An insight from IPA UK’s Chris Duncome on COPS 2019

18 Jun 2019


From Wednesday 24th to Sunday 28th April 2019 I was in Uddevalla, Sweden with nearly 50 officers from 17 countries for COPS 2019, a Defensive Tactics Group course.

Covering a mixture of unarmed skills, knife defence, point shooting, marauding terror attacks, groundwork and a whole host of other aspects, it was one of the best courses I’ve been on. I am hugely grateful to the UK Section of the IPA who provided me with a bursary to attend, covering the course cost and flights.

Day 1 – Upon arriving in Sweden we took a bus ride north to Uddevalla, a small town where the Defensive Tactics Group was born back in the 1990’s. In the morning we had a few hours to spare before the course started, so we went for a wander down to the lakeside and into the nearby forest. At 20º C with blue skies it was a gorgeous day, and the stress of living and working in London melted away, bliss!IMG 20190427 213615

Later we went to the local police station to meet the trainers and the legend himself Slavo Gozdzik, founder of the DTG and the Explosive Self Defence System (ESDS). After a couple of lectures, including one on a marauding terror attack in a town nearby a few years prior, there was a short tour of the town, with some rather confused locals watching officers in uniforms of a dozen countries walking around.

Day 2 – The first full day of training. I started with trauma first aid for stopping catastrophic bleeding and dealing with trauma – it was an excellent refresher. After that it was point shooting and active shooter drills in the local nuclear bunker (yes, you read that right). I had picked up some basic tactics on the Police Street Survival Skills seminar in Gimborn and had a chance to see what I remembered – I was only shot once, so I would say that isn’t bad for my few hours’ practice 10 months ago.

In the afternoon it was onto ESDS. This is the signature move of the DTG, easy to pick up and not dependent on strength or constant training. It involves focused aggression and open hand strikes and slaps - the hand prints I still have across my body are a testament to its effect. After that it was onto ground work, defending oneself after being knocked to the ground, and how to escape when a person has you pinned to the floor. The Swedish police have a very similar attitude to use of force as us in the UK (maybe with a few less forms though), and it shows in their techniques.

Day 3 – We started with arrest techniques. The Swedes have developed a method to handcuff someone who turtles up and keeps their arm close to the body. I’ve been in this situation professionally on many occasions, and really rate their technique. The similarities in use of force in Sweden and the UK were evident, and there is a real use for it for me. The next session was the psychology of aggression, engaging in practical techniques to condition officers to switch aggression on and off. Controlled aggression is a very important concept, and something that is usually only picked up through experience.

After lunch, it was onto spontaneous knife defence. The technique is simple and consists of taking the fight back to the attacker. Part of the training involves a fake ambush attack, where your partner comes up and engages in an everyday conversation before launching an attack. It’s a very real risk for officers at present, and in the danger-close confined spaces of the railway network where I work, it is often impossible to retreat from an attack. The last session of the day combined everything into a series of shooting and rescue drills, culminating in a drill where you are attacked (with closed eyes) with pads, fend off the attackers, then run to rescue an injured colleague, whilst shooting a third assailant. Great fun.

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That evening, there was a formal dinner with presentations. We had come from different countries and forces, but over just a few days had bonded together as true friends. That is fundamentally what the IPA is all about, and I take off my hat to Sergeant Arthur Troop for his big idea all those years ago.

COPS was an amazing course, and one I will remember for a long time.

Chris Duncombe, IPA UK