Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Road to Reserves - Criminal Law & Defensive Tactics 2

It is hard to believe a month has already passed since we started this journey!

We quickly realized the importance of balancing our personal and professional responsibilities with this endeavor. As a result, we have all developed individual routines and time management strategies to help us graduate successfully. 

My routine includes committing Sunday mornings to studying. I pour myself a cup of coffee, sit down on the couch, and pull out my pen, index cards, and my pocket law guides. It has actually become one of my favorite, most peaceful times of the week!

Class 10 & 11 - Criminal Law

Would you rather go out to a fine dinner in Portland, see a movie with friends or try to absorb one hundred and fifty three slides of criminal law information?

We had the pleasure of enjoying the last option. An animated career officer from Beaverton presented this material to us on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Class ran all the way until 10:00pm both nights.

High school was a long time ago for some of us, but our instructor asked us whether we could remember each of the ten Amendments in the Bill of Rights. 

Quick - How many of the Amendments can you recall off the top of your head?

The 4th Amendment (which protects against unreasonable search and seizure) was of particular relevance to our criminal law discussions.

We talked at length about probable cause and reasonable suspicion. We must develop a thorough understanding of both concepts. This will provide us a solid foundation on which to then understand our authority to stop, question, and arrest citizens.

Next, we reviewed the elements of an offense. In order to arrest someone for a crime, a peace officer must have probable cause to believe an individual demonstrated specific “conduct” or behavior. Sometimes the peace officer must also demonstrate that a suspect exhibited a certain mental state while performing the conduct.

Take ORS 166.015 Riot, for example. This statute states:

(1) A person commits the crime of riot if while participating with five or more other persons the person engages in tumultuous and violent conduct and thereby intentionally or recklessly creates a grave risk of causing public alarm.

The act required to arrest someone for this crime is engaging in “tumultuous and violent conduct” and creating a “grave risk of cause public alarm.” The mental states that qualify this action as a crime are “intentionally” or “recklessly.” Additionally, six or more persons must be involved in the act.

This means you can’t arrest someone for this particular crime if the conduct does not match up (i.e. only three people are present) or if a required mental state is not present (i.e. the conduct is somehow borne out of criminal negligence).

The full Oregon Criminal Code vs. the
small pocket guide we will carry
For our midterm we will all need to memorize a great number of common crimes, including the conduct and, if applicable, mental state components of each. Time to break out those flash cards!

We delved deeper into the use of force conversation and looked at the classes of misdemeanor and felony charges, the situations in which a peace officer MUST arrest a suspect (often this decision is left up to the officer or deputy’s discretion), and a host of other criminal law topics.

Class 12 - Defensive Tactics 2

Comfort with proximity is one of the key mental tools being instilled in us as we progress through defensive tactics training. We sure got our fill of proximity on Saturday.

Since this was to be a more active day than last Saturday, we started class with a group jog around the mats and some stretching exercises. We then worked on pinning a noncompliant subject to the ground and rolling him or her to their stomach so we could handcuff them.

Next, we learned a variety of takedown techniques. These tactics are used when a suspect who is going to be arrested refuses to be handcuffed or otherwise comply with instructions. Using leverage and balance, even a deputy who is not tall or heavy can bring a suspect to the ground.

We paired up to try these takedown maneuvers. After learning several options, we were instructed to step on to the mat, two teams at a time. One person playing the officer or deputy would attempt to take down the “bad guy.” The exercise was designed for the first takedown technique to fail, so we would need to think quickly and move to a second takedown strategy, which would ultimately succeed in getting the subject to the ground.

Taking a coffee break between DT sessions

We then practiced walking with a handcuffed suspect. A deputy or officer must remain vigilant at this point in an arrest. There are a number of ways to retain control and maintain safety while transporting a handcuffed individual.

Our last task was to learn how to place a handcuffed subject into the back of a patrol car if he or she stiffens up and refuses to sit down. We went out to the parking lot to practice with actual vehicles. Once again, we took turns playing the officer/deputy and the suspect. A lot of laughter resulted – perhaps because of the sunshine and fresh air or our sense of accomplishment at tackling day two of DTs!

Unlike the regular in-house deputy academy, where the candidates spend 40 hours a week learning their new job, we instead only have our three classes a week to work with. This means squeezing a whole lot of information into 16 hours per week and often not having the chance to review in class. As a result, studying and practicing outside of class time becomes especially important.

One thing I enjoy about these defensive tactics classes is how the skills are taught to us piecemeal. We start with easy tasks and build on them, so it isn’t as difficult once we get to the more complicated tactics. A number of instructors also participate in each class and provide us with constant feedback and suggestions on how to improve.

Eight hours’ worth of nonstop exercise definitely leaves us stiff and aching for a couple days after our defensive tactics classes. However, it’s a satisfying pain that reminds us of the hard work we’re putting in. I’m surprised by how much fun it is to roll around, sweat, and build my proficiency.


Like I mentioned last week, it is so exciting to be issued all our gear and uniform items! Tonight I’ll be bringing the county folks their custom-fit bullet proof vests. 

Trying on my new custom body armor!
My house is starting to look like some kind of law enforcement department store, with handcuffs lying on the counter, my duty belt hanging from a closet door knob, and Sheriff’s Office clothing items stored in nearly every room.

It has been fascinating to see how all these tangible duty items fit together like a puzzle with the theoretical material we hear about in our lectures and the techniques we learn in defensive tactics class.

A peace officer must have a broad understanding of countless interconnecting topics such as their arrest authority, the rights guaranteed under the 4th Amendment, the nuances of law as written in the Oregon Revised Statutes, the officer’s duty to protect the public and how that relates to use of force, and how to properly use the tools with which he or she is equipped.

Clearly, this is a lot to learn. Thank you to everyone who has been reading about our experience on this blog and supporting our class via social media!

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