Monday, November 30, 2015

WCSO Goes Purple with a Purpose

As we close out November, we would like to focus on National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Your Sheriff’s Office has a toolbox full of resources for members of the community struggling with Alzheimer's disease or other memory-related illnesses.

Meet Marcia.  Marcia Langer is WCSO’s very own full service resource for Elder SafeProject Lifesaver and Help Me Home; three programs which help to serve members of our community struggling with any number of memory-related illnesses. 

Marcia works tirelessly with deputies, the Search and Rescue program, Sheriff’s Elder Safe Volunteer Victims’ Advocates, as well as partners with Washington County Disability Aging & Veterans ServicesAdult Protective Services, the district attorney’s office and law enforcement agencies across Washington County.

Marcia is also the primary trainer for the Gatekeeper Program providing essential training to members of the community who may come in contact with vulnerable citizens. Gatekeepers can be any number of individuals; they may be supermarket clerks, bank tellers, pharmacist, utility meter readers, a customer service representative, mail carriers, newspaper deliverers, just to name a few. They are individuals who can help open the gates between vulnerable people and the social service agencies that can help them. All a Gatekeeper needs to do is learn to recognize certain danger signals such as a change in appearance or behavior, signs of confusion or and the inability to make a phone call. In short, Marcia shares these folks “bring awareness when someone may declining in some way, and pair them with resources – provide a ‘who to call’”. For more information or to contact Gatekeeper, you can call their toll free referral line at 1 (855) 673-2372.

Marcia is passionate about providing these pertinent services to residents of Washington County and shares her driving force for doing what she does every day is “I want everyone to be happy and healthy, I want to be a contributing factor to their well-being. I want to help people. I had seniors in my own life, relatives and friends that were very important to me, I will be there some day and I want to be afforded the same compassion.” 

The most rewarding part of the job for Marcia is the connection she makes with her clients, “on a home visit, I try to make their day a little bit better for as long as I’m there. If I can hold their hand, get a smile, some kind of contact, I’m good with that.”

Marcia went purple for Alzheimer's Awareness during the month of November and she hopes you will take a moment to watch the video below to familiarize yourself with the staggering prevalence of Alzheimer's disease. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Road to Reserves - Graduation and Moving Ahead

We did it!

Having all passed our final exam, twelve of us graduated the reserve academy on May 28, 2015. The Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Beaverton Police Department, Hillsboro Police Department, Forest Grove Police Department, and North Plains Police Department were all represented.

The room was filled with family members, friends, our instructors, and fellow law enforcement professionals from a variety of organizations.

My classmates and I gathered in a separate room to don our duty belts and put the finishing touches on our uniforms. We used a lint roller on each other, laughed at inside jokes, and peeked out at the arriving guests.

As the ceremony began, we filed into the main room and took our place in seats alongside the crowd. Agency by agency, we were sworn in and received our graduation certificate. Each new reserve called up a friend or family member to pin on their new badge.
 

After the event, we mingled and posed for photos. It was a surreal feeling to finally have that small, but meaningful, piece of metal pinned to our shirt. It was also bittersweet to feel such a sense of accomplishment while knowing our time as a class had come to an end.
 

 

Recap

We are all so fortunate to have gone through this five-month academy together. Not only was it an excellent group of candidates, but the training and guidance we received was stellar.
 

During one of our first classes, an instructor commented that we were quiet and keeping to ourselves. He predicted our friendships would quickly grow and a deep bond would develop. Lo and behold, we became comfortable with one another and soon there was not a single class that didn’t involve hysterical laughter and a strong team atmosphere.

I gained eleven brothers who I trust, respect, and care about.

What did we learn about ourselves?

At the close of the academy I was interested to take a look at what I had learned about myself through this challenging process.

It wasn’t until the final exam concluded that I was fully certain I could make it through the academy. I believe being a bit uncertain about my skill level worked to my advantage because it made me work harder. So, too, did feeling as though I needed to prove myself as the sole female in our class.

Not only was I fighting to meet the expectations of our instructors, I was also battling with myself and striving not to disappoint my classmates. Finishing the academy taught me that I’m far more courageous and capable than I realized.


I am very excited to have my experience demonstrate to my young daughter that women can pursue a role in what is, historically, a man’s endeavor. Hopefully, the idea of setting bold challenges and working hard to achieve them will resonate for her.

This was also an opportunity for each of us to learn more about our strengths and the areas in which we can improve. As I expected, defensive tactics and some of our physical tasks were the most challenging for me. Fortunately, these skills will improve with practice and I will have plenty of opportunity for that.

I learned I am a good communicator, a skill I will constantly use when out on patrol or in the jail. I like to make people feel at ease, which might serve me well if I ever become a detective.

Lastly, a sense of community and teamwork is very important to me. That was my favorite aspect of this entire experience and, luckily, it will endure as we begin volunteering with our individual agencies.

What are we most looking forward to as we explore our role as reserve deputy or officer?

The physical therapy sessions for my knee continue and I very much look forward to being cleared for full-duty. Once that happens, I will schedule my very first shift out on patrol.

It will be my first ride in a patrol car in uniform. I’ll finally be able to interact with citizens, answer questions about the Sheriff’s Office, help victims, hand out badge stickers to children, and make my first arrest.

Although we gained an immense amount of knowledge in the academy, there is far more left to learn. I have the feeling heading out on patrol will entail trial by fire. And I can’t wait.

A few of my classmates shared with me their answers to these same questions.
“I would say I grew as a person in many ways throughout the academy. Not only did I establish a voice and confidence that wasn't there at the beginning of the academy, but I learned so many skills and techniques I will be able to take with me as I enter a career in law enforcement.

Those skills range from learning criminal law and traffic law I will enforce every day, to safety procedures that come with EVOC and firearms, to understanding a healthy mindset to have when it comes to policing in general. Every single night of the academy, I was able to take something away from it that I will always be able to use and practice in my career.

I'm beyond thankful for the fellow reserves I had the opportunity to train with and the other training officers that ran the academy and prepared us for what's to come. From here I think I have a good grasp of what things I should and should not be doing as an officer and it has built a foundation I will be able to build off of.”

“The thing I learned most about myself…heart and commitment are what matter most. I am not the tallest, strongest or any of the other things that come to mind when you think of a qualified police officer. But, I am willing to learn, be taught, try something new, and to work hard at what I set out to do.

I learned control tactics, a new way to drive, the importance of aggression, and training. Through it all, what matters is that you are willing to learn, get comfortable with being uncomfortable, and try and try again; frustration be damned. I learned it takes a lot to make me quit and that OC spray is the worst thing ever.

I am looking forward most to being on patrol and seeing all of the training applied in real-world scenarios.”

"The reserve academy was one of the most involved and eye-opening experiences I have ever had.

Learning about myself and how I would instinctively respond under stress to highly volatile situations has opened a door to an entirely new mind set. By no means have I mastered this awareness or skill set, but I feel as if I am moving in the right direction.

I was fortunate enough to be selected for this academy and feel grateful for all of the challenging learning environments I was exposed to, if even just scratching the surface.

I was often humbled and redirected, but also empowered and encouraged to gain knowledge and confidence. I was surrounded by both students and instructors I respected and wanted to emulate. I hope in some small way I was able to make a positive impact on their lives, as they have done on mine.

Graduating from the reserve academy is a very bittersweet accomplishment. I made many valuable relationships, which I will not be able to engage in every week, but look forward to what is next with eager anticipation.”

“I think I grew as a person in many ways. I became more confident in myself. I realized how much studying goes in to staying up-to-date on case law and building a working knowledge of the Oregon Revised Statutes.

I also learned I despise the effects of pepper spray with an eternal fire and will forever be glad I got to share that miserable experience with the best group of peers a person could ask for. In truth, that was the best part of attending the joint agency reserve academy.

I got to come together with people from all walks of life with different backgrounds and life experience. And we, together as a team, experienced grueling tests of personal courage and completed tasks that challenged us mentally and physically, and challenged our will to win. We learned countless skills to stay alive in this dangerous but rewarding career, and formed a support group to bounce ideas and thoughts off of each other in order to pass every test placed in front of us.

I had an incredible time with this great group of people and hope to have long lasting relationships with them!”

Thank you so much to every reader who spent time following along with our journey.

Thank you to all the family members, friends, coworkers, and instructors who offered us support, challenged us, helped boost our confidence, and dealt with our stress and crazy schedules for five months. We owe part of our success to you.

If you would love to embark on this same adventure, apply online for the 2017 Washington County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Academy.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Road to Reserves - Criminal Investigations 1 & 2

This will be a shorter post than normal, as we only had two evening classes last week. I had been looking forward to these two criminal investigations sessions ever since the academy began.

These classes confirmed my belief that if I ever pursue a full-time career as a deputy, becoming a detective might be my ultimate goal!

Criminal Investigations 1 

Tuesday evening, we heard from two Beaverton Police Department (BPD) detectives who told us about their typical job responsibilities. They explained that patrol officers and deputies handle about 95% of all calls and investigations.

When making contact with victims and suspects, conducting interviews, and writing reports, we must remember we may be laying groundwork for investigators. Being thorough and observant, and mindfully collecting evidence, will assist detectives with case resolution down the road.

Our instructors explained that detectives are initially required to know at least a little bit about a lot of things. This can include interviews and interrogations, DNA, fingerprints, computers, cell phones, social media, blood splatter, and search and seizure authority.

Depending on the elements of each investigation a detective works, he or she will become an expert in one or more particular fields.

Regardless of agency, detectives generally share similar duties. They investigate more complicated, time-consuming crimes, allowing patrol officers and deputies to focus on the immediate calls for service that come into dispatch. Detectives tend to be on call 24/7.

Detectives also communicate with and guide witnesses and victims through the trial process. They may hold a caseload of upwards of 30 cases, depending on their area of focus. A property crimes investigator, for example, will likely have more open cases at any given time than a violent person crimes detective.

We discussed our responsibilities as peace officers. We are frequently the first law enforcement professionals on the scene of a crime, so we can take initial photographs and make rough crime scene diagrams in our notebooks.

With enough experience, a peace officer may conduct small investigations him or herself. Building skill in conducting witness, victim, and suspect interviews can prove useful in solving these cases. Some of the same techniques can be utilized in each of these types of interview. We learned about the differences and similarities in each.

The evening ended with a brief study of an investigation our two lecturers completed. They discussed the details of the case and let us watch security camera footage of a large bar brawl in Beaverton.

Reviewing the video footage multiple times, examining victims’ injuries and the scene of the altercation, and interviewing a number of individuals eventually led to the successful conviction of several suspects.

Criminal Investigations 2 

Now comes the really fun part. Thursday evening we got the opportunity to try solving two murder mysteries!

The same two detectives had set up elaborate “crime scenes” in two different locations. Each scene included a deceased victim and a number of obvious and not-so-obvious clues.

Our class split into pairs. Each pair got to spend up to ten minutes examining each crime scene. An instructor observed the pair’s work and guided them with prompts and questions if the “investigation” stalled. The two classmates would then confer privately and come up with a hypothesis as to how each victim died.
 
We were given a few pieces of information received from dispatch before entering each scene.

The first scene, pictured below, featured a man slumped over a desk with a pistol in his right hand. He had a gunshot wound on the side of his head and an exit wound on the opposite side. A suicide note and pen sat on the desk next to the man, along with a game of solitaire and two empty beer bottles.

Music played from a radio on the floor and blood was sprayed on the wall behind the man. One lone poker chip stuck out from beneath the desk. A handwritten shopping list peeked from the man’s pocket.
 

The second scene represented the interior of an apartment or home. A deceased male lay in the far corner of the room, next to an open cabinet in which a pistol sat. The man had suffered four gunshot wounds to his back.
 

The scene was fairly messy, so we needed to move methodically around the room, paying close attention to the many items we found littering the floor and table. Pieces of used duct tape lay on the floor next to two chairs and a cell phone rested beneath one.
 
A table in the center of the room was covered with small bags of narcotics, drug paraphernalia, cigarettes, and paper money which had been cut into hundreds of small pieces.

A safe sat open on one wall and it was empty with the exception of a few more small bags of drugs. A spray of red blood was found low on another wall, and a bloody tooth was on the floor nearby.

After all the teams had spent time examining each crime scene and discussing the circumstances surrounding each victim’s death, our instructors played reenactment videos that told the whole story.

Several of our prior BPD instructors had feature roles in these informative videos, so it was especially entertaining to see them in character. We got to see how the “real” stories compared to what our investigations had revealed.

As much as I would like to share the inside scoop about how these faux murders took place, I can’t ruin the mystery for other people who might see these scenarios in another class. This was a fantastic opportunity to put our observation and analytical skills to the test!
Recap

I will be taking a short hiatus from writing a blog post next week, as we only have a study night and our final exam ahead of us. With any luck, I will report back after graduation with pictures of all of us in our full uniforms for the first time. Thank you so much for reading!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Road to Reserves - Tactical Combat Critical Care, Box Drills, & Con Sim 2

A few instructors have asked what we are going to do once the academy concludes and we suddenly have an extra 16 hours in our week. For many of us, I believe this will be a time for catching up on anything pushed to the back burner over the past five months.

After that, we are all eager to don our uniforms, hop in a patrol car, and start interacting with the public in our new role!

Tactical Combat Critical Care

As a follow-up to our CPR and basic first aid class, we had the opportunity to learn how to address more serious injuries in this “Gunfight Medicine” class. It is not uncommon for peace officers to arrive first on a scene where someone is suffering an injury such as a gunshot or knife puncture wound.

With the appropriate training, we can provide initial care to victims as the environment is made safe for medical personnel to enter.

Classroom instruction began with the presentation of four important principles:
1. Do not get yourself injured.
2. Protect casualties from further injury.
3. Stop life-threatening bleeding.
4. Get more help.

An initial assessment of a victim can provide clues as to their most serious injuries. Observing an individual’s breathing, level of consciousness, and location and degree of bleeding will help us to determine what to do next.

The acronym MARCH is a guide to what injuries and symptoms we can begin to treat, and in what order.
M – massive hemorrhage (bleeding)
A – airway
R – respiration (pneumothorax)
C – circulation
H – hypothermia

In order to diminish bleeding (step M), we can elevate and apply pressure to the wound, or apply a tourniquet.

If a victim is having trouble breathing (step A), we can help them move to a more comfortable position or place them on their side in the standard “recovery position.”

Next, if an individual has suffered a puncture wound to their chest, we can assess whether a collapsed lung (or pneumothorax) resulted (step R). If so, we can apply an Asherman chest seal with valve to prevent more air from entering the victim’s chest.

Circulation problems (step C) often require intravenous blood or fluids, which we are not equipped to provide. Treatment of these issues must wait until trained medical professionals arrive.

A risk of hypothermia (step H) is the last step we will address. If we can do nothing more for a victim’s wounds, we will wrap the individual in warm blankets and sometimes get them off the ground to prevent their body temperature from falling.

Our class moved to the mat room to get some more hands-on practice with tourniquet application and techniques for moving an injured or unconscious person.

Having a tourniquet applied is not very comfortable...

It was quite the comedy performance watching my classmates drag and carry one another across the room! I had to stop myself from laughing and try to remember we were working on serious business.
 


Care must be taken when transporting an injured person, so instructors demonstrated several technical methods for doing so. Peace officers must cautiously balance the need to rapidly remove someone from a dangerous situation but also move deliberately to avoid further injuring the victim.

Box Drills

The term “box drill” can strike fear in the hearts of some new recruits and seasoned peace officers alike. These high-stress exercises help confirm a deputy or officer is ready to quickly assess and respond to unknown and potentially dangerous circumstances.

The student is led into a large room with a box on their head (strange, I know). Once positioned, the box is removed and the student must respond to whatever person or situation he or she observes.
 
In one drill, the candidate was placed face down on the floor with the box still on their head. When the box was removed, an instructor role player began to immediately attack the student from behind.

Instructors were watching to see if the candidate incorporated techniques and principles we learned throughout our defensive tactics classes. This included fighting to a standing position, increasing distance from a dangerous suspect, choosing a proper tool, and using effective tactics to bring the subject to the ground and place him under arrest.

Each student went through three different box drill exercises. All of the students also rotated through two other types of stations.

One of these stations was a conflict simulation (con sim) scenario in which the reserve recruit was dispatched to a call of an individual sleeping in front of a local business.

The recruit and his role player partner arrived at the scene and spoke to the business owner, who said the sleeping man was repelling customers and he needed to leave or be arrested for trespassing.

The student and his partner found the subject sleeping under a blanket, with his hands concealed. Attempts to get the man to move to a different location failed. The student then needed to recognize his authority to arrest, develop and communicate a plan to his partner, and safely take the individual into custody.
 
The final station for the day was a room in which a MILO use of force simulator was assembled. A large screen stood at the front of the room and displayed video scenarios with which the student would interact. Candidates traded their training pistol for another firearm which would act together with the simulation system rather than firing real cartridges.

As situations played out on screen, the student would speak, give commands, and use the MILO pistol, if deadly force was necessary and justified. Afterward, a debrief with an instructor included seeing where any fired shots landed on the screen and a discussion of the student’s actions.
Con Sim 2

Four new con sim scenarios awaited my classmates in our final class of the week. I joined the instructors in the mat room and donned an eye-catching blue police vest so my classmates wouldn’t confuse me as a role player.

One by one, students would enter the room and respond to the situation playing out in front of them. As in our last con sim class, each individual wore all their duty gear, a ballistic vest, and a protective helmet. They carried training pistols with Simunition paint rounds, foam batons, and training cartridges in their Tasers.
 
In the first scenario, a candidate and his role player partner approached a man drinking alcohol and urinating in public. These acts violate two City of Beaverton ordinances and can result in arrest.

The man appeared to be intoxicated and was non-compliant to requests and commands. The reserve candidate needed to communicate clearly with his partner in order to smoothly and safely take the man into custody for his crimes.

Another scenario took place in a restaurant. The scene was created using foam furniture, such as a counter with computer screen, seating, and tables. I was briefly excited at being asked to participate as a cashier role player, before I was replaced with an uninjured instructor.

My classmates went through this exercise individually. The participating student was told he was coming into the restaurant to pick up some food while his partner waited outside in the patrol car.
 
"Welcome to TD Deli! What would you like for lunch today?"

The cashier inside was very talkative and purposefully distracted the student from focusing on two men who sat talking inside the restaurant. Their conversation eventually escalated into a disagreement, and then into a loud argument.

Quite suddenly, one of the men drew a pistol. He made threatening statements to the other, saying, “I am going to kill you.” The attacker would then rapidly fire shots at the other man, if not stopped by the candidate.

This was a rapidly evolving situation that required quick, decisive action by the student. Based on the suspect’s comments, behavior, and possession of a firearm, the use of lethal force was justified in order to save the life of the victim.

Once the student gained control of the suspect, he had to assess the situation and determine what needed to happen next. This might include calling his partner in from the car, checking on or removing a wounded victim from the scene, calling for medical backup, calming the cashier or checking himself for injuries.

Saturday marked an important milestone for our group as my classmates successfully passed the last of their defensive tactics/con sim exams. It seemed as though everyone found the day to be challenging and very rewarding.

Recap

One of our classmates resigned from the academy last week. He determined the path to becoming a reserve deputy was not the best choice for him. All of us, recruits and instructors alike, admire his ability to be honest with himself and his strength in making a difficult decision. He is moving on to many other great adventures!

I finally got in to see a specialist for my knee and, fortunately, my injury looks less serious than initially believed. I will start physical therapy shortly, with a goal of resuming full duty by the beginning of July!

We are now twelve students heading into our last classes, final exam, and graduation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Road to Reserves - Finish the Fight, Hallway Drills, & Building Searches

Thank you to everyone who submitted an application for the 2016 Washington County Reserve Academy!  I am very excited for all of you as you begin the testing process and move closer to your goals. 

Perhaps one of you will be sharing your story here next year!

Finish the Fight

Law enforcement professionals receive hundreds of hours of training on topics such as defensive tactics, firearms, and radio usage. We still see, however, a number of real-life deadly threat events in which peace officers react in ways that further compromise their safety.

We previously learned about the physical symptoms these high-stress situations may create, such as tunnel vision, significantly elevated heart rate, and auditory exclusion.

These physiological effects can affect decision making ability, sometimes causing irrational behavior. The peace officer may turn to their radio for security in the middle of a life or death fight or freeze behind cover, allowing the suspect to follow and assault them.

Though extremely difficult to watch, some of these instances were caught on patrol dashboard cameras. The sad and shocking murders of law enforcement personnel can help us learn how best to protect ourselves from suspects intent on taking our life.

We can begin to counteract or override poor decisions made under the stress of a deadly threat through stress inoculation and by training out of our bad habits.

Our own intuition is arguably one of the best tools with which we are equipped. If we pay more attention to the nearly imperceptible signals which cause the hair on the back our neck to rise, we may head off attacks before they occur. We need to trust our instincts and follow our training.

Research shows that between 2003 and 2012, 493 law enforcement officers were killed with a firearm. 65% of these attacks occurred with fewer than 10 feet between the officer and the suspect. This statistic tells us that maintaining distance is an advantage, a principle we heard reiterated in defensive tactics training.

If we are actively being attacked, it is important to realize the entire encounter will probably be over by the time help arrives. Spending valuable seconds on the radio calling for backup instead of focusing on the suspect is generally unwise.

We commonly see a defensive retreat in the video footage of peace officers who were killed by a violent suspect. If attacked by an individual in close proximity who is attempting to harm us, we must immediately engage and take back the offensive edge. If retreat from the suspect is a viable option, we can continue to protect ourselves as we move quickly to cover.

Some law enforcement professionals convince themselves they’ll never wind up in a life or death situation. Toward the end of our evening, a lasting comment was made to dispel that belief.

“This is a dangerous job. It can happen to you.”

We are lucky to have been selected for duty with agencies that provide such an excellent and comprehensive array of training and education. We will continue to take this training seriously and eagerly take the necessary steps to protect our own lives and those of our community members.

Hallway Drills

Thursday evening was the first physically active class in which I was unable to participate. Instead, I got to spend time with the instructors, observing my classmates going through exercises and listening when they received feedback.

The other students broke into three groups of four. One at a time, the groups would enter a large room to complete a drill. In the center of the room, movable walls had been arranged to form four hallways that met in an open center area. One student stood in the entry to each of the four hallways, facing away from one another.

Here’s a diagram of the arrangement. The reserve candidates are shown in blue and the threat role player in orange.


We worked through four different drills. In the first two, each student was told to pay attention only to whatever presented in their own hallway. If they heard noise or commotion in another hallway, they were told to ignore it.

One at a time, each student was faced with the same suspect. An angry man immediately behaved threateningly with a bat-like object in his hands, but then dropped the item on command and continued to advance on the officer with empty hands.
 
In the second exercise, the man initially had empty hands while yelling and threatening violence, but then pulled a large knife from his pocket.

Each of these situations required the student to either escalate or de-escalate his use of force and choice of defensive tool quickly, based on the behavior and weapons he observed.

In the second drill, for example, we might be justified in using a baton to control a large, angry man who is not armed with any weapon, but who is threatening to attack us. Once the same man pulls a knife, we may be justified in drawing our firearm, based on his proximity to us and the threatening statements he is making.

For the last two exercises, a threat would appear in one location and all four students were to respond to that hallway.

A suicidal individual appeared in the third scenario. Facing away from the students, he held a gun to his head for several seconds and eventually complied with commands to drop it. He turned and slowly began advancing toward the candidates, who quickly needed to communicate with one another and determine a plan to safely take the individual into custody for his own protection.
 

The final exercise involved a suspect about whom my classmates were given background information. The man had a warrant for assault in the second degree, in which a weapon was involved. The warrant yields a “shall arrest” situation.

The role player slowly moved out from a small room off one of the hallways. He held a wooden chair in front of his body and shouted things like “I’m not going back to jail” while crouching near the ground. My classmates needed to assess how to safely take this suspect into custody, while protecting themselves from the possible weapon he held.

Watching these scenes gave me some great reminders, such as to move behind cover when available, communicate frequently with my fellow officers and deputies, and not to let a potentially dangerous subject get too close.

Building Searches

An empty floor of an office building provided the perfect environment for us to practice building searches with the guidance of some members of the Washington County Tactical Negotiations Team.

A building may need to be searched for a number of reasons. A protective sweep might be appropriate if law enforcement believes there is someone armed and dangerous hiding in a home. Officers may need to search for a suspect for whom an arrest warrant has been issued if there is probable cause to believe the individual is inside a location. Or, a security alarm might sound on a home or business and, if authorized, peace officers will check the premises.
 
First we worked on a room clearing technique referred to as “slice the pie.” Standing outside a room, the peace officer very slowly moves in an arc around the doorway. He visually checks incremental “slices” of the room to make sure it is empty.

Oftentimes, a large portion of the room can be visually checked from the outside, but then peace officers must enter the room to declare it completely clear. There are several different safe methods for entering a room; one of them even has the charming name “button hook”!

The best way to enter a room will depend on whether it is center fed (the door is in the middle of the room) or corner fed (the door is at a corner). Once inside the room, we must be careful in deciding where to stand in order to defend ourselves from any threat and also protect against crossfire with our partner.

Officers and deputies will generally announce themselves upon entering a building and ask any occupants to identify themselves. Once the search commences, however, remaining very quiet is often an advantage. For this reason, alternate means of communication are preferred, such as gestures or a guiding hand on a shoulder.
 
Later, we covered how to safely contact, assess, and potentially take into custody any individuals we encounter during the search.

Our final task for the day was to learn how to search a building and clear rooms using a ballistic shield. Oftentimes, a smaller person is tasked with leading a team and carrying the heavy shield in front. I should probably use this time with an injured knee to focus on building upper body strength!

Recap

It was tough to watch my team participating in training together while I merely observed. Becoming injured and being required to sit on the sidelines has made me realize how important it has become to complete the academy and become certified as a reserve deputy. I’m thankful for my classmates and instructors, who still make me feel like part of the group and remain encouraging.

There is value in my ability to watch everyone else go through exercises. I can discern the errors I may have made, pick up good tactics my classmates employ, and listen to a variety of coaches comment on everyone’s performance.

Lastly, congratulations to a fellow Washington County reserve candidate, who was given a conditional job offer to become a regular patrol deputy. Our classmate has decided to continue on in the reserve academy with us and will start his new job in June!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Road to Reserves - Surviving the Heat & Vehicle Stops

This is my final call to submit your application for the 2016 Washington County Reserve Academy! Get your name in by midnight on Thursday, April 30, 2015, and you’ll be on your way to one of the biggest adventures of your life!

Not sure if the Reserve Program is for you? Don’t hesitate to email me at sara_serna@co.washington.or.us with your last minute questions!

Surviving the Heat: Stress Management for the Law Enforcement Family

The senior chaplain from the WCSO instructed this class, to which the reserve candidates’ spouses and significant others were invited!

Law enforcement and corrections are career paths filled with exciting challenges and rewards, but also fraught with stress and a roller coaster of adrenaline. We encounter people on some of the worst days of their lives, whether they are victims, offenders or family members of either party. The emotionally trying situations we experience on duty can then impact our behavior at home and our relationships with loved ones.

In 2012, the National Study of Police Suicides found law enforcement officers were twice as likely to take their own life as they were to die in a traffic accident or felonious assault. Increased rates of alcoholism and divorce among peace officers are also concerns.

Our goal on Tuesday evening was to identify challenges unique to law enforcement and address possible effects on deputies and officers and their families. Entering into this career with knowledge of the emotional and psychological risks can help us more quickly identify them and seek helpful resources to stay healthy and well-balanced.

Common stressors for the average person include finances, marriage/relationship, career, and children. As with any profession, law enforcement and corrections possess their own unique stressors which can compound everyday concerns.

These strains include seeing the extremes of life, including witnessing death and serious injury, becoming involved in physical altercations, and seeing children in physical and emotional pain. We encounter the criminal “street mentality” and must understand it in order to protect the public from it. What shocks us now may become commonplace as our careers progress.

Sometimes, a peace officer may become over-invested in his or her work. This individual remains energetic, quick-witted, and able to make swift decisions while at work. Once they return home, however, their adrenaline level drops and they appear detached, apathetic, and impatient. Their whole life may begin to revolve around their police role, while other responsibilities may suffer.

We can counteract these ill effects by maintaining interests and relationships outside of law enforcement (LE). Too often, LE professionals make reference to hobbies they “used to” have or activities they “used to” enjoy. Continuing to carve out time for these pursuits early in our careers will increase the likelihood we continue with them.

We must also learn how to use our “cop off switch.” Hypervigilance has a place when we are on duty, but we need to learn to focus on and maintain healthy communication with our family and non-LE friends when we are off duty. Stress management and techniques, such as exercising, deep breathing, and spending time outdoors, can also keep us on track.

Deputies and officers often think of themselves as “fixers” who help people, but don’t ask for help themselves. Identifying a few trusted confidants and getting into the practice of sharing what is on their mind could make a significant positive impact on the emotional health of the individual. I appreciated this reminder to actively cope with difficulty rather than bottling it up.

Vehicle Stops Classroom

Vehicle stops are separated into high-risk and unknown-risk categories. High-risk stops can include removing a suspect from a stolen vehicle or from a vehicle at the end of a pursuit. They also occur if law enforcement knows the driver or a passenger is an armed and/or dangerous suspect.

Most stops, however, are of unknown risk. This includes the large number of traffic stops deputies and officers make on any given day, such as the driver who runs a red light or the one whose vehicle has a broken tail light.

Safety is the number one priority when stopping and approaching a vehicle. Precautions are embedded in every stage of the process, from our preparation for a stop to the time the driver departs after the stop.

We discussed proper positioning of our vehicle and the safest places for us to stand when contacting a driver, radioing driver information to dispatch, and writing a citation. Not only must we keep an eye on the unknown individual(s) in the vehicle, we should also remain aware of traffic and pedestrians in the area of our stop.

When speaking to a driver, certain verbiage is recommended. For example, it is not advisable to give a cheerful, “Good morning!” to a driver pulled over for a traffic violation. Instead, a more neutral “Morning” or “Hi there” might be more appropriate. After all, getting pulled over might not be making this individual’s morning “good.”
 
We each received a blank Oregon Uniform Citation and Complaint form to practice completing. This document is completed by a patrol deputy or officer who is citing someone for a violation or crime. Once complete, a copy is given to the violator. It provides them information about their offense, the related fine, their schedule court date, and their options for handling the citation.

Due to the potential danger of high-risk vehicle stops, it is best if a minimum of four peace officers are present. The feasibility of having multiple units respond will depend on location and jurisdiction.

Rather than approaching the vehicle, deputies or officers will stage a safe distance away, behind cover, and loudly command the driver to turn the vehicle off. He or she will obey commands to exit the vehicle and retreat backwards toward the officers. Due to the known high-risk situation, the individual will be handcuffed, searched, and placed in the back of a patrol car for the officers’ safety.
 
After visually confirming from a distance that no passengers remain in the vehicle, a team of officers will approach using a ballistic shield for cover. They will slowly and methodically check the entire vehicle until they can declare it clear of other passengers.

Two patrol vehicles were parked inside the mat room, and we took turns running through short vehicle stop scenarios. We each got the chance to “perform” a stop in the dark, using just our vehicle overhead lights and a flashlight for visibility.

Vehicle Stops

We met at the training building on Saturday morning and outfitted ourselves in full duty gear. This was our first time being equipped with a radio, which we all turned to the same private channel so we could converse with one another realistically during scenarios.

In small teams, we worked through a few stations that allowed us to practice different skills. My team began with the citation writing station, where a patrol vehicle was staged behind a stopped passenger vehicle.
 
We took turns exiting the patrol car, approaching the stopped vehicle and contacting the driver to address a traffic violation. We moved to a safe position to run the driver’s license to dispatch over the radio and complete a citation form.

A second station enabled us to play either the contact officer, who engages the driver in conversation, or the cover officer, who observes the vehicle and driver from a different location and helps maintain scene safety.

The last station involved approaching a vehicle that contained both a driver and a passenger.

We moved on to high-risk vehicle stops. We rotated through four positions within each scenario. This allowed us to experience different roles, including the officer who calls out commands to the driver and the officer who intently watches the trunk and passenger side of the vehicle until it is completely cleared.

Deputies approach a vehicle behind a ballistic shield
Pulling together the various skills we worked on throughout the day, we got to add driving (in the parking lot) to our exercises! Working in pairs, we hopped in patrol cars and pulled around the far side of the training building to wait for the violator’s vehicle to pass by. As soon as it did, we jumped into action.

Using my in-car radio, I communicated my location to dispatch and provided the license plate number of the vehicle I was going to stop. I then activated my overhead lights and the driver pulled over to the side of the “road.”

Parking strategically behind the vehicle, my cover officer and I quickly exited the patrol car and began approaching on opposite sides of the subject’s vehicle. I contacted the driver, introducing myself and explaining the reason for the stop. I collected the driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, and moved to a safe location.

I radioed the driver’s license number into dispatch and instructor responded to confirm the license was valid and the driver was clear of warrants. I moved back to the vehicle, issued a warning to the driver for his traffic violation, returned his documents, and told him he was free to go.

Our final challenge of the day was to run through a few scenarios where we pursued a passing vehicle and were unsure of what situation awaited us.

In one exercise, I played cover officer on an unknown-risk vehicle stop. Throughout the encounter, neither the contact officer nor I noticed a blue handle (training) pistol sitting above the steering wheel!

I believe we both missed seeing the firearm because we were so focused on watching the driver’s hands, to make sure he didn’t reach for a weapon. This is very important, but we must take a broader look at the individual and the vehicle.

This oversight made an indelible impact on both of us and I know we will now both do a much more thorough visual inspection on vehicles we stop.

One scenario led to a vehicle stop involving several cover units after the driver and passenger were observed throwing punches at one another. The candidates who participated were able to safely remove, separate, and handcuff both the driver and passenger.
 

Each situation was dynamic and the whole day was a lot of fun. Getting some practice on the multi-tasking element of traffic stops (driving safely, observing, using the radio, communicating to our partner, positioning the patrol car, etc.) was particularly helpful in building both experience and confidence.

Recap

Only eight classes left before our pre-final study night! It’s as though we’ve been running a marathon and the finish line is finally coming into view.

I sustained a knee injury at the range several weeks ago and it only recently became problematic. It turns out I have a partially torn ACL, which means I won’t be able to participate in any of the remaining physically active classes.

It is not terribly uncommon for a candidate to experience an injury over the course of the academy; they are merely examined on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately, I will be permitted to graduate with my class and I will finish up my hands-on training after I heal.

Let’s just look at this as an opportunity to “survive the heat” as we learned earlier this week!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Road to Reserves - Special Teams, Physical Fitness, & EVOC 2

As our class draws closer to our final exam and graduation, the days dwindle to submit your application for the 2016 Washington County Reserve Academy

Remember: submitting an online application by Thursday, April 30 means you will receive an email invitation to the written POST exam on May 11, 2015.

If our academy adventures sound like something you would like to experience, consider submitting your application and joining us in the first step of testing!


Crisis Negotiation Team & Tactical Negotiations Team

Two interagency teams spoke to us on Tuesday evening: the Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU) and the Tactical Negotiations Team (TNT). These teams often work in concert with one another to defuse crisis situations.

CNU, formerly known as the Hostage Negotiation Team, changed their name to better reflect the work they do. The mission of CNU is “to establish an ongoing dialogue and rapport with the person or persons involved in the crisis situation.”
 

A broad description of a person in crisis is someone whose “normal coping skills” are no longer working. CNU still trains for response to hostage situations, as well as response to barricaded or suicidal subjects. They are also equipped to assist with high-risk search warrant executions and kidnappings.

In 2014, the group experienced 24 partial callouts, which is when any on-duty team members are called to assist at a scene. There were six additional full team callouts. A full team consists of approximately 19 members, as well as several volunteers.

The team is composed of three divisions: command staff, negotiators, and an intelligence group. The role of each division and each member is clearly defined so negotiators can focus on communications in a quiet environment, without interruption, and be provided insightful information about a subject.

While CNU handles delicate communication with a subject, TNT’s role is to handle “high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular officers.” This might include hostage rescues, high-risk arrests and search warrants, armed and barricaded subjects or crisis evacuations.

Those chosen to join this highly selective team are equipped with extensive training and bring a wide spectrum of experience. They also have access to a variety of tools more broad than issued to regular officers. Their ultimate goal is to peaceably resolve dangerous incidents and protect lives, using the least amount of force necessary.

Much like CNU, TNT (commonly known as a SWAT team) is an interagency team which offers several distinct positions, with each participant playing an integral role in the team. Members might be assigned to the entry team, as a breacher or to the perimeter of a scene (collectively referred to as operators). TNT includes K-9 handlers, snipers, and even volunteer tactical emergency medics (TEMs). Currently the team includes 29 operators and 4 TEMs.

We heard about the intensive application process to join TNT. Applicants must have at least three years’ experience as a patrol deputy or officer and have evident characteristics such as being a team player, demonstrated tactical skills, and the ability to remain calm and make good decisions under pressure. The testing process involves exhibiting firearms proficiency, as well as significant physical strength and endurance.


TNT's "Bear" vehicle
Applicants move on to a panel interview and scenario testing. Those who pass all testing phases are placed on an eligibility list for up to one year. If no spots on the team come open within that time, the applicant must go through the entire testing process again to remain on the eligibility list.

Both teams’ members spend about 300 hours per year in job-related training and at conferences. They are also both on call and available for callout 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Physical Fitness for Law Enforcement

Peace officers tend to work long, irregular hours, many of which are spent driving around in a patrol car. Being on a scene or assigned to a specific post in the jail for an extended period of time may mean going quite a while without eating. Without adequate preparation, grabbing fast food for dinner might become the easiest option.

One step to avoid building these bad habits is to do some research into how many calories your body needs to operate at a healthy level. From there, you can assess the value of the calories you consume, such as what nutrients they provide.

Our instructor provided an equation to determine our basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories we would burn by lying in bed all today, completely inactive.



The BMR is then impacted by our standard activity level, yielding the number of calories we need to consume in order to maintain our current body weight. Simply multiply your BMR by the percentage corresponding with your approximate activity level.

Sedentary:  BMR x 20%
Lightly Active:   BMR x 30%
Moderately Active:   BMR x 40%
Very Active:   BMR x 50%
Extra Active:   BMR x 60%

Once we have this figure, we can make more conscious decisions about what we eat throughout the day. Packing a lunch and some healthy snacks when going out on patrol or working in the jail can help keep us on track.

Eating breakfast is also important in maintaining a healthy weight. This is something I’ve been striving to improve ever since our Thursday evening class. The same goes for lowering my daily sugar intake, given that I have a mean sweet tooth.

Exercise, in the form of cardio and resistance training, is also imperative. We calculated our maximum suggested heart rate by subtracting our age from 220. 70-80% of the resulting number puts us in an ideal fat burning zone. As a 33-year-old, my maximum suggested heart rate is 187 beats per minute. My target heart rate for exercising is then about 130-150 beats per minute.

Making small, sustainable changes will often lead to better success than the fad diets and exercise trends we see come and go.


Emergency Vehicle Operation Course 2

Saturday turned out to be a fantastic, exhausting, and gratifying day! We knew we would be tested on the challenging timed course, and I was particularly apprehensive about the reverse slaloms I hadn’t quite mastered the week before.

I spent some time on the course with one instructor, seeing improvement in some areas, but still struggling with the reverse slaloms. Eventually a second instructor hopped in the car with me and suddenly everything clicked!

It came time to attempt the test. We were required to do two laps of the course I described in my last post. Our total time for both laps had to fall under five minutes and 45 seconds.
  

After a couple of incomplete laps, I finally managed to complete one successfully. In order to pass the test, my next lap needed to also be successful, and come in under the time limit. Focusing hard and looking at each portion of the test as an individual challenge, I finished my second lap with no errors! My final time was five minutes and nine seconds.

Here is a video, taken from the passenger seat, of some skilled reverse slalom driving, forward slaloms, an acceleration to 40 mph, and threshold braking!



Before lunch, I headed out to a final road course with an instructor and two other students. We took turns driving on highway 26, including the looping ramp to exit 26W onto 217S. This was the perfect location to practice taking a curve at a consistent rate of speed, using the throttle to impact our steering more so than the steering wheel. Our instructor rode in the passenger seat and guided us through this practice.

When we returned to the track in the afternoon, instructors demonstrated our next course, which included a high-speed lane change and collision avoidance. The latter skill involved accelerating to 40 mph, threshold braking (that is, not allowing the anti-lock brake system to engage), and swerving to avoid an obstruction in our lane.

At one point while we were listening to an instructor’s directions, a bald eagle flew overhead. I had never seen one in Beaverton before, so this seemed like a symbol of good luck and courage!

We moved on to practicing our new techniques. The collision avoidance part of the course came easily to me, but the lane change was more difficult.

I tend to be a cautious individual, so the severe steering required to quickly move from a single lane into an adjacent one, and then back again to the first, at a minimum of 35 mph, was frightening. My brain felt as though I was going to spin the car out of control at that speed, so I consistently under-steered. This meant not getting into the correct lane quickly enough, thereby knocking over cones.

A new instructor joined me in the car and demonstrated the lane change at 50 mph. Lo and behold, the car stayed on course when he utilized the throttle and avoided the brakes as we had been taught. The instructor encouraged me to trust my abilities and the vehicle’s abilities. I gave it another try and succeeded!

After a few more runs through the course, a surprise exam was announced. Our task was to complete two laps of the course, including shuffle steering slaloms and a loop, the high-speed lane change, and the collision avoidance braking. Each individual lap had to come in under one minute and 30 seconds. Additionally, the two lap times needed to be within four seconds of one another!

During my first lap attempt, I knocked over one cone.

I completed my second lap without error, coming in at 1:02:17. Now it was up to me to complete a second lap and match my time within four seconds. I made it through successfully and waited for the timing instructor to report back… 1:02:37! A difference of only 20 milliseconds. What a relief!

Ultimately, the anxiety I’d experienced was for naught. We all successfully passed both exams and could enjoy the rest of the day in the sunshine!

Recap

As someone who has been out of school for some time, I’m floored by the amount of knowledge we have gained throughout this academy. Each week, we are exposed to brand new information and given the tools to absorb and apply what we learn.

One important notion I finally realized is that the structure of our reserve academy and the quality of our instructors set us all up to be successful. 

Though we cover material quickly and only meet three times a week, there is adequate time to remediate any concept we find challenging. An assortment of experienced instructors, each with a diverse teaching style, also ensure that each student thrives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Road to Reserves - Emergency Vehicle Operation Classroom & Course

Many of the principles we learn over the course of this reserve academy will help us to remain safe from harm in our personal lives. We have honed some defensive tactics skills, in the event we ever need to defend ourselves, and spent a good number of hours at the firing range, in case we choose to arm ourselves with a personal handgun.

Driving is no exception. Surprisingly, the concepts we covered this past week are not specific only to emergency vehicle operation. Instead, any driver can implement these techniques to reduce their likelihood of being involved in a crash.

Emergency Vehicle Operation Course Classroom 1 & 2

We spent Tuesday and Thursday nights in the classroom, gearing up for our first day behind the wheel of a patrol car on Saturday.

Law enforcement professionals spend a tremendous amount of time behind the wheel, so learning good fundamentals and focusing on safety is key. Because of all that driving, we were told peace officers are eight times more likely to be involved in a collision than the average driver. They are also more likely to die in a crash than as a result of a felonious assault.

During the class, we covered some basic guidelines for staying safe on the road.
  1. Watch your speed. This is the primary preventable cause of crashes and the most frequent complaint from the public regarding peace officers’ driving.
  2. Clear intersections. When entering an intersection with lights and sirens on, we must ensure the vehicles in each individual lane have stopped completely. Verbalizing the check of each lane and making eye contact with every driver will help us complete this safely. 
  3. Know your newer vehicle. As of 2012, all new cars are equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic steering control (ESC), and traction control. These features impact how a vehicle operates, so we need to understand them so as not to exceed our vehicle’s capabilities.
  4. Look where you want to go. Keep your eyes on the path you want to travel, not nearby obstructions or objects on the side of the roadway. Your car will drive toward wherever your eyes are looking.
  5. Give the road its due. The term “multi-tasking” is actually a misnomer, since a person can only truly focus on one thing at a time. For this reason, we should commit our full attention to the road and resist the urge to work on any tasks that can wait until we reach our destination.
Next up were some technical concepts that reminded me of barely passing physics class in high school. We discussed how rolling friction, rotational inertia, gyroscopic precession, and centrifugal force impact our ability to accelerate, steer, and stop efficiently.

Awareness of these force factors will allow us to anticipate and, at times, counteract their influence.

Learning about electronic steering control
The Oregon Revised Statutes shed light on our legal driving authority. Emergency vehicles, as defined in ORS 801.260, have some special driving allowances, but only under certain circumstances. These exceptions, outlined in ORS 820.300, include the ability to “proceed past a red signal” and “exceed the designated speed limits.”

ORS 820.320, Illegal operation of emergency vehicle or ambulance, further specifies these exceptions are granted only when the driver is responding to an emergency call. Additionally, a visual warning (in the form of emergency lights) must be displayed when the vehicle is exercising these privileges.

During our second classroom session, we watched a number of unsettling videos of crashes involving patrol vehicles. The message behind this footage was that a great number of crashes are avoidable, so long as we constantly keep safety in mind and don’t exceed the vehicle’s, or our own, capabilities.

We are able to look at case law, such as Biscoe v. Arlington County, to further guide us. This precedent states peace officers must in every case weigh the benefits of immediate apprehension against the risks of pursuit.

“Pursuit” is a word commonly heard in emergency vehicle operation discussions. There are actually two distinct types of pursuit. A pursuit of a person clearly involves trying to stop and apprehend a fleeing suspect, while the pursuit of time occurs as a peace officer tries to quickly respond to a priority call.

While we cannot safely practice pursuit driving in emergency vehicle operation course (EVOC) training, we can build necessary skills and engrain safety basics and good driving decision making.

Emergency Vehicle Operation Course

I was told by a friend that one of your first thoughts when starting the first day of EVOC is something to the effect of, “I am a terrible driver and I don’t know how I ever earned a driver’s license.” This was a fair assessment.

Most of us probably believe we’re decently skilled behind the wheel of a car, but learning the safe operation of a patrol car can be humbling. 

My view from the back seat!
We gathered in a large parking lot where a number of patrol vehicles, and an even greater number of orange traffic cones, were arranged. While I anticipated a slow start, we quickly hopped into vehicles and hit the road! The first time I took the wheel was driving at the speed limit through winding roads east of Beaverton and then on the highway to return to our original location.

The twisting roads provided the opportunity to practice “cornering,” which is a technique to safely round corners, while remaining prepared to respond to any obstruction that may appear around a blind curve.

More shuffle steering practice
This was also our first chance to practice “shuffle steering,” which is quite different than the hand-over-hand steering method I’ve been using for the last 17 years. Shuffle steering involves drawing an imaginary vertical line down the center of the steering wheel. The left hand remains on the left side of the wheel, and the right hand remains on the ride side. The driver’s hands sit at 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and retain contact with the wheel at all times.

We returned to the course and took turns navigating it. We had a variety of vehicles to choose from, including Ford Crown Victoria, Chevrolet Caprice, Dodge Charger, and Ford Explorer. We were encouraged to try out different models throughout the day.

The day’s courses included several different driving challenges:
  • Accelerate to 40 mph and then “threshold brake,” which is braking as quickly as possible without engaging ABS.
  • Parallel parking on driver’s side and passenger side.
  • Slalom driving around cones, forward and in reverse.
  • Driving around a curve, forward and in reverse.
  • Parking, forward and in reverse.
  • Rapid lane changes.

Many an orange cone was squished among the 13 of us. Overall, we did all improve throughout the day and discovered our personal areas of proficiency.
 

Next week we will be tasked with completing two laps of a difficult course, with a time limit.

Recap

Somehow, each week it surprises me to glance at our schedule and see we are one week closer to graduating. At this point, we have only five weeks of classes before our final exam.

With that said, I think it’s time for me to go study my ORS books and practice reverse slalom driving!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Road to Reserves - Narcotics Team, Mental Health Response, & Range 6

Remember when I said we’d had our final day at the range? Well, I was wrong.

Rather than luxuriate in our first two-day weekend in three months, our group of seven County reserve recruits spent Saturday doing additional firearms drills. Sure enough, we learned a thing or two.

First though, we got to hear from two special response teams from whom we will be able to request assistance.

Narcotics Team

The Westside Interagency Narcotics (WIN) team is composed of representatives from a number of local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Oregon National Guard Counter-Drug Program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

This team generally handles mid- to high-level narcotics cases, including surveillance, search warrants, investigations, and clandestine lab processing. As reserve deputies working with regular full-time deputies, we can call upon WIN representatives to assist with complex drug cases.

We learned about the various types of narcotics commonly found in Washington County. Many drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, come in different forms with different “high” duration lengths. The street value for these substances also varies a great deal.

While we will carry test kits to determine whether an unknown substance is in fact a narcotic, it will be important for us to be able to visually recognize drug paraphernalia we might find in legally authorized searches of individuals or vehicles.

We chatted briefly about the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana possession and use on July 1, 2015. The impact of this change on the work of law enforcement professionals remains to be seen.

The extraction of THC-concentrated BHO (butane honey or butane hash oil) from marijuana plants is a dangerous process that can sometimes cause extreme and potentially life-threatening explosions. We may be called to an unexplained fire or explosion, only to determine that narcotics manufacturing played a role. Only a couple days after our WIN class, another hash oil explosion story hit the news.

Mental Health Response

It is no surprise that mental health issues play a significant role in many of law enforcement’s calls for service and the custodies entering the Washington County Jail. Peace officers in Washington County are fortunate to enjoy the assistance of several mental health related resources.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Mental Health Response Team (MHRT) involves patrol deputies riding with trained mental health clinicians from LifeWorks Northwest. These teams respond to calls for service involving a mental health component and can help de-escalate crisis situations.

MHRT duos are staffed from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week. If a deputy or officer encounters someone with mental illness outside these hours and needs support, they can call the Washington County Crisis Line for a phone consultation. Additionally, staff from the Washington County Crisis Team (separate from MHRT) may be dispatched to the scene if needed.

Alarmingly, we were told one in five adults will experience mental illness in any given year, and one in twenty will have a serious mental illness event. As a result, MHRT’s other services are very valuable. They range from helping to determine if an individual should be hospitalized to advocating for clients and helping families develop safety plans and treatment options.

We talked about how best to communicate with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Understanding the symptoms of common mental illnesses may help us achieve a calm and productive dialogue.

Active listening skills will be useful in many of our reserve deputy duties. We talked about specific techniques to build rapport with a distressed or angry person, such as using open-ended questions to draw out the root cause of their emotions.

Some students participated in “Back to Back” exercises at the front of the room. Sitting in chairs and facing away from one another, one candidate would play the role of peace officer and the other would be barricaded subject. The officer was tasked with initiating a conversation and attempting to build trust with the subject in order to convince him to surrender and agree to get help.
 

It is beginning to sound appealing to eventually join just about every special team we hear from!

Take a look at our WCSO Mental Health Response page or the Washington County Crisis Services page for more information. If you have concern for a friend or loved one suffering from mental health crisis, you can call the Washington County Crisis Line at 503-291-9111.

Range 6

Turns out warm and rainy beats cold and clear at the range. Saturday morning was very cold and I spent the first few hours shivering under my many layers.

We started with a cold qualification, in which I shot a 92%. Still not as high as I would like, but better than last week’s score. We all qualified with no problem and it was good to see we had retained our needed skills.

The WCSO requires all paid and unpaid (reserve) deputies to demonstrate certain skills outside of the qualification rounds. These “performance observations” are timed drills we each did individually.


Keep a pocket full of rounds at the range
The most challenging performance observation was to perform a combat reload and fire two rounds in less than five seconds. We began with an empty gun and magazine, with the slide locked open (as though the gun had run dry when firing). We were instructed to eject the empty magazine, insert a new one, rack the slide to load a round into the chamber, and fire two rounds accurately.

When we were all found to be completing this task too slowly, we practiced again and again and again. The next time we attempted to complete the task in under five seconds, thankfully we were all successful.

We also performed a number of frustrating, but helpful injury drills. We were asked to consider how we would effectively draw, fire, reload, and handle malfunctions if one of our arms was taken out of commission. Say, for example, our dominant hand received a gunshot injury or we dislocated a shoulder.

Completely operating a firearm with only your support hand is extremely difficult. Even breaking holster retention and drawing a pistol from the dominant side of your body with your support hand is tricky. We learned how to safely hold our pistol between our knees in order to turn it around or insert a new magazine.

See the dirt by my front sight?
The most surprising skill was learning how to rack the slide of our pistol with only one hand. With my strong hand I was able to hook my sights on the back of my holster and forcefully rack the slide. On my support side, however, I had to kneel down and rack it on the bottom of my boot! As you can see, I ended the day with a filthy duty weapon.

We also managed to squeeze in some practice firing around barrels at the 25-yard line, which is the component of qualification rounds I needed to work on the most. Two magazines and some personalized instruction later, I saw an improvement.

The day ended with a PowerPoint presentation about off-duty concealed carry and how to keep ourselves and our family members safe now that we will run the risk of being recognized by offenders when out in public.

Recap

 
View from the passenger seat
I spent much of Sunday on my first patrol ride along since the academy began. It was a lot of fun to get out on the road, scanning for traffic violations and responding to calls for service. Getting to see concepts implemented in real life, when I had only previously discussed and analyzed some of them in class, was a plus. 

The ride demonstrated how much I still need to learn. In talking with coworkers after the fact, I see this is the beauty of our line of work. 

Certified deputies will experience something new and different every single day they’re at work. And on top of that, the WCSO offers a wide array of special teams and collateral duties to further broaden our experience. We will continue to learn every time we hit the road or enter the jail!