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!

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