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!

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