Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Road to Reserves - Traffic Law, Use of Force, & Defensive Tactics 1

Flashcards are going to be invaluable to me. 

I’m especially pleased with the multi-colored set I found at Target, though one hundred index cards will probably be too few. Our instructors suggested this method for studying our class material at home.

We need to learn a massive amount of information – this is something that became clearer to me this week. Even having worked at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) for the past six years, I underestimated the breadth of knowledge and range of skills a deputy must possess.

Class 7 – Traffic Law

Traffic law is surprisingly interesting. We all know not to speed, that we must wear a seatbelt, and that we are required to maintain insurance on our vehicle – but what does the law actually say?

We spent Tuesday night’s class furiously writing in our notebooks for several hours straight. The verbiage for Oregon’s traffic laws can be found in the Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS). These laws are organized into chapters, and each deputy and officer carries a small pocket guide for the most common traffic crimes and traffic violations.

It is imperative that our class thoroughly understand ORS 810.410, which grants us the authority to enforce traffic law, stop vehicles, detain individuals, and either issue citations or make arrests. 

From there, we began to examine the specifics of the most common traffic laws, such as driving under the influence of intoxicants, reckless driving, and speed violations. Each of these laws has a set of certain criteria that must be met in order for a driver to be charged with a crime or cited for a violation (depending on the offense). 

ORS 811.540, for example, describes the factors involved with the crime commonly referred to as “attempt to elude.” The formal language is “fleeing or attempting to elude a police officer.”

In order to charge a suspect with this crime, he or she must be (1) operating a vehicle AND (2) attempting to flee or evade a uniformed police officer who has displayed their badge or who is operating a marked police vehicle. The officer (or deputy) must give a visual or audible signal for the suspect’s vehicle to stop. The exact charge will then depend on whether the suspect flees while in their vehicle or gets out of the vehicle to flee on foot. 

The evening ended with an overview of crash scene safety and the steps we can take to keep the public and ourselves safe while directing traffic or conducting an investigation.

Class 8 – Use of Force

As law enforcement officers and deputies, we have no greater responsibility than to lawfully and correctly use force.

Each week seems to bring a new police use of force incident to the media, with law enforcement personnel and civilians quickly weighing in with their opinions. Was the level of force appropriate? Could the situation have played out any other way?

This class provided our first glimpse into the legal foundation and our authority to use varying levels of force and a range of tools when interacting with a non-compliant subject.

At the heart of this matter is the 4th Amendment of the United States Constitution, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure. Two landmark court cases, Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor, provide the legal basis that apprehension or restraint of a subject is considered a “seizure” of the individual.  This means excessive police force claims must be examined in court under the 4th Amendment.

We watched a handful of training videos and determined as a class what level of force would be appropriate in each scenario.  It is early enough in our journey that we are not yet very familiar with our tools or the law, and considering these scenarios took some time. It is incredible to imagine we may someday need to make such a critical decision in a split second.

The use of force topic as a whole is far too broad to adequately explore in a blog post.  We will continue to learn about appropriate use of force and the options available to us to keep ourselves and others safe. Also very important is learning how to properly balance our need to use force (to successfully make a necessary arrest and/or to protect the public and ourselves) against the risk of injury to the threat.

Class 9 – Defensive Tactics 1

Phew! We made it through our first defensive tactics class alive and without injury.

I was admittedly nervous going into our first physical, hands-on Saturday class. As the sole female and smallest (though not shortest) person in my class, I was not sure what challenges I would encounter due to my size.

We got started bright and early “on the mats.” For the first time we wore our training BDU pants, either a training polo or t-shirt, and either sneakers or our duty boots. We also brought our duty belts, in order to begin training with some of our equipment.

First off, we tackled pat downs and compliant handcuffing. This was also our first time getting up close and personal with our classmates and instructors, but everyone’s professional attitudes and humor made that no problem at all.

The training progressed to include searches (which are more thorough than pat downs) and high-risk handcuffing, where the subject is restrained and cuffed while lying face down on the floor.  Consistent attention is paid to maintaining control of a potentially dangerous individual.

I was pleased to receive some tailored instruction on how to better position myself to maintain control, since I can’t rely on being big and heavy.  This helped me realize I will need to pay special attention to technique and communicate with the instructors about how to compensate for what I lack in physical size.

Giving commands sometimes requires a loud, assertive voice that does not come naturally to everyone. At one point our instructors turned on loud music for us to shout commands over. This helped us imagine the volume that might result from traffic or other loud noises. We took turns playing the bad guys and police, so there was a whole lot of going down to the ground and getting up again. My quadricep muscles are feeling it now.

At one point I forgot to include a set of directions in the commands I was giving and was called out in front of the class for it. Another time I handcuffed a classmate wrong and it was brought to the attention of everyone. This might sound embarrassing, but these were valuable learning opportunities. Every one of us made mistakes and the mutual respect existing among us helps to make that tolerable.

All of these exercises include specific movements and techniques that will require a lot of practice and repetition to perfect. My friends will probably soon be afraid to come to my house because I’m going to want to practice on as many subjects as I can.  


Throughout this week we received all kinds of goodies! The eight of us who are Washington County reserve candidates are very fortunate that the Sheriff’s Office provides us with all of our equipment and uniform items at no cost. The only exception was our duty boots, which we purchased on our own, but we will be given a $90 stipend toward that purchase at the end of the year up to $150 in reimbursement (corrected 02.03.15).

It was surreal to get my duty shirt with my name embroidered on the front. Having this item hanging in plain sight at home will help keep me focused and remind me of the goal of all this hard work and sweat and flashcard overload.

At this point, I believe anyone who is accepted into this program and is willing to commit as much time as necessary to the process will successfully graduate. It is an enormous obligation of time, especially when factoring in any off-hours studying. 

Keep in mind, however, that this program is an excellent way to prepare yourself for a career.  Here at the WCSO, we have hired at least 20 of our reserves into full-time patrol, jail, or civil deputy positions in the last 10 years.

I encourage any questions you may have about the WCSO reserve program or whether you might be a good fit!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Road to Reserves - Gang Team, Combat Mindset, & CPR

I am a helpful, friendly seeing eye dog. 

Of all the important lessons we learned in class this past week, this message is one that resonated for me.  More on that later.

Week two went smoothly and camaraderie is building among the class members. This camaraderie – the sense of gaining a second family – is one of my favorite aspects of working in law enforcement and corrections.

Class 4 - Interagency Gang Enforcement Team (IGET)

The Washington County Interagency Gang Enforcement Team (IGET) is composed of members from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), Beaverton Police Department (BPD), and Hillsboro Police Department.  These individuals work full-time to “provide law enforcement agencies in Washington County with information and analysis to help protect the public and suppress gang related criminal activity.”

Our class was presented with a great deal of information about gangs commonly encountered around Washington County. We learned about identifying features of gang members, such as clothing, colors, numbers, and tattoos. The team also shared details about local gang origins, history, and rivalries.

It is advantageous for us, as reserve candidates, to collect as much information and educate ourselves properly before engaging with unknown individuals out on the road or in the jail. Any insight we can derive about a suspect, for example, might be the key piece of information in an investigation or what helps to keep us safe.


You can read more about IGET and take a look at gang tattoo and graffiti photos on the WCSO website.

Class 5 – Mental Preparedness & Excited Delirium

Some of us in class may be stronger than others, while some may be better communicators or more apt to take risks.  Regardless of those differences, we have all been raised and socially conditioned to follow rules, be non-violent, and obey instruction. We are helpful, friendly seeing eye dogs.

Some of the most dangerous individuals we encounter may have been conditioned to violence, exposed to drug use from a young age, and raised in poverty. They hold different values and often use inappropriate means to solve problems. 

Those of us in law enforcement and corrections must be prepared to protect the community from this small segment of the population.  With the help of our community, we must fight against the most dangerous in order to return home safely to our families at the end of each day.

This academy will provide us the tools we need and our instructors are committed to helping us succeed.

A senior training officer from BPD detailed the steps we must take to prepare ourselves against those who pose a danger to us.  It is imperative we are familiar with the law, know how to implement it, and that we participate in extensive and ongoing training.  We were warned, “You will not rise to the occasion; you will fall to the level of your training.”  I assure you, we are all itching to get started with hands-on defensive tactics training in our third week.

For the second portion of class we learned about excited delirium, the controversial description of behavior which includes bizarre actions, incredible strength and endurance, insensitivity to pain, and an inability to follow commands.  If the subject is not safely restrained and provided timely medical assistance, he or she can suffer cardiac arrest and die. 

We examined the contributing factors to this event and talked about the symptoms we can keep an eye out for.  The ability to swiftly recognize excited delirium and recall that it is a medical emergency in need of treatment may allow us to save lives.

Class 6 – CPR, AED, First Aid, & Tactical Tourniquets

On Saturday, we met at the WCSO and it was nice to be back on “home turf.” It was also nice to see a group of grown men handling baby dolls in CPR class.

We covered performing CPR on adults, children, and infants, using an AED, addressing choking emergencies, and other scenarios requiring first aid.  Rolling our classmates into the recovery position seemed like a comfortable first step as we move toward combating with each other in our upcoming defensive tactics training.

Our last topic was how to apply tourniquets to ourselves and others in tactically complicated situations.  This might mean taking cover from gunfire to render aid or using one hand to apply a tourniquet to our opposite arm. 

We did test runs and tried cutting off the circulation in our extremities for practice.  We also got to see super gory photographs of penetrating wound trauma to assess whether a tourniquet would be useful.  Eating lunch after class with no problem was a solid accomplishment.


Two weeks down, nineteen to go!  The WCSO candidates had a bonus event on Monday – we were fitted for our duty belts, given most of our gear to take home, and our hands were fitted for our firearm. 

We learned how to order our myriad tools on our duty belt.  Those of you with a keen eye will note my belt is missing a TASER holster.  Since I have a smaller waist than my male counterparts, I will be issued a drop holster for my TASER, to be worn on my thigh, so it takes up less room on my belt.

The WCSO rangemaster brought a few handguns and determined what size best fit each of us.  We won’t be issued our respective firearms until we receive more training and get some time in on the range.

If you’d like to be notified via email each time a new post hits the blog, just enter your email address at the top right of this page.  Otherwise, stop back every Tuesday to read more about our journey!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Road to Reserves - Welcome, Ethics, & Community Policing

As I drove to our first class on Tuesday night, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” came on the radio. The lyrics “forever’s gonna start tonight” packed a bit of an emotional punch for me. It feels like my classmates and I are on the cusp of an incredible adventure. Was I singing along?  Maybe.

Class 1 – Welcome & Academy Expectations

Several local agencies send candidates through our combined reserve academy. Each year the host agency alternates between the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in Hillsboro and the Beaverton Police Department (BPD). 

This year, BPD is hosting and I will admit to having sweaty palms as I walked through their unfamiliar front doors. Class was in a small conference room and I found a seat among my quiet, well-dressed peers. By the time the clock hit 6:00pm, it became clear I am the only female reserve recruit in this academy class.

Introductions began and we met our academy coordinators and advisors, primarily from BPD and the WCSO. The class members took turns introducing themselves and speaking briefly about their motivation for joining the reserve program.  The agencies represented include BPD, WCSO, Hillsboro Police Department, Forest Grove Police Department, and North Plains Police Department.

We received an updated schedule outlining the topics we will cover in each class.  Typically, we meet every Tuesday and Thursday evening for up to four hours, and for eight hours each Saturday.  This schedule will continue until our graduation on May 28, 2015.

Class 2 – Ethics & Police Professionalism

A WCSO Core Values challenge coin
Each of our agencies has a unique set of shared, guiding values that assist staff and volunteers in making strong ethical decisions and that communicate to the community what the organization stands for.  At the WCSO, our Core Values encourage us to:
Do your best.
Do the right thing. 
Treat others the way you want to be treated.

On Thursday evening, a BPD captain shared each agency's values as we delved into the topic of ethics and police professionalism. Each reserve candidate brought a news article related to law enforcement ethics to discuss and we explored the importance of keeping a focus on why you went into police work to begin with – even years into your career.

Focused and ready to talk ethics!
My classmates shared a variety of personal motivations, including the constantly evolving nature of the work, a desire to have a direct impact on someone’s life, the mental and physical demands of the job, and the chance to be a strong role model for their children.  We were encouraged to dig a little deeper than the "canned" answers we may have provided in the first class.

We learned about characteristics associated with good police service, problem solving techniques we can utilize when faced with difficult ethical decisions, and the importance of supporting one another. Perhaps the most important lesson is speaking up if we witness an act our instincts tell us is wrong.

Class 3 – Community Policing & How To Get Hired

A BPD officer started off our first Saturday class with a definition of community policing, which involves strategies to address crime, change a situation, or correct a behavior by means other than arrest, or by steps taken after arrest.  This action might include an education component, community partnerships or other innovative solution.

Much coffee will be consumed
More public safety organizations are moving toward tactics like Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (C.P.T.E.D.).  This approach demonstrates how design and use of our environment can reduce crime and thereby improve qualify of life for residents and business owners.  A simple example is the use of improved lighting and shortened hedges to diminish dark, hidden corners outside a citizen’s home.  

Our last presentation of the day came from one of our class coordinators, who spoke to us about the typical hiring process for a paid deputy or officer position.  Luckily, the application process for reserves is very similar, so we all had some familiarity with the topic. 

I believe the best piece of advice to stand out as an applicant is to do your homework on the agency where you are applying.  Take a look at my last post to learn how you can start gaining knowledge and experience to improve your likelihood of being hired.


With week one complete, I am excited to move ahead and to learn more about my classmates. This is a very significant commitment of time, energy, and focus and I appreciated when one of our coordinators told us, “You are a team now. You will depend on one another to succeed.” We have hours and hours of class time, practical exercises, and studying ahead of us.

Firing a Glock 9mm pistol
I managed to squeeze in some shooting with some of my WCSO coworkers and one of my reserve academy classmates.  Getting out to the range for firearms instruction should be a lot of fun and I was glad to get a little more practice before that happens in a few weeks.

It is a bit intimidating to be the only female candidate in class, but it will be a worthwhile challenge to hold my own among a bunch of men.  To me, this means learning techniques to compensate for whatever physical disadvantages I experience and continuing to hone my communication skills as the main way I diffuse conflict. A bonus to being the only female is that I will never have to wait in line for the restroom!

Now, if I could only remember to snap to attention when our class is addressed as “you guys.”  Till next week!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Road to Reserves - The Selection Process

Volunteer reserve deputies at the Washington County Sheriff's Office (WCSO) assist regular paid deputies in their work on patrol and in the jail. Reserve deputies wear the same uniform as regular deputies, carry a firearm, and have arrest authority. Reserves are required to volunteer at least 16 hours (typically two shifts) per month, participate in periodic training, and attend a monthly meeting.

Many individuals get involved with the reserve program in order to gain valuable experience before applying for a paid position. Others already have a job they enjoy and volunteer as a way to give back to their local community in an exciting way!

The application process to join the WCSO reserve program lasts from May through December each year. Going through each of the steps and waiting to see whether you're moving forward in the process can be a roller coaster of emotion, but it all feels worth it when the day comes to be fitted for your duty uniform!

Here are the steps involved with applying:

Online Application. This brief online form allows the WCSO to collect your contact information and ensures you will be contacted for subsequent steps in the testing process. Apply online now by clicking here. 
Police Officer Standardized Test (POST Exam). This multiple choice and written answer test scores the applicant on math, grammar, reading comprehension, and basic writing skills. More information on the POST can be found here. 
Physical Abilities Test (PAT). This test involves completing an obstacle course six times and dragging a 60-pound dummy for 25-feet, all in under five minutes and 30 seconds. The course includes balance, jumping, ducking, stairs, leaping, and endurance.
Panel Interview. An interview with a panel of four to five individuals, including the patrol sergeant who supervises the reserve deputy program, regular patrol deputies, and current reserve deputies.
Background Interview. You will have previously submitted a 23-page notarized Statement of Personal History packet at the PAT exam. Now comes the time to sit down with a background investigator (often a retired detective) and discuss all the information you provided in the packet.
Commander Interview. An interview with a lieutenant and the commander of the patrol division.
Psychological Exam. Completed in one day, the psychological examination contains approximately six hours of "bubble" tests, computer exams, and an interview.
Medical Exam. Also completed in one day, the medical examination includes about three hours of various tests, a meeting with a physician, and a trip to the lab for blood work.

Although I was already an employee of the WCSO when I applied for the volunteer reserve position, I went through the same application process as the other applicants.

I had the benefit of knowing a lot about the Sheriff's Office and the role of a reserve deputy as I went through the selection process. This proved especially valuable in my interviews. There are many ways for you, as a citizen, to learn just as much and to better prepare yourself to apply for a volunteer reserve deputy position.

Take some time to read through our WCSO website, including the page about the reserve program.  Sign up to receive our Sheriff's Office News via email and apply to join our next session of Community Academy.

You can even apply to participate in a jail job shadow or patrol ride along via the forms on our website. Strike up a conversation with a staff member in the office or a deputy out in the community.

We also have a wide variety of other volunteer and intern opportunities at the WCSO. These programs require less of an ongoing time commitment and are often a great way to get your foot in the door. Learn more and apply for these positions online!

I was fortunate enough to receive a letter formally accepting me into the program in early December of 2014. Out of 206 applicants, nine of us will be starting the academy tomorrow night.

I'll report back next week with what we cover in our first three classes!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Road to Reserves - Applying to Become a Volunteer Reserve Patrol Deputy

Growing up, I never imagined I would become interested in applying to become a volunteer reserve patrol deputy. Even with a father who worked for many years as a police officer, I had misconceptions about what characteristics would make a successful deputy.

Now I’m getting ready to begin the reserve academy on January 6, 2015!

My name is Sara and I’m thirty two years old. I work full-time and I’m a single mom to my four-year-old daughter. I like reading, I’ve never been in a fist fight, and I studied acting when I first went to college.

Not exactly what you’d picture when you imagine a volunteer reserve deputy candidate, right?

It was only once I came to work for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) in 2009 that I gained insight as to what makes an effective deputy. With that knowledge, I came to believe I might be a good fit for the reserve program.

Two of the most important qualities the WCSO looks for when selecting applicants for any paid or volunteer position are excellent communication skills and a strong values set. Skills like using a radio, shooting a firearm or even taking a combative suspect into custody can all be taught.

Compassion, an ability to keep calm during stressful events, and integrity, on the other hand, are core personality traits.

Perhaps most important, I believe a successful applicant needs to possess confidence and determination.

I know spending sixteen hours a week in the academy for the next five months will not be easy. I will continue to work forty hours a week in my paid position while juggling my other personal responsibilities, attending the academy, and studying in my off hours.

Completing this challenge successfully – and showing my daughter what her mom can accomplish – is very important to me. I also have a great support system of friends and family members cheering me on.

Pursuing this volunteer position will be an opportunity for me to determine if I’d like to apply for a paid deputy position in the future. I’ll also have the chance to get out on the road and hopefully make a positive difference in my community.

I hope you’ll join me as I continue my journey through the reserve academy. I plan to share my successes and difficulties, and hopefully encourage some of you to take the leap and apply to become a reserve deputy with the WCSO!

I welcome your questions along the way. Thanks for reading!