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.

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