Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Road to Reserves - Radio Procedures, Patrol Tactics 1, & Range 5

This week brought a lesson about the value of resiliency and positive thinking. It also inspired me to start practicing the phonetic alphabet while driving around in traffic!

Radio Procedures

Many law enforcement professionals agree their radio is one of the most important tools they carry. This device is a lifeline of communication, information, and assistance if a peace officer’s safety is threatened.

A former WCSO reserve deputy, who was later hired as a regular full-time deputy, presented an introduction to radio practices. This was one of those classes where the phrase “drinking from a fire hose” comes to mind. We have a lot of information to memorize and will need to get used to simultaneously hearing, understanding, and responding to messages from various sources once we hit the road.

We covered three key things to remember as radio operators. First, think before you transmit. It’s just like practicing in the mirror before giving a big speech – this will help us deliver a message that is clear and concise.

Second, airtime is precious. As a Washington County reserve deputy, I will be sharing radio channels with many other on duty individuals. Only one deputy may speak at a time on any given channel, so we must focus on keeping our messages short and necessary.
Finally, always be professional. We have an obligation to treat one another with patience and respect on the radio, just as we do when speaking in person. This includes speaking to dispatchers, with whom we have little face-to-face contact.

Each agency has a directory of radio channels accessible to their staff. A radio can be set to any zone between A and J. A channel knob can then be set to any number between 1 and 16. This results in a total of 160 different channels (i.e. A8, E2, J6, etc.). Using the map of channels, peace officers can communicate with others from their agency or other local agencies, depending on the situation.

Another common use of the radio is to contact dispatch and ask them to look up an individual or a vehicle. Since some words and letters may be difficult to understand over the radio, we need to learn a commonly accepted phonetic alphabet. “Charlie” and “Zebra” are easier to audibly differentiate than “C” and “Z.”

CAD (computer-aided dispatch) is another integral part of our communication system. We can access this computer program on our MDTs (mobile data terminals), which are the laptops in our patrol cars. This resource allows us to accomplish tasks manually without taking up radio airtime. This can include adding ourselves on calls, checking the call history on a location or communicating with other deputies.

Patrol Tactics 1

In preparation for some realistic exercises in the coming week, our first patrol tactics class included a great deal of review regarding search and seizure. Fully comprehending our Fourth Amendment legal authority to search suspects and their property, and to seize any evidence we may find, when warranted, will be central to our daily operations as peace officers.

We also reviewed the difference between mere conversation and a stop. Mere conversation is a legal term for a consensual encounter between a member of the public and a peace officer. The officer has no legal authority to stop the individual, but the two may converse for as long as the civilian continues to consent.

A stop, on the other hand, is made when a peace officer witnesses an individual commit a violation or a crime. This gives the officer the legal authority to detain the person for as long as reasonably necessary to investigate the incident and obtain the person’s identity.

Differentiating between these two concepts and knowing how to lawfully proceed in both situations will help us ensure we do not violate anyone’s Constitutional rights in the performance of our duties.

I anticipate our upcoming exercises will be valuable, as we will have the chance to run through different situations with a partner and determine whether we have legal footing in our decision to stop, question, and/or search a suspect. We will then have the opportunity to debrief with our instructors and classmates to ensure we were acting appropriately.

It may also demonstrate to us the reality that peace officers do sometimes inadvertently make mistakes. This will be a safe environment in which to assess and discuss our actions and then to make any adjustments necessary before we get out on patrol.

Range 5

Our final day at the range as a group! Check that off the list.

We began the morning with a cold qual. That meant doing a full qualification course without any practice time first. I scored a bit above 88%, which I was not particularly pleased about. I’ll come back to that later.

The rest of the day included a number of new, fun courses of fire. Many of these included shooting at steel so we could hear the satisfying ping of our rounds hitting the target.

Through the use of time constraints and difficult courses of fire, our instructors try to create situations that will increase our level of stress. The goal is to prepare us to shoot accurately in life and death situations. While it’s difficult to create situations as stressful as a real life officer-involved shooting, they do a good job of preparing us.

At one point, half of us were instructed to run out of the range pit, around a corner, reach a Beaverton Police Department van in the parking lot, and come back. This led to increased heart and breathing rates and shaky hands. We lined up at the 15-yard line and attempted to hit one of two hostage takers on a target, without injuring the light gray hostage in the foreground.

Group two took their turn and then group one began the same run again. This time, we were told to complete 10 pushups (on gravel, mind you) upon returning from the jog and before taking our shot. Eventually, group one did a third run and returned for a final shot at the hostage takers.

My first hostage taker shot on the left
This gave us a taste of how challenging it can be to take a distance shot when your heart is racing and you are breathing hard. I found I needed to consciously calm myself and slow my breathing while I took my shot. I landed one shot on each of the two hostage takers and one shot just to the right of one. I successfully avoided hitting the hostage.

One of my favorite activities of the day was referred to as “Rolling Thunder.” Seven candidates stand on the ten-yard line in front of five, evenly-placed steel targets. Shooter one shoots target one, then shooter two shoots target one, and so on. After the last candidate successfully hits target one, shooter one begins again, this time shooting target one and then target two. Shooter two shoots target one and then target two, and so on.

This continues until it’s time for shooter one to hit all five targets consecutively. Every other shooter on the line follows suit. The goal of this exercise is to shoot accurately, be aware of your surroundings, manage reloads, and to communicate. When done correctly, it sounds like one long rumble of rolling thunder as you hear the rhythmic clang of rounds hitting steel for the entire time the shooters are active.

We did a number of competitions, too. We alternated shooting solo, with partners, and in teams. As much fun as it is to excel in these rivalries, it is also fantastic to see your classmates performing well and everyone cheering for one another. You didn’t hear it here, but we did have a candidate beat an instructor (whose name I won’t dare mention) during a one-on-one competition. The instructor evened the score in a rematch.

Time to collect brass!
Prone shooting, or lying on the ground on one’s stomach and firing, was previously discussed, but we hadn’t yet gotten the chance to try it. We moved all the way out to the 50-yard line and half of us safely went down to the ground with our pistols drawn. It took a little maneuvering to figure out what position would be most comfortable and stable, but nearly all of us hit steel on our very first try.

How could I have forgotten to mention brassing ammo until now? At the close of each range session the candidates removed their duty belts and got to work picking up the hundreds of brass shell casings we left littered on the ground. In addition to this being pretty decent exercise, it was a nice chance to slow down and come back together at the end of a long day. I think I may actually miss collecting brass with my team.


Honestly, I think I went into Saturday’s class with a less than ideal mindset. I felt tired from my week, sore from an injury, and ready for the weekend to really start on Saturday evening. My performance in the cold qual revealed this.

My subpar qualification score then impacted how I continued to shoot. Knowing I hadn’t done as well as I wanted distracted me from focusing on fundamentals like steady trigger press and ensuring my magazine was properly seated in my pistol.

It took going to lunch and having some of my incredible classmates give me pep talks to get me back on track. Everyone has good and bad days, and it is best to keep a focused mindset and an optimistic outlook. Knowing others support you makes this much easier.

This coming week will consist of three high-intensity, likely stressful classes. Now is the time to study, develop a good, prepared attitude, and get excited about the challenges we will learn to overcome. I can’t wait to report back next week!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Road to Reserves - Domestic Violence, Defensive Tactics 7, & Range 4

I got to deliver fancy new duty rain jackets to all the WCSO reserve candidates this week.

Our gear and uniform items hold symbolism for us, I believe. It’s almost as though we are more worthy of wearing these articles as we progress through our classes and demonstrate new competencies. 

It looks like we earned our personalized rain gear just in time!

Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, peace officers often see domestic violence (DV) problems in our local community. Educating ourselves about offender and victim behavior, available resources, and officer safety concerns can help us be more effective in the field.

We began by reviewing what relationship types qualify as domestic, for the purpose of charging domestic violence crimes. 

We looked at the specific offenses commonly found in these situations, such as assault, harassment, menacing, rape, and unlawful use of a weapon.

Strangulation is another specific, very serious offense we may encounter. This is a particularly troubling transgression, as it often represents a disregard for human life that can precede the crime of criminal homicide.

It was startling to learn that only about four pounds of pressure are required to prevent blood from flowing to a victim’s brain or to prevent oxygen from reaching their lungs. Conversely, approximately 20 pounds of pressure are needed to open a soda can.

The symptoms of strangulation can be difficult to perceive, but the lasting impact of the injury can be very damaging, and even fatal. This reinforces our responsibility to thoroughly question victims and address and document even the slightest physical symptoms we observe. Summoning medical assistance for a strangulation event could potentially save the victim’s life.

In 2014, there were nine domestic violence-related homicides in Washington, Multnomah, and Clackamas counties combined. Since DV episodes tend to escalate over time, it is vitally important that peace officers investigate all DV calls thoroughly, document evidence, photograph injuries, be knowledgeable regarding community resources, and take enforcement action when warranted.

For those of us who are WCSO reserve deputies, keeping the WCSO Core Values in mind while investigating DV crimes will ensure that we treat victims with the understanding and respect they deserve. All of us, peace officers, we should work with patience and compassion in order to avoid re-victimizing the individual.

Defensive Tactics 7

Ground fighting, at long last! This class was an intimidating prospect that had been looming in my future. But, as with all of our other defensive tactics classes, this one just turned out to be a lot of fun and a lot of good exercise.

We first tackled an integral component of protecting ourselves from violent attacks – how to fall safely. Not only do we want to remain uninjured if we fall or are pushed to the ground, we also want to land in a position where we can easily get to our feet again.

Again and again we fell or were pushed to the ground, each time folding our legs in a way that made it easy for us to avoid injury and quickly get back on our feet.

Taking a much needed YouTube break during DTs
We geared up with our duty belts and chose partners. The suspect tried pinning the officer to the ground in a variety of positions. Using a handful of practiced tactics, the officer essentially wiggled away from the suspect, protecting him or herself from blows, and using the ground for leverage to come to their feet.

We slowly increased the intensity of our practice, using greater strength to pin an officer and escape from a suspect. As usual, we all became sweaty and tired. I regretted having so much hair to get tangled and end up stuck to all my classmates. Better securing it will be my priority in the future.

Another consideration is how to safely retain and control a duty weapon while on the ground. Drawing a pistol and aiming it toward an armed and dangerous suspect is fairly intuitive; however, we still needed to practice keeping our legs out of the muzzle’s path. 

We worked on keeping our guns trained on a moving suspect by remaining on our backs and using our legs to rotate our body, all while keeping our pistols pointed in a safe and legally justified direction.
One of our last drills was how to disengage from a suspect who is holding us to the ground, against a wall. Many of the same principles from our other drills applied. Pivoting our hips and using our arms to create strong frames against a suspect can enable us to rise to our feet. Having a wall to “inch up” can be a benefit as well.

You better believe we all left class with a nice variety of bruises, scratches, muscle aches, and mat burns!

Range 4

What did I say last week about our good weather luck? Saturday’s low light shooting class at the range was not only dark, but very rainy as well. We got started at 1400 (2:00pm) under a light downpour. Break out those new jackets!

We tried qualifying in the rain for the first time. Though working with a wet pistol and wet hands is very different, we all still managed to qualify with no problem, and many of us even improved our score from last time.

Surprisingly, we got the opportunity to try “Groucho” walking! If we ever happen to engage in a use of force situation with our pistols, there is a chance we will need to be moving toward a suspect rather than standing solid in a proper stance. The Groucho technique taught us how to maintain a steady shooting platform and clearly see the suspect as we move forward.
Practicing our Groucho walk

Practicing a rolling step while approaching our target gave us a sense of how steady movement can yield better firing accuracy. An instructor was matched to each shooter and walked directly behind that individual for an extra measure of safety.

Then it came time to figure out how to hold a flashlight and shoot our pistol at the same time. There are four standard ways to hold both items at the same time, and it is generally a matter of personal preference as to which the officer chooses.  

Trying to stay dry for a few minutes, at least
I preferred the “Harries technique.” My support hand holds the flashlight and crosses under my dominant hand, which holds my pistol in a single-handed grip. I press the backs of my hands together for more stability while firing.

We completed a selection of courses of fire under the low light, using our flashlights to illuminate the target. Some of these involved standing or kneeling behind double stacked barrels and firing around them on our strong side.

Our final activity was to ready ourselves behind the barrels and when given the command, draw our weapons toward our strong side. Random photorealistic targets of individuals had been posted at the end of the range.

Using our flashlights to reveal the person and what they were holding, we had to pause long enough to determine whether we were legally justified to shoot. In the darkness, it was often difficult to speedily assess whether an individual held a firearm, drill or even a golf club pointed in our direction.

This exercise was very effective in demonstrating the quick and significant decisions law enforcement officers are forced to make, under stressful and challenging circumstances, compounded by low light conditions.


Thursday night wrapped up our defensive tactics training and this coming Saturday will be our last scheduled range day. Checking subjects we’ve covered off the list is a satisfying feeling and allows us to focus on what’s ahead.

This also serves to paint a comprehensive picture of the many proficiencies a deputy or officer must master. I appreciate this opportunity to share that perspective with those of you who read this blog.

In the coming weeks, we will begin learning what patrol tactics we will utilize out on the road, as well as how to use our radios.

As always, I welcome and encourage your questions and feedback along the way!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Road to Reserves - K9s, Defensive Tactics 6, & Range 3

Though I wasn’t proud to be the first candidate to miss an academy class last week, it is a wonderful testament to my classmates’ focus and work ethic that their attendance has been stellar.

I returned from visiting family in Arizona renewed and ready to get back into the swing of things. There’s nothing like hopping off a plane and heading straight to defensive tactics training!

K9 Tracking & Narcotics

Learning about K9 tracking and narcotics was fascinating, to say the least. We spent some time covering the tasks performed by various K9 teams throughout the country, how they successfully complete their sweeps, and how we can best serve as support to our furry partners.

Rigorous and repetitious training for months on end develops both a working partnership between the handlers and their dogs as well as a clear and trusting friendship. I watched as the handlers were focused, serious, and deliberate while tracking, but as soon as the task was completed, it was all love and affection. Really the dog just wanted his toy!

We were fortunate enough to watch our K9 coaches complete searches for narcotics strategically hidden around our training room. Big surprise, the dogs were outstanding in their ability to locate.

Part of our class was focused around a vital part of any search, which is the support of accompanying officers and the roles we play in protecting the K9 and the handler. While we may think of the K9 as being a menacing threat on its own, they count on us to watch their backs while they are nose to the ground.

Scent is the clear marker the dog follows. We learned scent can travel with the wind, up walls, and can even be blown around by passing traffic. Therefore, it is also imperative that we use good judgment in locating quality starting points for our K9 teams and try not to contaminate the path with our own odors or even our car emissions.

The most exciting part of the night was an exercise where we all broke up into small groups each with a K9 team going to separate locations designating suspects and officers for a scenario drill. My partner and I left a trail detectible only to the dog as we hurried off to hide behind a dumpster in a parking lot several blocks away. After a few minutes, the dog was on to us. He alerted perfectly and received his deserved treat.

It was most certainly an exciting class and I look forward to more experiences with our four-legged partners.

*The above K9 and Narcotics summary was written by 
WCSO reserve candidate David Huey. 

Defensive Tactics 6

Thursday night’s defensive tactics instruction focused on edged weapon defense. There may come a time when we are in a hands-on use of force situation with an individual when he or she reveals a hidden knife. Alternatively, a person holding an edged weapon could charge at us before we have time to use one of our tools.

In order to injure us, the individual must be able to touch the weapon to us and be able to move the blade against us. This means we must focus on preventing at least one of these elements – either by keeping the knife a safe distance from our body and/or immobilizing the weapon.

Using rubber knives, we worked on protecting ourselves from weapons coming at us from different directions. The way we defend ourselves from injury will vary slightly depending on how the attacker is holding a knife. Just as in the past, we worked in suspect/officer pairs.
Once we are able to avoid the blade, we need to work on gaining control of the dangerous suspect. This may mean bringing the individual to the ground if we are able, or quickly creating distance from them and deploying a tool.

During one of these drills, my suspect and I became tangled together and fell to the ground. I was able to roll away onto my back and draw my blue training gun from my holster from that position, all before the suspect reached me. From there I could give commands for the suspect to stop approaching me.

This scenario taught me I need to better focus on maintaining my balance and a low center of gravity. Perhaps a better response would have been to hop to my feet and create distance from the suspect after we fell, but I came to a resolution without being “injured.”

Between our class of 13 and the numerous defensive tactics instructors we’ve worked with, we represent a wide variety of body shapes, sizes, and strength levels. This provides us the valuable opportunity to get more realistic experience trying to gain control of suspects.

Range 3

We all know our luck is going to run out sometime. This was our third gorgeous, sunny day at the range!

By now, it is a piece of cake to shoot slowly and deliberately, nice and close to the target. Start speeding up, shooting from further distances or shooting around objects and things get a little trickier. Our ultimate goal is to be able to land as many rounds as possible in a sizable rectangular area in the center of the target, regardless of the shooting conditions.

We previously covered most of the courses of fire (or types of shooting scenarios) we would see when required to qualify. The one remaining mystery involved big bullet-riddled, plastic barrels sitting way back at the 25 yard line.

Instructed to don knee pads, we learned how to draw our pistols and kneel behind a barrel, using it as protection. We then practiced one of the more challenging courses of fire involved in qualifying.

At the 25 yard line and in 55 seconds or less, we must draw, kneel, shoot two rounds to the right side of the barrel, two rounds over the top of it, two rounds to the left side (which for most of us is our weaker, support side), perform a tactical reload, and then complete two more shots from whichever position we prefer (generally over the top again).

We finally got our first crack at doing a full qualifying round, to assess our skill level and see where we need to improve. We made 50 shots, from a variety of distances with different elements added in. For instance, during one course we were instructed to shoot a total of 12 rounds. We are required to do a tactical reload at some point, whether it is after shot 1, after shot 11 or somewhere in between.

I scored 96.8% on my first try at qualifying. A score of 80% or higher is passing, and a score of 100% means all 50 shots made it into the “5” zone in the middle of the target.

My score dropped to 91.2% on my second try, which was frustrating. One way I’ll be able to bring my score back up is to better manage my ammunition. This means reloading to a full magazine whenever I have the opportunity, rather than waiting for my pistol to run dry in the middle of a course of fire.

We finished the day with some “ball and dummy” malfunction drills, since it never hurts to get more practice. This involves randomly loading regular rounds and dummy rounds (which won’t fire properly) into our magazines. Malfunctions then spontaneously occur once a dummy round reaches the chamber and we try to fire the pistol. We work through our systematic steps to get the gun into a properly functioning condition again.

We cleaned our duty weapons and headed home to enjoy the sun!


We are creeping up on the halfway mark of the academy!

We are all progressing along in good spirits. As our instructors promised early on, we now spend a lot of break time laughing, sharing police-related YouTube videos, and cracking jokes.

I believe we have confidence in one another and do our best to make training effective for one another. This may mean studying together, offering technique improvement suggestions or playing a worthy opponent in DTs. Our collective success depends on this kind of productive dynamic.

Thanks to Mr. Huey for covering a portion of this blog post in my absence!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Road to Reserves - Midterm, Defensive Tactics 5, & Range 2

I caught myself standing in a peace officer’s “ready” stance at a convenience store the other day. Feet shoulder width apart, light on my feet. Alert, facing the door, distancing myself from any possible foreseeable threat.

Of course, our law enforcement training has and will continue to bleed over into our off-duty habits and behavior. Keeping this in check, and avoiding becoming hyper-vigilant rather than responsibly cautious and alert, is imperative. To me, this is just one more form of balance we must keep in mind as we move forward.

Class 22 - Midterm & Calls for Service

It seemed as though our group’s collective nervousness before the midterm Tuesday was akin to pre-tasing levels. Before the test, we worked together to review core concepts and quiz each other.

The exam consisted of 40 multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions. As each of us finished the test, we moved back to the training mat room to wait for everyone to finish.

Just like in grade school, we exchanged tests with our neighbor and went over the answers together. I missed three questions, for a final score of 92.5%. Every one of us passed! All those hours with our flash cards paid off.

Before we were permitted to leave and celebrate our success, we briefly covered the basics of calls for service. Calls for service are the calls peace officers respond to. These can be either self-initiated (the deputy or officer makes the first contact) or public demand (a member of the public makes the call to police, generally via a 911 or non-emergency dispatch call).

Harkening back to school once again, we will focus on collecting details as to the who, where, what, when, and how of the crime. Active listening and thorough documentation in our notebooks will prove to be vital to our report writing success.

Class 23 - Defensive Tactics 5

Weapon retention was the name of our game on Thursday night, in particular retaining control of our duty pistols throughout a fight.

We learned two methods for anchoring our pistols to our bodies if a suspect is attempting to pull our gun from its holster. Rather than training with our real weapons, we used plastic training “blue guns” as an added layer of safety.

The next step was to disengage from the suspect in order to give commands, use a defensive tool (if appropriate), and take the individual into custody.

We worked with partners to practice a variety of suspect/peace officer positions. The first drill involved standing chest to chest with a classmate. The suspect could wrap his or her arms around the officer any way they wanted, trying to put them in a position of disadvantage.

As soon as the suspect grabbed at the officer’s duty weapon, the fight was on.
We did the same exercise with the suspect at our side, behind our back, and even pinning the officer up against a wall with their arms trapped at their sides.

This amounted to a whole lot of grappling. Despite taking frequent breaks and trying to stay hydrated, we all became very sweaty and exhausted. Our instructions were to work at about 50% intensity, so as to give each other a realistic challenge but hopefully not injure one another too badly.

I enjoyed the free flowing nature of these exercises. We do utilize specific techniques to disengage from the suspect, but if someone is trying to grab my gun, I can legally assume they want to shoot me. I have a broad authority to prevent them from doing so, any way I can. I can’t bite my classmates or stick my fingers in their eyes in training, but out in the real world I might be forced to use unusual tactics.

Last, we covered how to retain our pistol if it is already out of the holster and in our hands and a suspect grabs onto it.

We had fun comparing our scraped hands and bruised forearms. Injuries don’t usually become too apparent until we’re finished and our adrenaline rush wears off. It’s easy to get so immersed in the training drills, you barely notice any pain.

Class 24 – Range 2

That is, you barely notice any pain until you have to shoot all day with slightly mangled hands and arms that feel like gelatin.

After a few rounds to re-familiarize ourselves, we began by increasing our distance from the target. Our instructors reminded us that as you move further away from the target, nothing changes. Correct stance, drawing, sighting, and trigger press are all done exactly the same.
To this point, we hadn’t been shooting under any stress circumstances, except perhaps for a bit of nervousness in the training environment. At the conclusion of our firearms training we will need to qualify, which means shooting to specifications like accuracy, distance, number of shots, and time constraints.

Our instructors added a time component by watching a stop clock as we completed courses of fire. We fired our guns as instructed and would then get feedback about whether we had drawn our pistols, fired the correct number of rounds, and reloaded (during some courses), all while maintaining qualifying accuracy and staying within the time limit.

We also worked on adding movement to our shooting, to add a new element of realism. Depending on the direction called out right before our instruction to fire, we would quickly step either to the left or the right, draw, and fire.

Reloading magazines between courses of fire
Shooting with one hand and shooting with our non-dominant hand were techniques we were looking forward to trying. We stood very close to the target for this exercise. I am right-handed, and shooting only with that dominant hand felt fairly natural with some extra focus. Transitioning to shooting with my left hand, however, felt completely strange.

At the conclusion of our range day, and having been instructed to bring gun cleaning kits, we sat down inside and field stripped (or disassembled) our pistols just as we had done in the classroom. We cleaned our duty weapons together as a group, covering all the important do’s and don’ts (like no steel brushes – they will etch the metal on our guns).


Maintaining balance is one of our central defensive tactics principals. While on duty, we’re safest if we rest on the balls of our feet, ready to move at a moment’s notice.

It will become important for us to maintain other kinds of balance, as well. We must keep a healthy boundary between our work lives and our personal lives, for instance.

With 40 hours a week spent working at the Sheriff’s Office and 16 hours a week in the academy, my world is very law enforcement centered right now. This doesn’t even take into account personal time spent with friends from work and other reserve candidates.

As many of us move into full-time law enforcement or corrections careers, we will hopefully remember the value of maintaining other interests and hobbies, cultivating relationships with friends outside of the public safety profession, and keeping family relationships healthy.

As someone who is writing this post from (mostly) sunny Arizona, where I’m spending time with family, I’d say getting out of town and taking a short break from law enforcement isn’t half bad. You’ll hear from us again next week!