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!

No comments:

Post a Comment