Ludlow police chief also teaches martial arts

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LUDLOW, Ky. — In a northern Kentucky town, the police chief, city administrator and owner of a martial arts gym are all one person working to prevent deadly encounters with the police.

That’s enough for three people, but in Ludlow it’s one man – Scott Smith – on a mission.


What do you want to know

  • Scott Smith is the Acting Chief of Police and City Administrator for the Town of Ludlow
  • He is also the owner of the Northern Kentucky Martial Arts Academy in Ludlow.
  • Smith wants to teach officers to use their hands to restrain suspects, rather than escalating situations with deadly force
  • He offers courses at a greatly reduced rate to his fellow officers

At night, Smith teaches people takedowns, grappling techniques, and every other martial arts skill they could ever hope to learn.

“My main goal is to teach guys how to use movements versus strength and power to control someone,” Smith said. “It’s almost like watching your children grow up. You really see them start to do something.

By day, Smith is busy overseeing Ludlow’s public safety, signing bills and other administrative tasks which, while perhaps less exciting than a palm-clapping, are certainly vital to the running of his town. .

Smith says he mainly wants to teach officers to use their hands, instead of weapons, to arrest people. (Spectrum News 1/Sam Knef)

As Ludlow’s police chief, acting city manager, and owner of the Northern Kentucky Martial Arts Academy, the man is still working.

“I’m in town six, seven days a week. Eight in the morning until ten in the evening. I won’t leave here until 9:30 or 10 p.m. I’m in town,” he said. “We started this business in this city because I believe in it.”

While office work is what Smith calls his “real job”, teaching martial arts is his passion.

He has 26 years of experience in Brazilian jiu jitsu under his black belt. Smith began wrestling in the fourth grade and throughout high school.

He got into martial arts while in the US Army. He studies under Tom DeBlass, who is considered one of the best martial artists in the world.

A year and a half ago, Smith started thinking about how to involve other police officers. Then, a few months ago, he and his business partner eliminated all excuses for agents not taking the training.

“If your agency sponsors you, you can train here in the discipline of your choice. Muay Thai, kickboxing, Krav Maga, jiu jitsu, you can just come here and do yoga and boxing if you want, for six bucks a month,” Smith said.

He said he wanted agencies to put a stake in their agents.

“We require a lot of training. Firearms, we do all this training, but nobody ever trains controlling people with their hands. And in my opinion, most accidents, most mistakes, most lawsuits involving the police, are because the guys are scared, or they do the wrong thing, and they don’t understand how to hold someone or control them with your hands,” he said.

“There’s a guarantee, if you’re going to fight him, you’re going to get your hands on him. There’s no guarantee you’re going to shoot him, there’s no guarantee you’re going to taser him, you’re going to get your hands on him.

The only stipulation is that agencies sponsor at least 10 agents. That rules out smaller agencies, like Fort Thomas, which gives Officer Brandon Laffin the chance to bring back valuable skills.

“We took a lot of inspiration for our defensive tactics program, directly from this course, from the principles of jiu jitsu that protect us, protect the people we deal with. To have the experience of being in tough situations here, so when it happens on the street, it’s not the first time I have to think about something,” Laffin said.

Smith said he was about two years away from retiring from the force. To this day, and long after, he said his goal would remain to save lives, one takedown at a time.

“If I can give to some of these departments, and they can put together a program to save someone’s life, or downplay a suspect of someone killed or injured, I’ve done my job,” did he declare. “If ever for a minute they save their lives from being mugged, bullied, whatever, for me that’s a win.”

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