Reality-Based going strong in the United Kingdom Jim Wagner
On Saturday, June 21, I landed at Heathrow International Airport in London. Picking me up was my Reality-Based Personal Protection Director of the United Kingdom Pete Lee. Our sole mission before driving two and a half hours south to Devon, England was to get a publicity photo of me and Pete in front of Big Ben, the clock at the Parliament building which is the most recognizable monuments in Great Britain. Amongst the tents and signs of the war protestors camped out front of the Parliament we got the perfect shot.
Having a few hours to spare, and discovering that Pete had never been to the Tower of London, we went straight away over there on the bank of the Thames River. The Tower of London is a fortification that was built beginning about 1078 with the laying of the foundation by Norman king William the Conqueror and completed in its final glory last century with the Waterloo Barracks and the Royal Fusiliers Museum, which we went through like boys in a candy shop. I particularly enjoyed the hands-on displays such as seeing just how little visibility there was peering out from a medieval jousting helmet or lifting a 65 pound modern British Army rucksack.
Come evening time, after a traditional fish & chips dinner, we headed south, but not before paying a visit to the Stone Age site of Stonehenge. We arrived just at sunset, and gazing upon the large unexplained stones with no tourists around was like jumping back into time.
The next day was a free day for Pete and I, so Pete and Gary Dell, one of my Level 3 instructors, took me to the sea side city of Dartmouth. This charming city, which we got to by car ferry across the Dartmouth River, started out as a Roman harbor, the launching point for the English crusaders, and an important medieval commerce center with the Dartmouth Castle standing sentry at the mouth of the bay with a large cannon still intact.
Pete, knowing that I have been on police ride-alongs in London, and even with the Territorial Support Group (TSG) for riot control, arranged for me to go on my first Bobby foot patrol with a veteran constable named Simon Dell in the town of Tavistock. I also had the opportunity to see the oldest police station in England; the Tavistock Police Station built in 1847 for the borough force.
As an American police officer for the past two decades (full-time and Reserves: Costa Mesa Police Department, Orange County Sheriff's Department, U.S. Federal Air Marshals, Army Support Group Provost Marshals Office) I had to learn about the British system in the police academy (The Orange County Sheriff’s Training Academy Class 104 June 21, 1991). In my academy courses we learned all about the founder of modern policing Sir Robert Peel and his “Bobbies.”
The Bobby on foot patrol is the corner stone of British policing. It lets the public get to know the constables on a more personal level, and it lets the constables know every inch of their beet and helps them to spot suspicious happenings. My foot patrol with Constable Dell was quiet, but I got a good history lesson on the little town we were in and got to see him interact with the youths and a business owner. On the negative side, Contable Dell regretfully told me that assaults on police officers are increasing. This newer generation seems to have less respect for the police.
Simon Dell joined the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary immediately after high school in 1975. He was based in Exeter and later, in Launceston. Two years later he realized his dream and became a constable and went on to serve in many stations throughout both counties. In 1981 Constable Dell was assigned to the West Devon area, on the edge of Dartmoor. In 1985 he was posted to Tavistock serving there for 11 years as the town’s community constable.
In his career Constable Dell was awarded the Ada Murrin cup for community policing (1990) and made Citizen of the Year (1991). He also received two Chief Constable’s commendations for bravery, one for disarming and arresting a man with a loaded pistol. In 1997 he was included in the New Year’s Honors List and presented with the M.B.E. by Queen Elizabeth II for his work with local charities and service to the community.
In 1996 Constable Dell became the Divisional Training Officer for the East Cornwall station, then after two years he transferred to Callington as a police officer.
Constable Dell, loving police history, was the author of The Beat on Western Dartmoor, Policing the Peninsula, and Mutiny on the Moor.
The first day of the RBPP training, Defensive Tactics, began in Paignton. Right from the beginning the all-men class gelled together making for an intense and informative week. By the end of the week those who received their instructor certification from me were: Constable Nestor Costa of Exeter (who plans on opening a RBPP school in the near future), Nigel Tropman, Andrew Rowley, Chris Connell, and medic and security specialist Andrew Spencer from the Isle of Man off of the Scottish coast. Andrew was enrolled by Simon Leila, who will be coordinating a two-day course that I will be teaching in Scotland in 2009. Simon runs the organization, 360 Defense, and is a Level 1 Reality-Based instructor.
Popping in for a visit was Matt Sylvester who was one of my last year’s certified Level 1 instructors. He has his finger on the pulse of the martial arts community in England and caught me up on the latest happenings, such as the new air gun laws just passed that restrict these toys to only those individuals who are active members of a licensed air gun club. Even then all air guns have to be painted two-tone colors so as not to be mistaken for a real gun. California has a similar law where the muzzle of the weapon has to be painted red. In the past Los Angeles gang members painted the end of their real guns red so a police officer would hesitate by thinking that the air gun was a toy. When I was on police patrol back then my superiors just told me, “If it looks like a gun, regardless of the color, shoot the suspect.” Only an idiot, or a child without proper supervision, would be running around in public with a look-alike gun. Matt just opened up his new martial arts school in Pinhoe called PMA (Practical Martial Arts).
One of the highlights of my UK trip was getting a tour of the Territorial Army Centre in Paignton and learning how to operate the British Army SA80 assault rifle. This is the same rifle one sees with the Changing of The Guard at Buckingham Palace or in photos of British troops in Afghanistan. However, the general consensus from the soldiers that I asked most of them did not like the SA80. Some of the draw backs are that it can only be fired by right handed shooters, the muzzle is a few inches below the front site making it dangerous to shoot behind barricades, and it is hard to fight with a bayonet attached to the weapon since the bulk of the weight is to the rear of the weapon.
Another highlight of my Devon trip was being invited to play in the Helping the Heroes Volleyball Tournament on June 26 hosted by the Devon & Cornwall Constabulary (Police Department). This tournament was to raise money to aid British Marines returning from Afghanistan.
Each team had a team name, and ours was The Top Guns. Pete’s call sign was “Viper” and mine was “Hollywood.” This is the same moniker given to me by some of my comrades back home in my own Army Support Group.
We won our first three games, tied the fourth game, and we were absolutely creamed on our fifth and final game placing overall fourth in the tournament out of 16 teams. It was loads of fun, and there was a BBQ afterwards. The British style hamburger was just as good as an American one. Upon going home we were “quite nackered.”
On Saturday, June 28, Pete and I drove up to Bristol to teach an introductory Reality-Based Personal Protection course to the Somerset Krav Maga organization, held in the main hall of the St. James’ Presbyterian Church Lockleaze. It was a nice turn out and the students loved the RBPP material that we taught, especially the Knife Survival drills as knife crimes are soaring in the UK despite strict knife laws; carrying a pocket knife, other than for work, can land a person in jail for up to six months.
After my intro course I found out that one of my students was actually the pastor of the church we had the training in. His name is Dave Jeal. I, being a born-again Christian myself, found it intriguing to hear his life story. It turns out that Dave was once an ultra-violent hooligan and criminal looking for a fight wherever he could get one. Eventually he gave up his destructive life style and became a man of God. A book was written about his life titled Heart of a Hooligan written by Muthena Paul Alkazraji and published by Highland Books. Dave ran into his office as we were speaking and brought out a copy of his book and gave it to me as a gift, which was gladly received. In it he wrote, Jim, God bless and protect you! Dave Jeal. I read the book while on my way home back to the United States. It is a very well written book, and it really gets into the mind of a hooligan, which is a huge problem in the UK. I once participated as a "ride-along" police officer with the London Metropolitan Police and worked with the riot police (TSG) escorting hooligans after a soccer match along with 264 other police officers. It was quite an eye opener.
After the four hour class Pete and I drove to Wales and visited Caldicot Castle (Cil-y-Coed in the Welsh language). The castle was in fairly excellent condition. We then had dinner in a quaint little popular pub called The Castle Inn a few blocks away.
Upon completion of our excursion we lodged for the night at Pete’s sister’s flat just outside of Bristol. In the morning we headed off to Madrid, Spain to work on my new book project with Budo International.
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