The gentle art of force : Brazilian jiu-jitsu and institutional change in American policing

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2023-12

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Krasnicki, Daniel

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This thesis explores the dynamic relationship between institutional reform, technology adoption, and cultural influences, using Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) as a lens to investigate its integration into policing practices to mitigate excessive force incidents. Beginning with the context of recurrent crises of legitimacy in American policing, particularly highlighted by the tragic murder of George Floyd in 2020, the research examines the emergent trend of training officers in BJJ as a reformative measure. Drawing from extensive qualitative data, the study demonstrates that the existing cultural norms within police departments act as formidable barriers to the effective implementation of BJJ. This thesis unveils how BJJ, heralded for its potential to mitigate use of force, encounters challenges within the entrenched cultural frameworks of law enforcement. Despite proponents' arguments citing BJJ's holistic approach to physical and psychological factors influencing force usage, the research highlights the struggle of institutional culture to absorb this technology without distortion. Instead of catalyzing significant institutional change, BJJ tends to adapt to prevailing norms, resulting in a modified version termed Police Jiu-Jitsu (PJJ). This adaptation, tailored to address the emphasis on lethal violence within policing, dilutes the potential benefits of BJJ, undermining its intended purpose of reducing police violence. Ultimately, the research underscores the complex interplay between technology adoption, institutional culture, and resistance, shedding light on the limitations of technological reform within deeply entrenched social institutions like policing. The study's insights bear significant implications for both theoretical discourse surrounding policing, culture, and technology and practical policy considerations aimed at addressing police misconduct and use of force.

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