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!

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