Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Civilian Police Academy - Less Lethal Force updated 5/18

(Update in red below)

Great fun last night. Our instructor was part of the training division, and his enthusiasm for his work abounded. He's also ex-army Special Forces sniper and served on SWAT for years with the Sheriff's Office, so he knows what he's talking about.

First, we got an overview of Less Lethal Force. Note, it's not "Less THAN Lethal" because under the right (or wrong) circumstances, any of the options can be deadly. He reviewed the kinds of projectiles used for riot control or subduing suspects--lots of tubes with little things inside.

His personal preference is the way they used to do things in the 'old days' -- a simple 2 step process. Step one: verbal warning. Step two: deadly force. "Do what I say or I shoot." But that doesn't go over so well now. Lawsuits and all that. However, if an officer goes in with a 'less lethal' force, there is always a cover officer who's got the lethal option.

There was also an interesting discussion on the Taser, or ECW (the deputies use the 'generic' term to avoid any problems in court where the defense could discount testimony if they mention a specific brand name but no longer use that particular version -- so he'll say "my gun" rather than "my Glock", etc.

The ECW has its upsides and downsides. According to the instructor, having the ECW in use has significantly reduced the number of injuries to police officers. The most fascinating tidbit is that the devices have memories -- they hook them up to a computer and it will tell exactly how many times the weapon was discharged, and for how long. The officer is protected against someone saying they were repeatedly stunned on the drive to the police station, etc. Also, inside the cartridge, there's "confetti" that scatters, and each piece has the ID of the cartridge. So it's possible to reconstruct who shot who and where. And any time the device is discharged, the officer has to justify its use.

We got a quick overview of the kinds of resistance and what kind of force can be used.

Then we got to play in the simulator room. The instructor set up videos with all sorts of possible situations, from parking lot car break-ins to serving warrants to armed robbery. In the training room, a volunteer with a gun loaded with special projectiles (filled with compressed air) and a laser (not a sight -- they don't use those because they don't want deputies to rely on the laser sight; the lasers on these training weapons are hooked to the computer). Anyway, the 'real' way the room is used is to get deputies used to watching for possible outcomes -- a lot of the videos had people showing up unexpectedly with weapons, but also things that looked like possible threats but weren't. The officers have to learn how to see everything at once, and where to stand, how to be on target (and the trainer in the other room has control over a mounted gun that shoots nylon pellets, so if a deputy isn't utilizing the cover available in the room, he gets shot at!). Then, the computer can replay the scenario, and show where each shot hit, where the gun was actually aimed, etc. I don't know who had more fun --the people in the room or the instructor picking out the videos and shooting at us. For more information, check this site.

"Small world" moment. At the RWA conference in Atlanta last year, I participated in a similar demonstration. Last night, when it was my husband's turn, the scenario he got was exactly the same as the one they used with me last summer. Total coincidence, because last night, the instructor didn't use the same video twice.

Next week -- graduation, so this is it.

I'm happy to answer any questions (memory and notes willing), about the course. I'm waiting for the call for my ridealong.

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