More than 70 women converged on Soldotna’s All American Training Center on Saturday for a self-defense course branded by local law enforcement as “Toss A Cop.” Demand for the event, which was offered specifically to women, was high — Soldotna Police Chief Gene Meek said last month that all slots were filled within 48 hours of the course being advertised.
The class brought groups together from around the Kenai Peninsula, including officers with the Kenai, Soldotna and Homer Police Departments, a representative from the Alaska State Troopers and four women from the Soldotna-based Redemption Mixed Martial Arts.
“Everybody coming together for this class is just amazing,” Meek told attendees Saturday.
The curriculum used during Saturday’s five-hour class was created by Homer Police Department Lt. Ryan Browning last year after two separate crimes against Homer women. Browning, who helped lead Saturday’s course, talked about the class’s roots in the disappearance and alleged murder of Anesha “Duffy” Murnane and a separate incident of alleged sexual assault and stalking, both in Homer.
“While these things don’t happen very often, they happen too often,” Browning said, referencing the Murnane and stalking cases.
Prior to starting one-on-one demonstrations and exercises, attendees were read passages from Gavin de Becker’s book “The Gift of Fear” and a short lecture about the benefits of situational awareness, or people being aware of what’s going on around them. Alaska State Troopers “A” Detachment North Deputy Commander Lt. Mike Zweifel praised attendees’ proactive decision to sign up for the class.
“You’re taking the right steps to be able to protect yourself if and when something happens to you,” Zweifel said.
The crowd then broke into smaller groups to practice different exercises that can be used to escape during moments of peril. As part of the first exercise, women practiced how to escape if someone is holding their wrist with one hand. Browning showed how people should yank their arm upward, with their elbow moving toward the offender’s face.
Around the room, pairs of women freed themselves from each other’s grip with assistance from instructors. The groups switched back and forth between watching new moves demonstrated by the class leaders and trying those moves out on each other.
Because demand for the class was so high, Meek said the agencies are planning to hold another class in March.