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Officer leans on martial arts training
Posted on Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 9:38 am
by IDMA Editor

It's especially pointless to resist arrest when police officer Jonathan Lee is holding the warrant.

Lee, 41, immigrated to the U.S. from South Korea at the age of 8 and soon found success in taekwondo, first coupling that craft with law enforcement as a Beaverton police reserve officer in 1994. In 1987, he was a Junior Olympic gold medalist, and then was asked to be a stunt fighter for the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” movie series. In 2000, he was a taekwondo gold medalist at US Nationals, earning over 200 competitive wins during his career.

Police officer Jonathan Lee

Taekwondo skills have helped Lee feel comfortable on the job by giving him confidence in his reaction time, and even through the balanced way he holds his hands when he stands.

“The martial arts training has helped me in terms of the body mechanics, knowing where the pressure points are and making them more effective than the training at the police academy,” he said.

Seeing an opportunity in the recent review that included hiring and discipline procedures, Lee would like to see taekwondo training extended to the County Sheriff's Office as a whole.

The advisroy panel recommended that CCSO improve its training in “soft” skills, like human interactions. Lee believes his taekwondo training has helped in those areas. For instance, he often tells suspects that they’re under arrest, but offers to let them step outside to be handcuffed, especially if their families are present.

“Yes, you’re going to arrest them, but even though they’re a suspect, you still treat them with respect,” he said.

Sgt. Erin Brisben, who has overseen Lee's work, said that his presence has generally served to diffuse tough situations.

“Being the traffic officer, he encounters people who are pretty upset on a regular basis, and I see his background in martial arts often helping him to get them to calm down,” Brisben said.

Pointing out that police training has been based in martial arts at least during her 15 years of experience, she added that it makes sense for police training philosophy to be taking some cues from taekwondo as well.

“Mentally, we have enough to think about in terms of recognizing the rights of people to be treated with respect and dignity, while also enforcing the laws of the land,” she said.

Meanwhile, as one of the cadet advisors for CCSO, Lee plans to continue his drive to spread the teaching of taekwondo throughout the force, starting with young officers-in-training. As the sheriff's office continues its review of training procedures, he'd love to be considered as a potential contact for helping train officers using taekwondo techniques.

For Special Law Enforcement training with martial arts, click: Law_Enforcement

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