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Panel's Sanction Of Police Tactic Under Scrutiny
Updated: Friday, December 13 2013, 06:43 PM EST
It's a Baltimore police tactic called the Apex move, a thrust and parry maneuver that allows an officer to take a suspect forcefully to the ground. But it's most recent known application was more than likely deadly.
Which is why a key member of the council's Public Safety committee is raising questions after a special panel sanctioned the use of the Apex move to control a minor drug offender who later died.
"I think that's it's important for officer to know hand to hand tactics instead of using guns and other deadly weapons," Councilman Brandon Scott told FOX45. "But what we need to have happen in light of this is there should also be some kind of training on how to use these tactics in the correct situation."
Scott's concerns come after an independent committee made up of law enforcement experts released its findings earlier this week on the case of Anthony Anderson, a man who succumbed to injuries sustained after a city office executed the so-called apex move by throwing him to the ground.
Anderson died in September of 2012 after an encounter with three officers from the since disbanded VISID unit (Violent Impact Crimes Division). The officers say they witnessed Anderson purchase a bag of Heroin in East Baltimore, then across a vacant lot. One officer says he grabbed Anderson from behind and took him to the ground, a move the panel concluded was a department sanctioned tactic called the Apex move.
Sources familiar with the technique told Fox 45 the Apex move has been taught by the academy as part of officer's hand to hand combat training. The move involves using the suspects opposing force to take him or her to the ground by pulling his or her hand forward while swiping the suspect's legs from behind.
But the Apex move taught at the academy differs slightly from the account given by the officer to the panel. The officer described a bear hug which he used to disable Anderson before falling to the ground, a variation investigators attributed to the officer's applying his experience as a wrestler.
"Detective (1) has a wrestling background, so this take down is something he did before or is very familiar with," the report says.
The officer's account of the Apex move also differs from members of Anderson's family who say they witnessed the arrest. They told investigators Anderson was lifted off the ground before landing violently on his side.
A state medical examiner ruled Anderson's death a homicide due to blunt force trauma.
According to the autopsy, Anderson suffered several broken ribs, a punctured spleen, and damage to his liver which hemorrhaged after his arrest. The medical examiner told the panel that it was possible the injuries were sustained during the takedown.
Anderson's family told the panel they witnessed another officer kick Anderson after he was thrown to the ground, but the panel brushed aside their accounts, accepting the officer's explanation that he was nudging Anderson with his foot to ascertain his condition.
The panel also heard from Lewis Hicks, a contractual trainer at the academy who testified that the Apex move was sanctioned by the police department and had been executed correctly.
Hicks was one of the architects of the physical training program touted by former Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld as an effective alternative to using firearms in potential violent situations. The major component, known as Diamond Training was developed at the Naval War College by an Iraqi war veteran, according to a brochure distributed by police. Diamond training focused on physical tactics and slogans that the brochure said were effective in fighting Iraqi insurgents.
But the program came under fire from Scott due to its expense which ran into the millions. It has since been abandoned after Bealefeld departed.