Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Road to Reserves - Surviving the Heat & Vehicle Stops

This is my final call to submit your application for the 2016 Washington County Reserve Academy! Get your name in by midnight on Thursday, April 30, 2015, and you’ll be on your way to one of the biggest adventures of your life!

Not sure if the Reserve Program is for you? Don’t hesitate to email me at with your last minute questions!

Surviving the Heat: Stress Management for the Law Enforcement Family

The senior chaplain from the WCSO instructed this class, to which the reserve candidates’ spouses and significant others were invited!

Law enforcement and corrections are career paths filled with exciting challenges and rewards, but also fraught with stress and a roller coaster of adrenaline. We encounter people on some of the worst days of their lives, whether they are victims, offenders or family members of either party. The emotionally trying situations we experience on duty can then impact our behavior at home and our relationships with loved ones.

In 2012, the National Study of Police Suicides found law enforcement officers were twice as likely to take their own life as they were to die in a traffic accident or felonious assault. Increased rates of alcoholism and divorce among peace officers are also concerns.

Our goal on Tuesday evening was to identify challenges unique to law enforcement and address possible effects on deputies and officers and their families. Entering into this career with knowledge of the emotional and psychological risks can help us more quickly identify them and seek helpful resources to stay healthy and well-balanced.

Common stressors for the average person include finances, marriage/relationship, career, and children. As with any profession, law enforcement and corrections possess their own unique stressors which can compound everyday concerns.

These strains include seeing the extremes of life, including witnessing death and serious injury, becoming involved in physical altercations, and seeing children in physical and emotional pain. We encounter the criminal “street mentality” and must understand it in order to protect the public from it. What shocks us now may become commonplace as our careers progress.

Sometimes, a peace officer may become over-invested in his or her work. This individual remains energetic, quick-witted, and able to make swift decisions while at work. Once they return home, however, their adrenaline level drops and they appear detached, apathetic, and impatient. Their whole life may begin to revolve around their police role, while other responsibilities may suffer.

We can counteract these ill effects by maintaining interests and relationships outside of law enforcement (LE). Too often, LE professionals make reference to hobbies they “used to” have or activities they “used to” enjoy. Continuing to carve out time for these pursuits early in our careers will increase the likelihood we continue with them.

We must also learn how to use our “cop off switch.” Hypervigilance has a place when we are on duty, but we need to learn to focus on and maintain healthy communication with our family and non-LE friends when we are off duty. Stress management and techniques, such as exercising, deep breathing, and spending time outdoors, can also keep us on track.

Deputies and officers often think of themselves as “fixers” who help people, but don’t ask for help themselves. Identifying a few trusted confidants and getting into the practice of sharing what is on their mind could make a significant positive impact on the emotional health of the individual. I appreciated this reminder to actively cope with difficulty rather than bottling it up.

Vehicle Stops Classroom

Vehicle stops are separated into high-risk and unknown-risk categories. High-risk stops can include removing a suspect from a stolen vehicle or from a vehicle at the end of a pursuit. They also occur if law enforcement knows the driver or a passenger is an armed and/or dangerous suspect.

Most stops, however, are of unknown risk. This includes the large number of traffic stops deputies and officers make on any given day, such as the driver who runs a red light or the one whose vehicle has a broken tail light.

Safety is the number one priority when stopping and approaching a vehicle. Precautions are embedded in every stage of the process, from our preparation for a stop to the time the driver departs after the stop.

We discussed proper positioning of our vehicle and the safest places for us to stand when contacting a driver, radioing driver information to dispatch, and writing a citation. Not only must we keep an eye on the unknown individual(s) in the vehicle, we should also remain aware of traffic and pedestrians in the area of our stop.

When speaking to a driver, certain verbiage is recommended. For example, it is not advisable to give a cheerful, “Good morning!” to a driver pulled over for a traffic violation. Instead, a more neutral “Morning” or “Hi there” might be more appropriate. After all, getting pulled over might not be making this individual’s morning “good.”
We each received a blank Oregon Uniform Citation and Complaint form to practice completing. This document is completed by a patrol deputy or officer who is citing someone for a violation or crime. Once complete, a copy is given to the violator. It provides them information about their offense, the related fine, their schedule court date, and their options for handling the citation.

Due to the potential danger of high-risk vehicle stops, it is best if a minimum of four peace officers are present. The feasibility of having multiple units respond will depend on location and jurisdiction.

Rather than approaching the vehicle, deputies or officers will stage a safe distance away, behind cover, and loudly command the driver to turn the vehicle off. He or she will obey commands to exit the vehicle and retreat backwards toward the officers. Due to the known high-risk situation, the individual will be handcuffed, searched, and placed in the back of a patrol car for the officers’ safety.
After visually confirming from a distance that no passengers remain in the vehicle, a team of officers will approach using a ballistic shield for cover. They will slowly and methodically check the entire vehicle until they can declare it clear of other passengers.

Two patrol vehicles were parked inside the mat room, and we took turns running through short vehicle stop scenarios. We each got the chance to “perform” a stop in the dark, using just our vehicle overhead lights and a flashlight for visibility.

Vehicle Stops

We met at the training building on Saturday morning and outfitted ourselves in full duty gear. This was our first time being equipped with a radio, which we all turned to the same private channel so we could converse with one another realistically during scenarios.

In small teams, we worked through a few stations that allowed us to practice different skills. My team began with the citation writing station, where a patrol vehicle was staged behind a stopped passenger vehicle.
We took turns exiting the patrol car, approaching the stopped vehicle and contacting the driver to address a traffic violation. We moved to a safe position to run the driver’s license to dispatch over the radio and complete a citation form.

A second station enabled us to play either the contact officer, who engages the driver in conversation, or the cover officer, who observes the vehicle and driver from a different location and helps maintain scene safety.

The last station involved approaching a vehicle that contained both a driver and a passenger.

We moved on to high-risk vehicle stops. We rotated through four positions within each scenario. This allowed us to experience different roles, including the officer who calls out commands to the driver and the officer who intently watches the trunk and passenger side of the vehicle until it is completely cleared.

Deputies approach a vehicle behind a ballistic shield
Pulling together the various skills we worked on throughout the day, we got to add driving (in the parking lot) to our exercises! Working in pairs, we hopped in patrol cars and pulled around the far side of the training building to wait for the violator’s vehicle to pass by. As soon as it did, we jumped into action.

Using my in-car radio, I communicated my location to dispatch and provided the license plate number of the vehicle I was going to stop. I then activated my overhead lights and the driver pulled over to the side of the “road.”

Parking strategically behind the vehicle, my cover officer and I quickly exited the patrol car and began approaching on opposite sides of the subject’s vehicle. I contacted the driver, introducing myself and explaining the reason for the stop. I collected the driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance, and moved to a safe location.

I radioed the driver’s license number into dispatch and instructor responded to confirm the license was valid and the driver was clear of warrants. I moved back to the vehicle, issued a warning to the driver for his traffic violation, returned his documents, and told him he was free to go.

Our final challenge of the day was to run through a few scenarios where we pursued a passing vehicle and were unsure of what situation awaited us.

In one exercise, I played cover officer on an unknown-risk vehicle stop. Throughout the encounter, neither the contact officer nor I noticed a blue handle (training) pistol sitting above the steering wheel!

I believe we both missed seeing the firearm because we were so focused on watching the driver’s hands, to make sure he didn’t reach for a weapon. This is very important, but we must take a broader look at the individual and the vehicle.

This oversight made an indelible impact on both of us and I know we will now both do a much more thorough visual inspection on vehicles we stop.

One scenario led to a vehicle stop involving several cover units after the driver and passenger were observed throwing punches at one another. The candidates who participated were able to safely remove, separate, and handcuff both the driver and passenger.

Each situation was dynamic and the whole day was a lot of fun. Getting some practice on the multi-tasking element of traffic stops (driving safely, observing, using the radio, communicating to our partner, positioning the patrol car, etc.) was particularly helpful in building both experience and confidence.


Only eight classes left before our pre-final study night! It’s as though we’ve been running a marathon and the finish line is finally coming into view.

I sustained a knee injury at the range several weeks ago and it only recently became problematic. It turns out I have a partially torn ACL, which means I won’t be able to participate in any of the remaining physically active classes.

It is not terribly uncommon for a candidate to experience an injury over the course of the academy; they are merely examined on a case-by-case basis. Fortunately, I will be permitted to graduate with my class and I will finish up my hands-on training after I heal.

Let’s just look at this as an opportunity to “survive the heat” as we learned earlier this week!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Road to Reserves - Special Teams, Physical Fitness, & EVOC 2

As our class draws closer to our final exam and graduation, the days dwindle to submit your application for the 2016 Washington County Reserve Academy

Remember: submitting an online application by Thursday, April 30 means you will receive an email invitation to the written POST exam on May 11, 2015.

If our academy adventures sound like something you would like to experience, consider submitting your application and joining us in the first step of testing!

Crisis Negotiation Team & Tactical Negotiations Team

Two interagency teams spoke to us on Tuesday evening: the Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU) and the Tactical Negotiations Team (TNT). These teams often work in concert with one another to defuse crisis situations.

CNU, formerly known as the Hostage Negotiation Team, changed their name to better reflect the work they do. The mission of CNU is “to establish an ongoing dialogue and rapport with the person or persons involved in the crisis situation.”

A broad description of a person in crisis is someone whose “normal coping skills” are no longer working. CNU still trains for response to hostage situations, as well as response to barricaded or suicidal subjects. They are also equipped to assist with high-risk search warrant executions and kidnappings.

In 2014, the group experienced 24 partial callouts, which is when any on-duty team members are called to assist at a scene. There were six additional full team callouts. A full team consists of approximately 19 members, as well as several volunteers.

The team is composed of three divisions: command staff, negotiators, and an intelligence group. The role of each division and each member is clearly defined so negotiators can focus on communications in a quiet environment, without interruption, and be provided insightful information about a subject.

While CNU handles delicate communication with a subject, TNT’s role is to handle “high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular officers.” This might include hostage rescues, high-risk arrests and search warrants, armed and barricaded subjects or crisis evacuations.

Those chosen to join this highly selective team are equipped with extensive training and bring a wide spectrum of experience. They also have access to a variety of tools more broad than issued to regular officers. Their ultimate goal is to peaceably resolve dangerous incidents and protect lives, using the least amount of force necessary.

Much like CNU, TNT (commonly known as a SWAT team) is an interagency team which offers several distinct positions, with each participant playing an integral role in the team. Members might be assigned to the entry team, as a breacher or to the perimeter of a scene (collectively referred to as operators). TNT includes K-9 handlers, snipers, and even volunteer tactical emergency medics (TEMs). Currently the team includes 29 operators and 4 TEMs.

We heard about the intensive application process to join TNT. Applicants must have at least three years’ experience as a patrol deputy or officer and have evident characteristics such as being a team player, demonstrated tactical skills, and the ability to remain calm and make good decisions under pressure. The testing process involves exhibiting firearms proficiency, as well as significant physical strength and endurance.

TNT's "Bear" vehicle
Applicants move on to a panel interview and scenario testing. Those who pass all testing phases are placed on an eligibility list for up to one year. If no spots on the team come open within that time, the applicant must go through the entire testing process again to remain on the eligibility list.

Both teams’ members spend about 300 hours per year in job-related training and at conferences. They are also both on call and available for callout 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Physical Fitness for Law Enforcement

Peace officers tend to work long, irregular hours, many of which are spent driving around in a patrol car. Being on a scene or assigned to a specific post in the jail for an extended period of time may mean going quite a while without eating. Without adequate preparation, grabbing fast food for dinner might become the easiest option.

One step to avoid building these bad habits is to do some research into how many calories your body needs to operate at a healthy level. From there, you can assess the value of the calories you consume, such as what nutrients they provide.

Our instructor provided an equation to determine our basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories we would burn by lying in bed all today, completely inactive.

The BMR is then impacted by our standard activity level, yielding the number of calories we need to consume in order to maintain our current body weight. Simply multiply your BMR by the percentage corresponding with your approximate activity level.

Sedentary:  BMR x 20%
Lightly Active:   BMR x 30%
Moderately Active:   BMR x 40%
Very Active:   BMR x 50%
Extra Active:   BMR x 60%

Once we have this figure, we can make more conscious decisions about what we eat throughout the day. Packing a lunch and some healthy snacks when going out on patrol or working in the jail can help keep us on track.

Eating breakfast is also important in maintaining a healthy weight. This is something I’ve been striving to improve ever since our Thursday evening class. The same goes for lowering my daily sugar intake, given that I have a mean sweet tooth.

Exercise, in the form of cardio and resistance training, is also imperative. We calculated our maximum suggested heart rate by subtracting our age from 220. 70-80% of the resulting number puts us in an ideal fat burning zone. As a 33-year-old, my maximum suggested heart rate is 187 beats per minute. My target heart rate for exercising is then about 130-150 beats per minute.

Making small, sustainable changes will often lead to better success than the fad diets and exercise trends we see come and go.

Emergency Vehicle Operation Course 2

Saturday turned out to be a fantastic, exhausting, and gratifying day! We knew we would be tested on the challenging timed course, and I was particularly apprehensive about the reverse slaloms I hadn’t quite mastered the week before.

I spent some time on the course with one instructor, seeing improvement in some areas, but still struggling with the reverse slaloms. Eventually a second instructor hopped in the car with me and suddenly everything clicked!

It came time to attempt the test. We were required to do two laps of the course I described in my last post. Our total time for both laps had to fall under five minutes and 45 seconds.

After a couple of incomplete laps, I finally managed to complete one successfully. In order to pass the test, my next lap needed to also be successful, and come in under the time limit. Focusing hard and looking at each portion of the test as an individual challenge, I finished my second lap with no errors! My final time was five minutes and nine seconds.

Here is a video, taken from the passenger seat, of some skilled reverse slalom driving, forward slaloms, an acceleration to 40 mph, and threshold braking!

Before lunch, I headed out to a final road course with an instructor and two other students. We took turns driving on highway 26, including the looping ramp to exit 26W onto 217S. This was the perfect location to practice taking a curve at a consistent rate of speed, using the throttle to impact our steering more so than the steering wheel. Our instructor rode in the passenger seat and guided us through this practice.

When we returned to the track in the afternoon, instructors demonstrated our next course, which included a high-speed lane change and collision avoidance. The latter skill involved accelerating to 40 mph, threshold braking (that is, not allowing the anti-lock brake system to engage), and swerving to avoid an obstruction in our lane.

At one point while we were listening to an instructor’s directions, a bald eagle flew overhead. I had never seen one in Beaverton before, so this seemed like a symbol of good luck and courage!

We moved on to practicing our new techniques. The collision avoidance part of the course came easily to me, but the lane change was more difficult.

I tend to be a cautious individual, so the severe steering required to quickly move from a single lane into an adjacent one, and then back again to the first, at a minimum of 35 mph, was frightening. My brain felt as though I was going to spin the car out of control at that speed, so I consistently under-steered. This meant not getting into the correct lane quickly enough, thereby knocking over cones.

A new instructor joined me in the car and demonstrated the lane change at 50 mph. Lo and behold, the car stayed on course when he utilized the throttle and avoided the brakes as we had been taught. The instructor encouraged me to trust my abilities and the vehicle’s abilities. I gave it another try and succeeded!

After a few more runs through the course, a surprise exam was announced. Our task was to complete two laps of the course, including shuffle steering slaloms and a loop, the high-speed lane change, and the collision avoidance braking. Each individual lap had to come in under one minute and 30 seconds. Additionally, the two lap times needed to be within four seconds of one another!

During my first lap attempt, I knocked over one cone.

I completed my second lap without error, coming in at 1:02:17. Now it was up to me to complete a second lap and match my time within four seconds. I made it through successfully and waited for the timing instructor to report back… 1:02:37! A difference of only 20 milliseconds. What a relief!

Ultimately, the anxiety I’d experienced was for naught. We all successfully passed both exams and could enjoy the rest of the day in the sunshine!


As someone who has been out of school for some time, I’m floored by the amount of knowledge we have gained throughout this academy. Each week, we are exposed to brand new information and given the tools to absorb and apply what we learn.

One important notion I finally realized is that the structure of our reserve academy and the quality of our instructors set us all up to be successful. 

Though we cover material quickly and only meet three times a week, there is adequate time to remediate any concept we find challenging. An assortment of experienced instructors, each with a diverse teaching style, also ensure that each student thrives.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Road to Reserves - Emergency Vehicle Operation Classroom & Course

Many of the principles we learn over the course of this reserve academy will help us to remain safe from harm in our personal lives. We have honed some defensive tactics skills, in the event we ever need to defend ourselves, and spent a good number of hours at the firing range, in case we choose to arm ourselves with a personal handgun.

Driving is no exception. Surprisingly, the concepts we covered this past week are not specific only to emergency vehicle operation. Instead, any driver can implement these techniques to reduce their likelihood of being involved in a crash.

Emergency Vehicle Operation Course Classroom 1 & 2

We spent Tuesday and Thursday nights in the classroom, gearing up for our first day behind the wheel of a patrol car on Saturday.

Law enforcement professionals spend a tremendous amount of time behind the wheel, so learning good fundamentals and focusing on safety is key. Because of all that driving, we were told peace officers are eight times more likely to be involved in a collision than the average driver. They are also more likely to die in a crash than as a result of a felonious assault.

During the class, we covered some basic guidelines for staying safe on the road.
  1. Watch your speed. This is the primary preventable cause of crashes and the most frequent complaint from the public regarding peace officers’ driving.
  2. Clear intersections. When entering an intersection with lights and sirens on, we must ensure the vehicles in each individual lane have stopped completely. Verbalizing the check of each lane and making eye contact with every driver will help us complete this safely. 
  3. Know your newer vehicle. As of 2012, all new cars are equipped with an anti-lock braking system (ABS), electronic steering control (ESC), and traction control. These features impact how a vehicle operates, so we need to understand them so as not to exceed our vehicle’s capabilities.
  4. Look where you want to go. Keep your eyes on the path you want to travel, not nearby obstructions or objects on the side of the roadway. Your car will drive toward wherever your eyes are looking.
  5. Give the road its due. The term “multi-tasking” is actually a misnomer, since a person can only truly focus on one thing at a time. For this reason, we should commit our full attention to the road and resist the urge to work on any tasks that can wait until we reach our destination.
Next up were some technical concepts that reminded me of barely passing physics class in high school. We discussed how rolling friction, rotational inertia, gyroscopic precession, and centrifugal force impact our ability to accelerate, steer, and stop efficiently.

Awareness of these force factors will allow us to anticipate and, at times, counteract their influence.

Learning about electronic steering control
The Oregon Revised Statutes shed light on our legal driving authority. Emergency vehicles, as defined in ORS 801.260, have some special driving allowances, but only under certain circumstances. These exceptions, outlined in ORS 820.300, include the ability to “proceed past a red signal” and “exceed the designated speed limits.”

ORS 820.320, Illegal operation of emergency vehicle or ambulance, further specifies these exceptions are granted only when the driver is responding to an emergency call. Additionally, a visual warning (in the form of emergency lights) must be displayed when the vehicle is exercising these privileges.

During our second classroom session, we watched a number of unsettling videos of crashes involving patrol vehicles. The message behind this footage was that a great number of crashes are avoidable, so long as we constantly keep safety in mind and don’t exceed the vehicle’s, or our own, capabilities.

We are able to look at case law, such as Biscoe v. Arlington County, to further guide us. This precedent states peace officers must in every case weigh the benefits of immediate apprehension against the risks of pursuit.

“Pursuit” is a word commonly heard in emergency vehicle operation discussions. There are actually two distinct types of pursuit. A pursuit of a person clearly involves trying to stop and apprehend a fleeing suspect, while the pursuit of time occurs as a peace officer tries to quickly respond to a priority call.

While we cannot safely practice pursuit driving in emergency vehicle operation course (EVOC) training, we can build necessary skills and engrain safety basics and good driving decision making.

Emergency Vehicle Operation Course

I was told by a friend that one of your first thoughts when starting the first day of EVOC is something to the effect of, “I am a terrible driver and I don’t know how I ever earned a driver’s license.” This was a fair assessment.

Most of us probably believe we’re decently skilled behind the wheel of a car, but learning the safe operation of a patrol car can be humbling. 

My view from the back seat!
We gathered in a large parking lot where a number of patrol vehicles, and an even greater number of orange traffic cones, were arranged. While I anticipated a slow start, we quickly hopped into vehicles and hit the road! The first time I took the wheel was driving at the speed limit through winding roads east of Beaverton and then on the highway to return to our original location.

The twisting roads provided the opportunity to practice “cornering,” which is a technique to safely round corners, while remaining prepared to respond to any obstruction that may appear around a blind curve.

More shuffle steering practice
This was also our first chance to practice “shuffle steering,” which is quite different than the hand-over-hand steering method I’ve been using for the last 17 years. Shuffle steering involves drawing an imaginary vertical line down the center of the steering wheel. The left hand remains on the left side of the wheel, and the right hand remains on the ride side. The driver’s hands sit at 3:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and retain contact with the wheel at all times.

We returned to the course and took turns navigating it. We had a variety of vehicles to choose from, including Ford Crown Victoria, Chevrolet Caprice, Dodge Charger, and Ford Explorer. We were encouraged to try out different models throughout the day.

The day’s courses included several different driving challenges:
  • Accelerate to 40 mph and then “threshold brake,” which is braking as quickly as possible without engaging ABS.
  • Parallel parking on driver’s side and passenger side.
  • Slalom driving around cones, forward and in reverse.
  • Driving around a curve, forward and in reverse.
  • Parking, forward and in reverse.
  • Rapid lane changes.

Many an orange cone was squished among the 13 of us. Overall, we did all improve throughout the day and discovered our personal areas of proficiency.

Next week we will be tasked with completing two laps of a difficult course, with a time limit.


Somehow, each week it surprises me to glance at our schedule and see we are one week closer to graduating. At this point, we have only five weeks of classes before our final exam.

With that said, I think it’s time for me to go study my ORS books and practice reverse slalom driving!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Road to Reserves - Narcotics Team, Mental Health Response, & Range 6

Remember when I said we’d had our final day at the range? Well, I was wrong.

Rather than luxuriate in our first two-day weekend in three months, our group of seven County reserve recruits spent Saturday doing additional firearms drills. Sure enough, we learned a thing or two.

First though, we got to hear from two special response teams from whom we will be able to request assistance.

Narcotics Team

The Westside Interagency Narcotics (WIN) team is composed of representatives from a number of local law enforcement agencies, as well as the Oregon National Guard Counter-Drug Program, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

This team generally handles mid- to high-level narcotics cases, including surveillance, search warrants, investigations, and clandestine lab processing. As reserve deputies working with regular full-time deputies, we can call upon WIN representatives to assist with complex drug cases.

We learned about the various types of narcotics commonly found in Washington County. Many drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, come in different forms with different “high” duration lengths. The street value for these substances also varies a great deal.

While we will carry test kits to determine whether an unknown substance is in fact a narcotic, it will be important for us to be able to visually recognize drug paraphernalia we might find in legally authorized searches of individuals or vehicles.

We chatted briefly about the upcoming legalization of recreational marijuana possession and use on July 1, 2015. The impact of this change on the work of law enforcement professionals remains to be seen.

The extraction of THC-concentrated BHO (butane honey or butane hash oil) from marijuana plants is a dangerous process that can sometimes cause extreme and potentially life-threatening explosions. We may be called to an unexplained fire or explosion, only to determine that narcotics manufacturing played a role. Only a couple days after our WIN class, another hash oil explosion story hit the news.

Mental Health Response

It is no surprise that mental health issues play a significant role in many of law enforcement’s calls for service and the custodies entering the Washington County Jail. Peace officers in Washington County are fortunate to enjoy the assistance of several mental health related resources.

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Mental Health Response Team (MHRT) involves patrol deputies riding with trained mental health clinicians from LifeWorks Northwest. These teams respond to calls for service involving a mental health component and can help de-escalate crisis situations.

MHRT duos are staffed from 11:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., seven days a week. If a deputy or officer encounters someone with mental illness outside these hours and needs support, they can call the Washington County Crisis Line for a phone consultation. Additionally, staff from the Washington County Crisis Team (separate from MHRT) may be dispatched to the scene if needed.

Alarmingly, we were told one in five adults will experience mental illness in any given year, and one in twenty will have a serious mental illness event. As a result, MHRT’s other services are very valuable. They range from helping to determine if an individual should be hospitalized to advocating for clients and helping families develop safety plans and treatment options.

We talked about how best to communicate with individuals experiencing a mental health crisis. Understanding the symptoms of common mental illnesses may help us achieve a calm and productive dialogue.

Active listening skills will be useful in many of our reserve deputy duties. We talked about specific techniques to build rapport with a distressed or angry person, such as using open-ended questions to draw out the root cause of their emotions.

Some students participated in “Back to Back” exercises at the front of the room. Sitting in chairs and facing away from one another, one candidate would play the role of peace officer and the other would be barricaded subject. The officer was tasked with initiating a conversation and attempting to build trust with the subject in order to convince him to surrender and agree to get help.

It is beginning to sound appealing to eventually join just about every special team we hear from!

Take a look at our WCSO Mental Health Response page or the Washington County Crisis Services page for more information. If you have concern for a friend or loved one suffering from mental health crisis, you can call the Washington County Crisis Line at 503-291-9111.

Range 6

Turns out warm and rainy beats cold and clear at the range. Saturday morning was very cold and I spent the first few hours shivering under my many layers.

We started with a cold qualification, in which I shot a 92%. Still not as high as I would like, but better than last week’s score. We all qualified with no problem and it was good to see we had retained our needed skills.

The WCSO requires all paid and unpaid (reserve) deputies to demonstrate certain skills outside of the qualification rounds. These “performance observations” are timed drills we each did individually.

Keep a pocket full of rounds at the range
The most challenging performance observation was to perform a combat reload and fire two rounds in less than five seconds. We began with an empty gun and magazine, with the slide locked open (as though the gun had run dry when firing). We were instructed to eject the empty magazine, insert a new one, rack the slide to load a round into the chamber, and fire two rounds accurately.

When we were all found to be completing this task too slowly, we practiced again and again and again. The next time we attempted to complete the task in under five seconds, thankfully we were all successful.

We also performed a number of frustrating, but helpful injury drills. We were asked to consider how we would effectively draw, fire, reload, and handle malfunctions if one of our arms was taken out of commission. Say, for example, our dominant hand received a gunshot injury or we dislocated a shoulder.

Completely operating a firearm with only your support hand is extremely difficult. Even breaking holster retention and drawing a pistol from the dominant side of your body with your support hand is tricky. We learned how to safely hold our pistol between our knees in order to turn it around or insert a new magazine.

See the dirt by my front sight?
The most surprising skill was learning how to rack the slide of our pistol with only one hand. With my strong hand I was able to hook my sights on the back of my holster and forcefully rack the slide. On my support side, however, I had to kneel down and rack it on the bottom of my boot! As you can see, I ended the day with a filthy duty weapon.

We also managed to squeeze in some practice firing around barrels at the 25-yard line, which is the component of qualification rounds I needed to work on the most. Two magazines and some personalized instruction later, I saw an improvement.

The day ended with a PowerPoint presentation about off-duty concealed carry and how to keep ourselves and our family members safe now that we will run the risk of being recognized by offenders when out in public.


View from the passenger seat
I spent much of Sunday on my first patrol ride along since the academy began. It was a lot of fun to get out on the road, scanning for traffic violations and responding to calls for service. Getting to see concepts implemented in real life, when I had only previously discussed and analyzed some of them in class, was a plus. 

The ride demonstrated how much I still need to learn. In talking with coworkers after the fact, I see this is the beauty of our line of work. 

Certified deputies will experience something new and different every single day they’re at work. And on top of that, the WCSO offers a wide array of special teams and collateral duties to further broaden our experience. We will continue to learn every time we hit the road or enter the jail!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Road to Reserves - Patrol Tactics 2 & 3, Con Sim 1

Don’t forget – Thursday, April 30, 2015 is the last day to apply for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office Reserve Academy beginning in January 2016.

My heart rate elevated just recalling and writing about last week’s classes. We had a week full of realistic, adrenaline-fueled scenarios and I’m very excited for you to read about it!

Patrol Tactics 2 & 3

After our review of search and seizure principles the week prior, we spent Tuesday and Thursday evenings running through true to life, low-conflict scenarios with a role player.

In each situation, a Beaverton Police Department (BPD) officer played a member of the public. Two reserve candidates played primary and secondary peace officers tasked with interacting with the unidentified individual.

The students were provided a brief description of the environment they were entering. For example, they might be told to view the training room as Beaverton Transit Center, and interact appropriately with the individual they observed there.

If the subject committed a pedestrian violation or a crime, the primary officer was to make contact, identify him or herself, and determine how to lawfully proceed. If the subject was observed to have been behaving in accordance with the law, the primary officer was to engage him in mere conversation, which is consensual.

Oftentimes, after requesting an ID or during a search of a subject, the circumstances of the stop or conversation would change. During the initial contact to discuss a violation, students would sometimes uncover evidence of a crime or learn the person had a warrant out for their arrest. In these instances, the peace officer had developed probable cause to arrest the subject and needed to initiate that process.

My scenario involved a man I observed committing a Trimet violation at Beaverton Transit Center. I immediately had legal authority to identify him in order to issue him a citation. When I asked the man for his identification, he pulled two Oregon driver’s licenses out of his pocket and fumbled with them before putting one back in his pocket and stating that it belonged to his girlfriend.
This immediately raised my suspicion. When I asked to see the second license, the man declined. I later obtained the ID and asked the man for the name of his girlfriend. He could only give me her first name, which was also very suspicious. At the time, I could not determine whether I had probable cause for any crime. I ended up writing the man a citation for the violation I originally witnessed and I sent him on his way.

During our debrief, we discussed some of the avenues I could have taken to investigate the extra driver’s license to determine if my subject had committed a crime, as my intuition was suggesting. For the next day or two, I replayed the scenario in my head and thought about what I would do differently next time.

On Thursday, our scenarios expanded to include a few new elements. One such addition was the concept of a Terry stop, which occurs when a peace officer has reasonable suspicion a person committed, is committing or is about to commit a crime. A pat down for weapons is then legally authorized if the officer reasonably suspects the person is presently armed and dangerous.
We also watched two students do a vehicle stop scenario. We will learn a lot more about these in the coming weeks, but this was a good introduction to some basic safety factors and legal issues regarding drivers and passengers.

These scenarios provided our first true taste of the multi-tasking skill required by law enforcement officers and deputies. We needed to listen to dispatch and relay information back to them, communicate with our partners, remain aware of our environment, engage our subject in conversation, mentally sort through statutes and case law, make firm decisions, and maintain excellent officer safety, often simultaneously.

It was slightly overwhelming to think about so many things at once, but I feel confident that time, experience, and additional training will help us feel more natural and competent.

Con Sim 1

Not all of us slept well Friday night, knowing our first con sim session was ahead of us Saturday.
Con sim stands for confrontation simulation. This is some of the most realistic, high-stress scenario training we receive in the reserve academy. We knew we would walk into situations that require extremely quick thinking, good decision making, good communication, and possibly the legally justified use of force.

The value of these exercises is that in times of high stress, our minds will scan our mental files, looking for prior relevant experiences. The more training scenarios we experience, the more “files” our brain can browse for solutions if we get into difficult situations while on patrol or in the jail.
We geared up in our duty belts and ballistic vests. We were provided a pistol and extra magazines loaded with Simunition paint rounds. If we pressed the trigger of our gun, it would actually fire a reduced-energy cartridge with a paint tip, meant to break apart on impact and mark the target.

Magazines with paint rounds
A radio, inert pepper spray (aka not spicy/painful), a non-functioning training Taser, foam baton, neck guard, and helmet completed our look.

Throughout the day, we each ran through seven separate scenarios. In some scenarios, a BPD detective played the role of cover officer and would only act if we, as lead officer, made a request or otherwise communicated with him.

Before each scenario, we staged outside a door and received information from “dispatch” regarding the call to which we were responding. We replied “copy,” to indicate we heard and understood the information, and then sometimes gave information back to dispatch about our intended actions.

Walking through the door, not knowing exactly what or who awaited us on the other side, was a very powerful experience. I realized that in this environment, we were all extremely vigilant and focused when walking into unknown circumstances. It will be important for us to maintain this concentration once we get out onto the road or into the jail. We must not become complacent as our confidence and abilities grow.
In our third scenario, I was instructed to do a walkthrough of a local park. Dispatch did not alert me to any suspicious circumstances. As I entered the “park,” I observed a man running toward me, yelling that someone was chasing him and was going to kill him. This man appeared to be panicked, grabbing at me, shouting, and acting erratic.

I told the man to calm down so I could get more information. I had to push him away because of how roughly he was trying to hold on to me. When I asked the man whether his attacker had any weapons, he replied that the suspect had a gun.

I had just unholstered my duty weapon when a second individual ran into the park. I immediately observed a pistol in his hand, which he quickly raised and pointed at us. I fired my weapon, striking the suspect in the chest. He fired one round back, missing both the first man and me.

Once the suspect had been stopped, I moved around to a better position. The first man continued to yell and hold on to me. I repeatedly instructed him to move back so I could keep an eye on the suspect and my surroundings, but he did not obey my commands.

I drew my inert OC spray and told the man something to the effect of, “Back up and be quiet or I will spray you.” The man continued to ignore my commands, so I sprayed him to get him down on the ground and under control. I needed to continue to be able to keep both of us safe if the circumstances changed.

“End scenario” was called out. Shakily, I left the room and began a debrief with an instructor, who asked me to describe my experience. I explained what I had observed, how the two individuals had behaved, and why I was lawfully authorized to use force against both men in the scenario. The instructor confirmed I was justified in my actions.

Each scenario provided valuable lessons about how I can improve.

In this situation, I couldn’t remember whether I had time to yell commands at the suspect before he pointed his gun at the victim and me. I wasn’t sure exactly how many rounds I had fired at the suspect. It is very important to focus on remembering these details in order to both articulate the justification for my use of force and accurately document the suspect's and my actions in a thorough and accurate written report.

I also need to work on quickly centering myself after the stress and intensity of a dangerous or deadly situation has subsided. With experience, it will become more natural to immediately jump on the radio and call for backup or medical support and assure dispatch that I am unharmed. I may need to reload my pistol, move to a safer location or tend to victims at the scene.

Some things I did well, which boosted my confidence. I had instinctively asked about the presence of weapons without thinking about how that was the “right” thing to do. My firearms training kicked in and I quickly and effectively stopped the dangerous suspect.

Gaining confidence in my legal knowledge, intuition, and skill was the biggest benefit of the day. I was very happy once eight hours and seven scenarios were finished and it was time to go home. But wouldn’t you know it, by the next day I was itching to do some more con sim scenarios!


Going into the reserve academy, I was very unsure as to whether I would ultimately want to pursue a full-time paid deputy position.

This week pushed me a little further into the “maybe” category. It felt great to go through so many intense, dynamic scenarios and come out feeling successful. I think it also gave many of us a boost in our excitement to graduate and get out on patrol or work in the jail.

We’re feeling lucky to have been chosen for this incredible opportunity and to see some solid results from our stellar training. I hope you’re thinking about joining us!