Police officers are often placed in no-win situations. This is why so many people use the phrase “Being a police officer is a thankless job.” Not to me. I greatly appreciate and support the men and women of law enforcement.

I also agree that there are times when the police could have done a better job. The best way to ensure that police officers are trained is by investigating every instance where something involving the police went wrong; conduct root cause analysis; and penalize the individuals at fault if they were negligent. The idea that police officers think they shouldn’t be investigated is false. Police officers are their own worst critics. When police officers fail to do their jobs, other police officers are the first to notice and start asking tough questions.

The shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin Police Officer Rusten Sheskey, has once again raised claims of police brutality and racism. And once again, the media has done a poor job of reporting the facts related to a police involved shooting. It’s a continuous cycle.

These are the facts of the Blake shooting:

  • A woman called the Kensoha Police Department and said her boyfriend was at her house but he was not supposed to be on the premises (Jacob Blake was the boyfriend in question)
  • There was an active warrant out to arrest Blake for a prior sexual assault
  • When asked to leave the premises by police officers, Blake resisted arrest resulting in Officer Sheskey, unsuccessfully using a stun gun to subdue Blake
  • A second officer, Vincent Arenas, used his stun gun as well on Blake to no effect
  • Blake exited the home and while walking away, pulls out a knife but keeps his hand close to his body
  • Blake walks to his grey SUV while Officer Sheskey follows behind yelling for Blake to stop and drop the knife
  • Blake opens the driver’s side door and leans inside
  • Officer Sheskey grabs the tank top being worn by Blake in an attempt to pull Blake out of the car but the shirt tears
  • Officer Sheskey shoots Blake seven times
  • Blake was taken to a local hospital where he survived
  • Blake admitted to having a knife in his possession during an interview from his hospital bed with the police, and a knife was recovered from his vehicle

Whenever a police officer shoots a suspect armed with a knife, the media and some members of the public often respond with shock. On the surface, a trained police officer shooting a suspect armed with a knife appears to be an unfair fight. Is it?

The 21-Foot Rule

The “21-Foot Rule” is a measure of distance that related to the time it would take a police officer to recognize a threat, draw a sidearm, and fire two rounds center mass against an attacker charging with a knife or other stabbing weapon.

In the early 1980s, Salt Lake City Police sergeant, Dennis Tueller, published a test on the time it took for an assailant with a knife to cover 21 feet. He timed healthy adult males as they reenacted a combat scenario, determining an average time to attack of 1.5 seconds. Subsequent testing determined that although 21 feet is generally acknowledged as the minimum distance for a police officer to react to a suspect charging with a knife, the actual distance fluctuates. Tests also proved that at 20 feet, most police officers could barely get off a single shot before being overcome by the attacker. Worse, most police officers missed the attacker with their shot.

Think knives aren’t deadly? Google ‘knife wounds’ and take a look at the pictures that come up. Still think knives aren’t dangerous?

I was trained on the 21-Foot Rule by police officers after I was discharged from the Marines, and I began teaching close combat pistol shooting, hand to hand combat, and knife fighting/knife self-defense to police officers, security guards, members of the military and members of the general public. I can attest first-hand that it is nearly impossible to shoot a suspect armed with a knife before they close the distance based on the number of attempts I made.

I can also state that the closer a police officer stands to a suspect armed with a knife, the more dangerous the situation becomes for the officer. The rule of thumb used by most police departments is to have officers go through a series of steps to deescalate the situation, with a goal of convincing the suspect to drop the knife. However, if the suspect is uncooperative, police officers must escalate their response beginning with using their tasers. When all else fails, or if the suspect gives the officers no choice, police officers will have to shoot the suspect.

An example of a suspect giving a police officer no choice but to shoot is disobeying the officer’s commands to drop a knife or take their hands out of their pockets. Another example is disobeying an officer’s command  not to enter a vehicle. Police officers know that when a suspect is trying to enter a vehicle, it is often to retrieve a weapon or flee. In a fraction of a second, a suspect can grab a weapon with the intent of killing or injuring the officer. Police officers aren’t mind readers so they have to assume the worst is about to happen and act appropriately.

Some people believe that police officers should let suspects go even after they resist arrest, as a way of allowing the situation to deescalate. Bad idea. Suspects that are agitated often act recklessly. Letting a suspect go puts more lives at risk. It also opens up police departments and city governments to significant legal liability.

Swift, Silent and Deadly

In researching the shooting of Jacob Blake, I watched the video of Blake exiting the home and going into his SUV. Blake appears to be carrying a knife. However, Blake isn’t carrying just any knife, I believe he was carrying the deadliest knife in existence – the Karambit. Why do I think the Karambit is the deadliest knife that can be used in a fight? Because I’ve been teaching students how to fight with a Karambit for nearly 15 years. I also teach students how to fight with straight edge, fixed blade knives.

I rate the Karambit at the top of the list in terms of the best knife to use in a fight. If given the choice of using a handgun or a Karambit in a close distance fight, I’m choosing the Karambit . Always. Knives are swift, silent and deadly.

Note: YouTube has a large number of videos created by so-called self-defense experts all showing their incredible skills at disarming bad guys of a knife. DO NOT, under any circumstances, attempt to use the techniques shown in those videos. A knife in the hand of someone who knows how to fight with a knife, as well as fight with his hands and feet, is a lethal weapon. It is nearly impossible to disarm a trained fighter of their knife and attempting to do so will only get you killed.

Let me be clear – when you get into a fight with someone who is using a knife, you have to kill them. Forget about all of the Bruce Lee, Krav Maga or martial arts nonsense that you see in movies and on TV. None of it works in a knife fight. I strongly encourage you learn how to fight with a knife and also to carry a knife at all times. I also encourage you to learn how to shoot a handgun and also to carry a handgun.

For 15 years, I’ve offered the same bet to anyone I teach or anyone they want to bring with them to one of my classes: I will pay $25,000 to anyone who can take my Karambit knife out of my hand or prevent me from cutting them with my Karambit knife. The person challenging me can use any form of fighting that they choose. I’ve never lost the bet. (I know several instructors who teach fighting and knife fighting like I do. If they offered me $25,000, I doubt I could take their knives away).

Note: I train only celebrities, professional athletes and high-profile clients like senior executives. If you’re interested in learning how to fight and defend yourself, I recommend that you start here. I do not have a business relationship with the company in the video.

No Other Choice

Based on my experience with knives, I have come to the conclusion that the only logical defense police officers have against any suspect, man or woman, holding a knife is to immediately put a plan in place for shooting the suspect if tasering the suspect or other strategies fail. (Jacob Blake was able to take two hits from a taser without going down or showing any effects at all. I believe tasers are useless weapons in my opinion).

I must also point out that suspects who carry knives do so for one reason – to main or kill. That’s it. The moment a suspect, especially a suspect with a criminal history and a violent past pulls out a knife, it is their way of sending a message to police officers – I have every intention of hurting you or killing you.

A suspect that has served time in prison, or who associates with former felons, must be treated as being high-risk for this reason – inmates are trained by other inmates on how to fight with a knife. In my opinion, the best knife fighting techniques are those used in America’s prisons, especially Folsom Prison. How good are the techniques? The U.S. Marine Corps, after an extensive review of martial arts knife fighting techniques and a review of knife fighting techniques used in prisons globally, chose to adopt the techniques used by prisoners in its official Marine Corps Martial Arts Program.

If a police officer has to shoot a suspect, can’t they shoot to wound? No. There is no such thing as trying to wound a suspect. Most police officers are so rattled when they pull out their service weapon that they have to fire multiple times just to hit a suspect once or twice. Asking a police officer under stress to shoot a suspect in the hand, arm or leg is an impossible task. This is why over the years, there have been instances of police shootings where a large number of rounds were fired yet the suspect in question was only hit once or twice. The police were under stress, their heart rates were elevated and it reduced their ability to shoot accurately.

I’ve researched having police shoot armed suspects with tranquillizer darts but since the drug doesn’t work instantaneously, suspects are still dangerous. The drug can also kill suspects hence the reason why tranquillizer darts aren’t used.

What about using a K9 cop (police dog) to go after suspects? If a police dog is available, yes, it is a viable option. The problem is that police departments only have a few K9 dogs on the force. Also, most police officers encounter suspects with knives with no prior warning so unless a police officer has a dog with him, it’s too late to call for a K9 backup.

I also want to dispel the notion that many people have that police officers should subdue a suspect by jumping on them or wrestling them to the ground, even if a suspect is armed with a knife. Ridiculous.

I’ve trained enough police officers to come to this conclusion – most police officers have limited fighting skills. (I’m also surprised by the number of police officers that don’t workout regularly). Police officers aren’t trained to fight, they’re trained to arrest suspects using specific techniques taught to them at a police academy or by completing additional training after they graduate from the academy. Unfortunately for the police, the techniques they use are meaningless if a suspect is larger and stronger than they are. Add a knife into the equation and what you have is a recipe for disaster – police officers will get cut and odds are the suspect will be shot.

When police officers are confronted by a suspect armed with a knife, they often have no other choice but to shoot the suspect. Knives are deadly. A suspect armed with a knife can kill or inflict serious bodily injury on one or more police officers or bystanders in seconds.