vital to the creation of the curriculum.  They also bought Sgt. Shawn Bergman on board, who has a wealth of knowledge from his extensive military and LEO background.  Finally, Tallini and Unger were also able to partner with researcher Clark Petri from the Naval Academy who was able to provide the foundation for the peer-reviewed aspect to round out the legitimacy of the program. 


I have been a Police Officer for the City of Syracuse since 2014. In November of 2022 I was selected to become a full time member of the training division as an Academy Officer.  In my time as an Academy Officer I have completed 3 academy classes for the Syracuse Regional Police Academy.  Part of the curriculum for our academy is to complete 24 weeks of a modified version of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at Haven Jiu Jitsu.  During those 24 weeks we have our recruits go twice a week for 1 hour blocks of instruction.  At the completion of the curriculum they have received 48 hours of modified Jiu Jitsu training by Instructor Ben Tallini.  The program that instructor Tallini has initiated takes the maneuvers and ideals of Jiu Jitsu and has incorporate them in to today’s modern-day policing techniques.  Throughout the entire program Instructor Tallini emphasizes the idea of “public perception”.  The techniques that are taught revolve around the concept of protecting the Officer and suspect from injuring, all while controlling the suspect and having the appearance of not using excessive amount of force.  During my time observing the academies I have not seen one recruit sustain an injury from Jiu Jitsu training.  Instructor Tallini puts an emphasis on protecting ones self.  At the beginning of each session Instructor Tallini will spend time demonstrating the maneuvers to be taught and having the recruits practice them on each other at a learning pace.  While the recruits are learning the techniques instructor Tallini is walking around the mat and correcting any discrepancies that he sees.  He has highly qualified instructors on the mat with him throughout the entire session who also assist the recruits in preforming the techniques correctly.  Once instructor Tallini believes that the recruits have a full understanding of the techniques he allows them to pick up the intensity and perform such techniques on one another in real life speed.  One thing that I have noticed as an observer to the instruction is that if a recruit performs the technique correctly in real life speed, the recruit preforming the technique always appears to be more in control of themselves and their partner.  I believe that Instructor Tallini has done an excellent job in incorporating highly efficient maneuvers all while keeping the “public perception” as a fore front thought.  The level of confidence and ability in the recruits to perform the techniques from the 1st session to the 48th is almost immeasurable.  The ideas and concepts being taught coincide with a majority of the defensive tactics portion of the academy.  There has not been one recruit who has failed out of the academy during defensive tactics in any of my 3 academies.  I do contribute such success to instructor Tallini’s course.  With the emphasis on use of force incidents in policing during today’s modern-day society I believe that we are doing our recruits a valid service by providing them with this knowledge of Jiu Jitsu and defensive tactics.  I truly wish that all police recruits could receive such training.  I would fully encourage any and all Police Agencies and Academies to use the curriculum that instructor Tallini has created.

-  PO. D. Fahey

Please click here to download a PDF testimonial from Sgt. Taras Senenko, Academy Director for the City of Syracuse PD.