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!

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