Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Road to Reserves - Criminal Investigations 1 & 2

This will be a shorter post than normal, as we only had two evening classes last week. I had been looking forward to these two criminal investigations sessions ever since the academy began.

These classes confirmed my belief that if I ever pursue a full-time career as a deputy, becoming a detective might be my ultimate goal!

Criminal Investigations 1 

Tuesday evening, we heard from two Beaverton Police Department (BPD) detectives who told us about their typical job responsibilities. They explained that patrol officers and deputies handle about 95% of all calls and investigations.

When making contact with victims and suspects, conducting interviews, and writing reports, we must remember we may be laying groundwork for investigators. Being thorough and observant, and mindfully collecting evidence, will assist detectives with case resolution down the road.

Our instructors explained that detectives are initially required to know at least a little bit about a lot of things. This can include interviews and interrogations, DNA, fingerprints, computers, cell phones, social media, blood splatter, and search and seizure authority.

Depending on the elements of each investigation a detective works, he or she will become an expert in one or more particular fields.

Regardless of agency, detectives generally share similar duties. They investigate more complicated, time-consuming crimes, allowing patrol officers and deputies to focus on the immediate calls for service that come into dispatch. Detectives tend to be on call 24/7.

Detectives also communicate with and guide witnesses and victims through the trial process. They may hold a caseload of upwards of 30 cases, depending on their area of focus. A property crimes investigator, for example, will likely have more open cases at any given time than a violent person crimes detective.

We discussed our responsibilities as peace officers. We are frequently the first law enforcement professionals on the scene of a crime, so we can take initial photographs and make rough crime scene diagrams in our notebooks.

With enough experience, a peace officer may conduct small investigations him or herself. Building skill in conducting witness, victim, and suspect interviews can prove useful in solving these cases. Some of the same techniques can be utilized in each of these types of interview. We learned about the differences and similarities in each.

The evening ended with a brief study of an investigation our two lecturers completed. They discussed the details of the case and let us watch security camera footage of a large bar brawl in Beaverton.

Reviewing the video footage multiple times, examining victims’ injuries and the scene of the altercation, and interviewing a number of individuals eventually led to the successful conviction of several suspects.

Criminal Investigations 2 

Now comes the really fun part. Thursday evening we got the opportunity to try solving two murder mysteries!

The same two detectives had set up elaborate “crime scenes” in two different locations. Each scene included a deceased victim and a number of obvious and not-so-obvious clues.

Our class split into pairs. Each pair got to spend up to ten minutes examining each crime scene. An instructor observed the pair’s work and guided them with prompts and questions if the “investigation” stalled. The two classmates would then confer privately and come up with a hypothesis as to how each victim died.
We were given a few pieces of information received from dispatch before entering each scene.

The first scene, pictured below, featured a man slumped over a desk with a pistol in his right hand. He had a gunshot wound on the side of his head and an exit wound on the opposite side. A suicide note and pen sat on the desk next to the man, along with a game of solitaire and two empty beer bottles.

Music played from a radio on the floor and blood was sprayed on the wall behind the man. One lone poker chip stuck out from beneath the desk. A handwritten shopping list peeked from the man’s pocket.

The second scene represented the interior of an apartment or home. A deceased male lay in the far corner of the room, next to an open cabinet in which a pistol sat. The man had suffered four gunshot wounds to his back.

The scene was fairly messy, so we needed to move methodically around the room, paying close attention to the many items we found littering the floor and table. Pieces of used duct tape lay on the floor next to two chairs and a cell phone rested beneath one.
A table in the center of the room was covered with small bags of narcotics, drug paraphernalia, cigarettes, and paper money which had been cut into hundreds of small pieces.

A safe sat open on one wall and it was empty with the exception of a few more small bags of drugs. A spray of red blood was found low on another wall, and a bloody tooth was on the floor nearby.

After all the teams had spent time examining each crime scene and discussing the circumstances surrounding each victim’s death, our instructors played reenactment videos that told the whole story.

Several of our prior BPD instructors had feature roles in these informative videos, so it was especially entertaining to see them in character. We got to see how the “real” stories compared to what our investigations had revealed.

As much as I would like to share the inside scoop about how these faux murders took place, I can’t ruin the mystery for other people who might see these scenarios in another class. This was a fantastic opportunity to put our observation and analytical skills to the test!

I will be taking a short hiatus from writing a blog post next week, as we only have a study night and our final exam ahead of us. With any luck, I will report back after graduation with pictures of all of us in our full uniforms for the first time. Thank you so much for reading!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Road to Reserves - Tactical Combat Critical Care, Box Drills, & Con Sim 2

A few instructors have asked what we are going to do once the academy concludes and we suddenly have an extra 16 hours in our week. For many of us, I believe this will be a time for catching up on anything pushed to the back burner over the past five months.

After that, we are all eager to don our uniforms, hop in a patrol car, and start interacting with the public in our new role!

Tactical Combat Critical Care

As a follow-up to our CPR and basic first aid class, we had the opportunity to learn how to address more serious injuries in this “Gunfight Medicine” class. It is not uncommon for peace officers to arrive first on a scene where someone is suffering an injury such as a gunshot or knife puncture wound.

With the appropriate training, we can provide initial care to victims as the environment is made safe for medical personnel to enter.

Classroom instruction began with the presentation of four important principles:
1. Do not get yourself injured.
2. Protect casualties from further injury.
3. Stop life-threatening bleeding.
4. Get more help.

An initial assessment of a victim can provide clues as to their most serious injuries. Observing an individual’s breathing, level of consciousness, and location and degree of bleeding will help us to determine what to do next.

The acronym MARCH is a guide to what injuries and symptoms we can begin to treat, and in what order.
M – massive hemorrhage (bleeding)
A – airway
R – respiration (pneumothorax)
C – circulation
H – hypothermia

In order to diminish bleeding (step M), we can elevate and apply pressure to the wound, or apply a tourniquet.

If a victim is having trouble breathing (step A), we can help them move to a more comfortable position or place them on their side in the standard “recovery position.”

Next, if an individual has suffered a puncture wound to their chest, we can assess whether a collapsed lung (or pneumothorax) resulted (step R). If so, we can apply an Asherman chest seal with valve to prevent more air from entering the victim’s chest.

Circulation problems (step C) often require intravenous blood or fluids, which we are not equipped to provide. Treatment of these issues must wait until trained medical professionals arrive.

A risk of hypothermia (step H) is the last step we will address. If we can do nothing more for a victim’s wounds, we will wrap the individual in warm blankets and sometimes get them off the ground to prevent their body temperature from falling.

Our class moved to the mat room to get some more hands-on practice with tourniquet application and techniques for moving an injured or unconscious person.

Having a tourniquet applied is not very comfortable...

It was quite the comedy performance watching my classmates drag and carry one another across the room! I had to stop myself from laughing and try to remember we were working on serious business.

Care must be taken when transporting an injured person, so instructors demonstrated several technical methods for doing so. Peace officers must cautiously balance the need to rapidly remove someone from a dangerous situation but also move deliberately to avoid further injuring the victim.

Box Drills

The term “box drill” can strike fear in the hearts of some new recruits and seasoned peace officers alike. These high-stress exercises help confirm a deputy or officer is ready to quickly assess and respond to unknown and potentially dangerous circumstances.

The student is led into a large room with a box on their head (strange, I know). Once positioned, the box is removed and the student must respond to whatever person or situation he or she observes.
In one drill, the candidate was placed face down on the floor with the box still on their head. When the box was removed, an instructor role player began to immediately attack the student from behind.

Instructors were watching to see if the candidate incorporated techniques and principles we learned throughout our defensive tactics classes. This included fighting to a standing position, increasing distance from a dangerous suspect, choosing a proper tool, and using effective tactics to bring the subject to the ground and place him under arrest.

Each student went through three different box drill exercises. All of the students also rotated through two other types of stations.

One of these stations was a conflict simulation (con sim) scenario in which the reserve recruit was dispatched to a call of an individual sleeping in front of a local business.

The recruit and his role player partner arrived at the scene and spoke to the business owner, who said the sleeping man was repelling customers and he needed to leave or be arrested for trespassing.

The student and his partner found the subject sleeping under a blanket, with his hands concealed. Attempts to get the man to move to a different location failed. The student then needed to recognize his authority to arrest, develop and communicate a plan to his partner, and safely take the individual into custody.
The final station for the day was a room in which a MILO use of force simulator was assembled. A large screen stood at the front of the room and displayed video scenarios with which the student would interact. Candidates traded their training pistol for another firearm which would act together with the simulation system rather than firing real cartridges.

As situations played out on screen, the student would speak, give commands, and use the MILO pistol, if deadly force was necessary and justified. Afterward, a debrief with an instructor included seeing where any fired shots landed on the screen and a discussion of the student’s actions.
Con Sim 2

Four new con sim scenarios awaited my classmates in our final class of the week. I joined the instructors in the mat room and donned an eye-catching blue police vest so my classmates wouldn’t confuse me as a role player.

One by one, students would enter the room and respond to the situation playing out in front of them. As in our last con sim class, each individual wore all their duty gear, a ballistic vest, and a protective helmet. They carried training pistols with Simunition paint rounds, foam batons, and training cartridges in their Tasers.
In the first scenario, a candidate and his role player partner approached a man drinking alcohol and urinating in public. These acts violate two City of Beaverton ordinances and can result in arrest.

The man appeared to be intoxicated and was non-compliant to requests and commands. The reserve candidate needed to communicate clearly with his partner in order to smoothly and safely take the man into custody for his crimes.

Another scenario took place in a restaurant. The scene was created using foam furniture, such as a counter with computer screen, seating, and tables. I was briefly excited at being asked to participate as a cashier role player, before I was replaced with an uninjured instructor.

My classmates went through this exercise individually. The participating student was told he was coming into the restaurant to pick up some food while his partner waited outside in the patrol car.
"Welcome to TD Deli! What would you like for lunch today?"

The cashier inside was very talkative and purposefully distracted the student from focusing on two men who sat talking inside the restaurant. Their conversation eventually escalated into a disagreement, and then into a loud argument.

Quite suddenly, one of the men drew a pistol. He made threatening statements to the other, saying, “I am going to kill you.” The attacker would then rapidly fire shots at the other man, if not stopped by the candidate.

This was a rapidly evolving situation that required quick, decisive action by the student. Based on the suspect’s comments, behavior, and possession of a firearm, the use of lethal force was justified in order to save the life of the victim.

Once the student gained control of the suspect, he had to assess the situation and determine what needed to happen next. This might include calling his partner in from the car, checking on or removing a wounded victim from the scene, calling for medical backup, calming the cashier or checking himself for injuries.

Saturday marked an important milestone for our group as my classmates successfully passed the last of their defensive tactics/con sim exams. It seemed as though everyone found the day to be challenging and very rewarding.


One of our classmates resigned from the academy last week. He determined the path to becoming a reserve deputy was not the best choice for him. All of us, recruits and instructors alike, admire his ability to be honest with himself and his strength in making a difficult decision. He is moving on to many other great adventures!

I finally got in to see a specialist for my knee and, fortunately, my injury looks less serious than initially believed. I will start physical therapy shortly, with a goal of resuming full duty by the beginning of July!

We are now twelve students heading into our last classes, final exam, and graduation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Road to Reserves - Finish the Fight, Hallway Drills, & Building Searches

Thank you to everyone who submitted an application for the 2016 Washington County Reserve Academy!  I am very excited for all of you as you begin the testing process and move closer to your goals. 

Perhaps one of you will be sharing your story here next year!

Finish the Fight

Law enforcement professionals receive hundreds of hours of training on topics such as defensive tactics, firearms, and radio usage. We still see, however, a number of real-life deadly threat events in which peace officers react in ways that further compromise their safety.

We previously learned about the physical symptoms these high-stress situations may create, such as tunnel vision, significantly elevated heart rate, and auditory exclusion.

These physiological effects can affect decision making ability, sometimes causing irrational behavior. The peace officer may turn to their radio for security in the middle of a life or death fight or freeze behind cover, allowing the suspect to follow and assault them.

Though extremely difficult to watch, some of these instances were caught on patrol dashboard cameras. The sad and shocking murders of law enforcement personnel can help us learn how best to protect ourselves from suspects intent on taking our life.

We can begin to counteract or override poor decisions made under the stress of a deadly threat through stress inoculation and by training out of our bad habits.

Our own intuition is arguably one of the best tools with which we are equipped. If we pay more attention to the nearly imperceptible signals which cause the hair on the back our neck to rise, we may head off attacks before they occur. We need to trust our instincts and follow our training.

Research shows that between 2003 and 2012, 493 law enforcement officers were killed with a firearm. 65% of these attacks occurred with fewer than 10 feet between the officer and the suspect. This statistic tells us that maintaining distance is an advantage, a principle we heard reiterated in defensive tactics training.

If we are actively being attacked, it is important to realize the entire encounter will probably be over by the time help arrives. Spending valuable seconds on the radio calling for backup instead of focusing on the suspect is generally unwise.

We commonly see a defensive retreat in the video footage of peace officers who were killed by a violent suspect. If attacked by an individual in close proximity who is attempting to harm us, we must immediately engage and take back the offensive edge. If retreat from the suspect is a viable option, we can continue to protect ourselves as we move quickly to cover.

Some law enforcement professionals convince themselves they’ll never wind up in a life or death situation. Toward the end of our evening, a lasting comment was made to dispel that belief.

“This is a dangerous job. It can happen to you.”

We are lucky to have been selected for duty with agencies that provide such an excellent and comprehensive array of training and education. We will continue to take this training seriously and eagerly take the necessary steps to protect our own lives and those of our community members.

Hallway Drills

Thursday evening was the first physically active class in which I was unable to participate. Instead, I got to spend time with the instructors, observing my classmates going through exercises and listening when they received feedback.

The other students broke into three groups of four. One at a time, the groups would enter a large room to complete a drill. In the center of the room, movable walls had been arranged to form four hallways that met in an open center area. One student stood in the entry to each of the four hallways, facing away from one another.

Here’s a diagram of the arrangement. The reserve candidates are shown in blue and the threat role player in orange.

We worked through four different drills. In the first two, each student was told to pay attention only to whatever presented in their own hallway. If they heard noise or commotion in another hallway, they were told to ignore it.

One at a time, each student was faced with the same suspect. An angry man immediately behaved threateningly with a bat-like object in his hands, but then dropped the item on command and continued to advance on the officer with empty hands.
In the second exercise, the man initially had empty hands while yelling and threatening violence, but then pulled a large knife from his pocket.

Each of these situations required the student to either escalate or de-escalate his use of force and choice of defensive tool quickly, based on the behavior and weapons he observed.

In the second drill, for example, we might be justified in using a baton to control a large, angry man who is not armed with any weapon, but who is threatening to attack us. Once the same man pulls a knife, we may be justified in drawing our firearm, based on his proximity to us and the threatening statements he is making.

For the last two exercises, a threat would appear in one location and all four students were to respond to that hallway.

A suicidal individual appeared in the third scenario. Facing away from the students, he held a gun to his head for several seconds and eventually complied with commands to drop it. He turned and slowly began advancing toward the candidates, who quickly needed to communicate with one another and determine a plan to safely take the individual into custody for his own protection.

The final exercise involved a suspect about whom my classmates were given background information. The man had a warrant for assault in the second degree, in which a weapon was involved. The warrant yields a “shall arrest” situation.

The role player slowly moved out from a small room off one of the hallways. He held a wooden chair in front of his body and shouted things like “I’m not going back to jail” while crouching near the ground. My classmates needed to assess how to safely take this suspect into custody, while protecting themselves from the possible weapon he held.

Watching these scenes gave me some great reminders, such as to move behind cover when available, communicate frequently with my fellow officers and deputies, and not to let a potentially dangerous subject get too close.

Building Searches

An empty floor of an office building provided the perfect environment for us to practice building searches with the guidance of some members of the Washington County Tactical Negotiations Team.

A building may need to be searched for a number of reasons. A protective sweep might be appropriate if law enforcement believes there is someone armed and dangerous hiding in a home. Officers may need to search for a suspect for whom an arrest warrant has been issued if there is probable cause to believe the individual is inside a location. Or, a security alarm might sound on a home or business and, if authorized, peace officers will check the premises.
First we worked on a room clearing technique referred to as “slice the pie.” Standing outside a room, the peace officer very slowly moves in an arc around the doorway. He visually checks incremental “slices” of the room to make sure it is empty.

Oftentimes, a large portion of the room can be visually checked from the outside, but then peace officers must enter the room to declare it completely clear. There are several different safe methods for entering a room; one of them even has the charming name “button hook”!

The best way to enter a room will depend on whether it is center fed (the door is in the middle of the room) or corner fed (the door is at a corner). Once inside the room, we must be careful in deciding where to stand in order to defend ourselves from any threat and also protect against crossfire with our partner.

Officers and deputies will generally announce themselves upon entering a building and ask any occupants to identify themselves. Once the search commences, however, remaining very quiet is often an advantage. For this reason, alternate means of communication are preferred, such as gestures or a guiding hand on a shoulder.
Later, we covered how to safely contact, assess, and potentially take into custody any individuals we encounter during the search.

Our final task for the day was to learn how to search a building and clear rooms using a ballistic shield. Oftentimes, a smaller person is tasked with leading a team and carrying the heavy shield in front. I should probably use this time with an injured knee to focus on building upper body strength!


It was tough to watch my team participating in training together while I merely observed. Becoming injured and being required to sit on the sidelines has made me realize how important it has become to complete the academy and become certified as a reserve deputy. I’m thankful for my classmates and instructors, who still make me feel like part of the group and remain encouraging.

There is value in my ability to watch everyone else go through exercises. I can discern the errors I may have made, pick up good tactics my classmates employ, and listen to a variety of coaches comment on everyone’s performance.

Lastly, congratulations to a fellow Washington County reserve candidate, who was given a conditional job offer to become a regular patrol deputy. Our classmate has decided to continue on in the reserve academy with us and will start his new job in June!