Honorary Police Officer of the Amsterdam Police Department Jim Wagner
Once again I was invited by the Academie Politie Amsterdam-Amstelland (Amsterdam Police Academey) to train their full-time Defensive Tactics and Tactics instructors at their main training facility. It is a privilege that I do not take for granted, for to this day I am the only foreigner instructor that has been allowed to teach there, and this will be my third year there as a guest instructor. Last year I assisted the instructor cadre in their Mes Program 2010 (Knife Program 2010) where I contributed my Reality-Based Personal Protection Knife Survival techniques and training methods that was included in their overall program designed to teach 3,000 police officers how to better defend themselves against criminal knife attacks. It was a program that lasted the entire year. Now, for the new coming year, I was tasked with helping the police with their new Police Baton program, which I taught on Friday, October 8, 2010.
After my Knife Camp and Level 1 seminars in Solingen, Germany that ended on October 1st I had some time to kill in Amsterdam until my courses came up. As part of my ongoing research of human conflict I visited several world-class museums in the heart of old Amsterdam.
Before I describe my trip and the courses that I taught, I’d like to start backwards with my last day at the Police Academy, for it is quite interesting. I had just finished a full day of training on Friday. I taught one group of instructors in the morning session, and a second group in the afternoon session.
As is customary after the instructor gives his final words, in this case me, everyone clapped and gave their thanks. Then Investigator Gerard Willemsen said something in Dutch to the group that I didn’t understand. Suddenly the group of about 15 police officers formed a small circle facing inward leaving a gap for someone to walk into to the center. I had never seen this before in my three years there.
Gerard, with a smirk said to me, “Jim, please enter the circle.” Others chuckled because they knew that I had no idea what was going on, and they knew that I must have been thinking that they were all going to jump me.
I headed to the center of the circle and laughed, “These are not fair odds. You guys are going to need a lot more than this to take me on.” The group broke out in laughter, but I obediently waited in the center of the circle facing the opening.
One of Gerard’s assistants had a police dress hat with a couple of items on top of it. Gerard and the assistant then marched formally into the circle. The hat was held in two hands like one would hold a formal serving plate.
Gerard stood in front of me in a formal manner, and so I straightened up a little more realizing that he was going to present me with something.
Gerard started his speech in English, “Jim, you have taught here three times at the Academie Politie Amsterdam-Amstelland, and your teachings have contributed to our police training programs. Now, on behalf of the Amsterdam Police Department, and the instructors of this academy, we are making you an honorary police officer.”
He then turned to the assistant who held the police hat level at chest height and took a police badge off of it. It was a flat badge that was on a placard and neck chain, and then he hung it around my neck for all to see.
Gerard then took what looked like a birthday card off of the hat and then opened it. Inside attached to one paper panel was the Amsterdam Police shoulder patch, and on the other panel was some blue text.
“This is our official patch, and on the other side it explains the history of the patch,” Gerard said loudly for all to hear.
I was not expecting such an honor, and I proudly shook his hand when he extended it toward me. Everyone in the circle broke the silence with loud applause. The assistant did an about face move and marched out of the circle. Gerard finished, “Now, you are truly one of us.” He turned to everyone in the circle and said a few quick words in Dutch, and then turned to me and said, “We are going to go up to our bar and have drinks to celebrate.”
The facility has their own full-time bar like many European police associations do. When I was attending the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) in Artesia, New Mexico back in 2002 to become a United States Federal Air Marshal we also had a bar at the training facility called The Coyote. I went upstairs and had a cold Heineken beer on tap. They also served thin Merci brand chocolates with the drinks as part of the tradition. Everyone tapped the edge of my glass with theirs and said, “Cheers!”
For the next forty minutes or so we talked about Holland, America, funny police stories, and next year’s plans to have me over. It was a nice end to three days of training at the facility, a nice way to end the work week, and a nice way to end my two week trip to Europe.
When I first arrived in Amsterdam on October 3rd, in the evening, I just settled into my hotel room and walked around the center of the city for a couple of hours. The next day I wanted to hit a museum I had not gone to before to continue my research on human conflict and I visited the Bijbels Museum (Bible Museum) on Herengracht Street. This is one of the oldest museums in the Netherlands dating back to 1851. Leendert Schouten (1828-1905) was a minister who founded the museum, and he was an avid collector of Egyptian and Holy Land antiques. I was quite surprised at how much material was in this museum dealing with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Of course, knowing the ancient history of this region also gives one insight in today’s tension in the Middle East.
The second museum I walked to on a beautiful sunny day was the Rembrandt Huis (Rembrandt House). Of course Rembrandt was Holland’s most famous ancient artist, and he painted many military scenes, all of them masterpieces, that can be found today at the Rijksmuseum. Inside Rembrandt’s house is a collection of weapons and armor that he used for many artistic studies. Walking through the house also gives one the feel of what it must have been like to live in the “Golden Age” of Holland. Rembrandt bought the house in 1639.
The third museum that I ended with for the 4th of October was the Joods Historisch Museum (Jewish History Museum. Although I am not Jewish I am fascinated by Jewish history. I have been to Israel three times, and two of those times were to train Israeli police and military units as a guest instructor. I have also traveled extensively throughout Arab West Bank, Jordan, and Egypt for my research.
The Jewish History Museum was no disappointment. It contained many artifacts that I photographed for some of my projects. The displays take visitors through the history of the Jewish community in Holland from the 1600s to all the way up until today. The section that relates to my research is that of the Jewish resistance in World War II against Nazi occupation that started in 1940 and ended in 1945.
That evening Gerard Willemsen took me out to a tradition Dutch restaurant for a very traditional Dutch country meal, but only after a tour of one of the smaller police stations near my hotel. As part of my cultural experience I told him, “I only want the most traditional foods,” and right away he had his recommendation: Erwtensoep met worst en spek (Dutch pea soup with sausage and bacon) and Hutspot met gehaktballetje, worst en spek (Hotchpotch consisting of mashed potatoes with carrots and onions with a meatball, sausage, and bacon). Both the appetizer and entrée were delicious.
At the restaurant Gerard handed me his new book that he helped to co-write called Trainen onder stress (Training Under Stress) printed by Stapel & De Koning (ISBN: 978 90 3524 4931). This was a combined project with the Amsterdam Police and the Wetenschap (a government sponsored foundation for research). Of course, immediately I had him sign the gift copy he presented me. On page 78 it includes a graphic of the Stresshuis (Stress House), which is a use-of-force continuum graph that Gerard tells me that I contributed to. In past courses other top Dutch police instructors had me teach my Jim Wagner Use-of-Force Ladder graphic because they said it was much easier to understand than what they were using at that time for the Dutch police. Then through a lot of work and planning Gerard came up with the Stresshuis graphic that is now taught to all Amsterdam police officers. Of course I was delighted that I had a part in developing it.
Gerard also told me that his department plans on having me over again next year to help with the 2012 training curriculum that will focus on police defensive tactics stress; a subject near and dear to my heart. I believe that training should come as close as possible to reality, that includes acceptable levels of stress, and I am glad that people like Investigator Gerard Willemsen are of the same mind.
The next day I continued my research and walked over to the Allard Pierson Museum that is located at the University of Amsterdam (Universiteit van Amsterdam). This building not only contained a vast treasure, but a vast amount of ancient weapons, armor, and military artwork. They had a special exhibit on Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) that was a bonus on top of what I needed from ancient Egypt, Persia, Canaan, Etruria, Rome, and Greece. Of course, Alexander the Great was one of the greatest conquerors in world history with an empire that extended from Greece to India. Alexander defeated the Persian Empire, the world’s largest empire at the time, ruled by Darius III. At the age of 32 Alexander died, not in battle, but in Babylon from pneumonia. What I didn’t know about Alexander was that he saw Homer’s Iliad book as a military manual, and even kept a copy of it when he was on his campaigns, which was annotated by Aristotle the famous Greek scientist and philosopher (384-322 B.C.).
The Allard Pierson Museum had an original stone mold for hammering out Greek shields that bears the emblem of Alexander the Great, along with coins with his image stamped into them, and many other artifacts that make the legend come alive.
After my morning museum adventure I went over to the police training facility and met with one of the senior officers of the bomb squad (Explosievenveiligheid & Wapens). With access to the latest equipment I was given a crash course in bomb and chemical weapons detection, and had a chance to learn about the team’s current concerns and future challenges. I received hands-on training, and walked away from the experience with a lot of new information.
That evening I submitted my latest article for World Wide Dojo by Internet, and routed the newest Spanish language article to the publisher Dana Stamos. During my stay in Germany and Holland I had been meeting with martial arts instructors, police instructors, and translators during my breaks and evening hours to make this one of the most popular online martial arts websites in Europe, and the world. Everyone coming aboard is just as excited as I am about the possibilities and information content of this three week old website born out of www.usadojo.com
For the evening of Wednesday, October 6th, I was invited to teach at the Krav Maga Reality Based. The students were all police officers and some police support personnel. There were over 20 students in the class.
Although Al Qaeda did not specifically include Holland as a target country along with France, Germany and the United Kingdom, the Amsterdam Police Department is none the less concerned that their country will be eventually hit with a substantial terrorist attack. The sentiment of most Dutch police officers that I talked to is that a major terrorist attack is “inevitable.”
When Investigator Gerard Willemsen originally asked me to teach a two-hour course to his Krav Maga Reality Based students, all government officials, terrorism was not part of the original outline. However, due to the increasing threat Gerard wanted the first part of the course to include some of my Terrorism Survival. Therefore, I started off exactly like I did a week earlier with my 64 German civilian students, and that was with hand grenade defense; the military combat way, and then with the technique I developed for protecting someone near you during a hand grenade attack. Of course, I moved on quickly from that to police counter-terrorism tactics on how to take down a grenade carrying AK-47 toting terrorist; the same type of Mumbai India-style combatant that these officers may end up facing in the streets of Amsterdam.
However, it is not only the Dutch presence in Afghanistan that makes officers feel that a home attack is immanent, but it is also feared that new laws by the new Dutch government can give Islamic extremists an additional “reason” to attack the Netherlands. New laws include the banning of the face-covering Islamic veil for women, the forbidding of police employees within the judicial system of wearing the Islamic scarf, and a slow down to immigration and mandatory Dutch language courses. The new government is headed up by the majority party called the Freedom Party with the minority parties of the VVD and the Christian Democrats.
After the hand grenade attack and small arms mop up scenarios I went on to teach about treating injuries in such attacks. I demonstrated the newest fast applying tourniquets and how to be prepared if the Amsterdam Police Department ever faces a Fort Hood style massacre from one of their own.
After the Terrorism Survival portion part of the course I switched to Police Ground Survival tactics. I taught them how to fall back on a hard surface if they trip while going backwards or are pushed violently by a criminal and they cannot maintain their balance. They then had to immediately defend themselves on the ground and then go to their firearm in deadly force situations. The class loved it.
We then spent the last hour of the class going over high risk police car stops using marked and unmarked Amsterdam Police cars. Officers worked in teams of two, just like on the streets, and learned how to survive a shooting where the suspect immediately goes on the offensive while the officers are approaching the vehicle. I also threw in a hand grenade attack on one of the scenarios. One of the police officers told me that just recently the Amsterdam Police arrested a criminal who had in his possession a military hand grenade, so they know the possibility of a criminal using one is a possible situation.
The students loved the course, and Gerard told me that they wanted me back next year to teach. Several of them even wanted to sign up for my courses in November in Solingen, Germany; a move that Gerard supports. He told me, “I want them to go to you and learn. I want them to try out many different instructors so they know how to compare what is good material and what is bad material. That is the only way they will know what is out there.”
The next morning, Wednesday, I had off until my second evening class where I was to teach the exact lesson to another 20 students. I took advantage of these several hours to meet with my old friend, and former RBPP Director of Holland, Mike Constantinides in Hilversum; a 20 minute train ride from Amsterdam Centraal.
A year ago, in September, Mike opened up a nutrition store called Mike’s Nutristore. He specializes in sports supplements, and he has a very nice store in the center of Hilversum. Mike also has a basement that he has converted into a small gym where he gives private fitness and Reality-Based self-defense lessons.
We then walked next door over to the Joppie’s Dump Army Dump en Adventure Store, located on Herenstraat 43b, where I met the owner, Tonnie, who told me that he carries my Jim Wagner Reality Based Blades along with a few other Boker brand knives.
The staff was quite thrilled to have me in the store, especially Otto and Alfred, and they were even talking of taking my next KNIFE CAMP. I promised Tonnie that I would send him some of my other products that he may want to carry in his product line.
Mike and I then went over to a local restaurant where I had a very traditional Dutch lunch of poached eggs over thin beef and toast. We discussed a few projects we want to work on together, and I also recruited him to submit some articles for World Wide Dojo since he is one of the best fitness instructors I have ever met, and the most creative when it comes to Reality-Based Conflict Conditioning.
The one thing that really made me happy in our meeting was when Mike said to me, “Brother, the only thing I teach people now is Reality-Based. There is nothing else out there I want to teach. You wait! Reality-Based is talking over Holland my friend.”
Just over a year ago Mike stepped down as my director because his wife landed a new job, he had to rearrange his work schedule for a few months, sell his martial arts school, and then invest in his new nutrition and fitness business; a move I supported. Harry Gorter then stepped in as my new Dutch Director for Reality-Based, and Mike and I remained friends and stayed in contact.
After my visit with Mike, and my return to Amsterdam, I had a couple of hours to kill and so I went to the Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum). It is a museum dedicated to telling the story of those who resisted Nazi occupation during World War II, as well as the war with Japan in the Dutch West Indies. It was a fantastic museum. The permanent exhibition covers the strikes, forging of documents, helping people go into hiding, underground presses, escape routes, armed resistance and espionage. It was great to see a section on how the Americans helped liberate the country.
Two days before I arrived in Amsterdam there were massive riots in central Amsterdam only blocks from where I’d be staying in my hotel (Amsterdam quiet after squatters’ riots). The Dutch government just passed a new law forbidding squatters from occupying vacant buildings in the city. Up until recently it was very difficult to remove non-renters from a property that had been vacant. Landlords and building owners had to go through a lengthy process to remove them, and during the long legal process buildings were being damaged from urine eating away at the structures and electrical wiring, feces smelling up the places, and open fire cooking was bringing property values down. Police were therefore ordered to crack down and remove squatters, but many were ready for battle. Many squatters made their own protective body armor, wore masks, and made improvised weapons. It was also reported that one demonstrator threw a Molotov cocktail, but fortunately it did not injure anyone.
A few of my police students were at that riot and they told me that it was pretty intense. The police had horse units, riot vans, surveillance vans, and a huge show of force to meet the squatters-turned-rioters head on. In the local police newspaper called Korpskrant (jaargang 5/nummer 801/dinstag 5 oktober 2010) the head line reads Handhaven kraakverbod geen kinderspel, which translates Dealing with squatters is no child’s play. My Police Baton course came at the right time, for the last part of my material covered some riot tactics. I had students suit up in riot helmets, shields and riot batons to run through a few scenarios. There were three important items that I brought up in my teaching that is not currently done by the Amsterdam Police Department, three items that I will not mention in this article, that the instructors believe should be seriously considered for their own riot teams.
Not only did I train over 20 police instructors in Police Baton, but I also trained members of the Koninklijke Marechaussee District Schiphol; the police responsible for protecting Schiphol International Airport against both criminal and terrorist activity. This is my second time training members of this organization. I also trained a warden of the Main Prison Amsterdam who is also an official of the Bureau of Overall Correctional Professional Skills. From 1988 to 1991 I served as a correction officer for the City of Costa Mesa Jail and received my training from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. I have also been invited as an instructor to train jail and prison guards in the United States, Germany, and Canada. I have put together a number of original defensive tactics corrections programs dealing with inmate attacks in booking cages, cell blocks, prisoner transport, and prisoner cell extraction. On Saturday evening, October 9th, I landed back in Southern California to perfect weather; weather that was more like summer than autumn. As much as I love traveling and teaching people how to be safer, it is always good to be back home.
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