An eye-opening weekend…
I was going to begin this post by saying “All I say about this weekend is: WOW!!!”
Of course, you know me better than that, so be prepared for a longer diatribe on my experiences. But, I do have a few pictures and a VERY interesting story for those brave enough to continue reading on.
Saturday was another installment of the Washington County Sheriff’s Citizen’s Academy classes. This time around, it was a 9 hour day devoted to “Use of Force”. Following was our schedule for the day:
08:00 Use of Force seminar
10:05 Survival Skills seminar
13:00 Hands on Training
16:00 Class dismissed
Remember that the above is all we had to predict what was coming…
The two morning seminars were geared towards explaining the training provided to Sheriffs deputies in the judicial use of force. This included some case law and particular real-life shooting scenario discussions which have lead to the Supreme courts ruling on how law enforcement is able to apply use of force and what actions will dictate their ability and level of force used.
Some very interesting and enlightening discussions over the course of the first 4 hours here. I was especially happy to see how some of the case law was written by the courts to account for situational encounters which may appear one way but end another. The courts were understanding with regards to the high stress levels within certain situations and wrote the case law in such a way to take into account how any “reasonable” law enforcement officer would react in a given situation.
Of course these bits of case law are specifically applied to law enforcement only, as the regular citizenry are bound to differing standards, which are typically less restrictive than what LEOs (law enforcement officers) are bound to.
So, with these seminars behind us, and a tad of lunch in our stomachs, we made our way upstairs to the hands-on training rooms(s). And this is where the morning’s discussions came into play and application. Good thing I was listening 🙂
In the main training room, which had padded walls and a padded floor, we were show the various training tools/props the deputies and recruits use to enhance their ability to create high stress environments.
They presented all the “tools”, such as red/blue guns (which are replicas matching size and weight of real firearms, just in blue or red polymers), cans of aerosol OC pepper spray which shoot a minty smelling gas, some foam batons and hit pads, as well as two Airsoft and Simunitions guns.
I do need to explain Simunitions here briefly. Simmunitions are marking cartridges which combined with a simple weapon conversion kit and protective equipment, allow realistic, close-range, live-fire training scenarios that are totally safe when conducted under the Simunition Guidelines.
Think of it as paint-ball that hurts more and uses projectiles fired from real guns using black-powder cartridges, but which don’t cause lethal injury, let alone break skin when used with proper protective equipment. Fun stuff! This is about as close to person-on-person firearms combat as you can get without using real guns in real fights and causing REAL damage.
Ok, back to the hands on training. At this point the class was divided into two groups: 1. would stay behind for the role-play scenarios, while the second group would move on to the Range 3000 room.
Just prior to the class being divided up, one of the facilitating deputies pointed to me and a girl next to me, and then motioned for us to walk with him. Hmm, I wasn’t sure I liked where this was going…
We followed him to a different room, which turned out to be the “toy and gear” room. In here he outfitted the two of us in coveralls, chest protectors, full-face helmets, and duty belts. Apparently we were going to be the “Good Guystm“.
Once back in the training room, we began the role-playing scenarios. First up was the girl selected with me. She is younger, probably in her early twenties, and fairly quiet. She was instructed to act as a Deputy and perform a check on a person walking through a park.
During this initial scenario, she did very well with her verbal commands up to the point where the person quickly drew from concealment and fired two shots hitting her in the chest. Not a good end to that encounter.
The next scenario was also with the girl, this time stopping the same person but with the knowledge that he has a history of assault on law enforcement. This went a bit better, as when he began to draw, so did she. In fact, she was able to get a shot off and hit the suspect once while at the same time also getting shot by the suspect. Again, not a stellar end, but she did quite well for her first time. Add to this the fact that she had NEVER held a gun before, she did an amazing job!
Next was my turn to role-play. Like the girl before me, I was a deputy performing a stop on a suspicious person walking through a park with prior knowledge of the suspect’s history of assault. My instructions were to simply stop the suspect, get id, and then go on my way once ensuring all was ok. I was also instructed to draw and potentially fire if at any time I felt threatened or otherwise found it appropriate to do so.
I was able to initiate the stop, and begin questioning the subject with a decent level of assertiveness. (For anyone who knows me, being assertive and especially ACTING are not my two strong points.) During this scenario, the suspect was belligerent, flailing his arms, and bordering on combative. As my verbal commands escalated, the suspect quickly reached into his jacket down to his left side waistband and subsequently drew out and pushed his hand towards my directing holding a black object. I drew immediately, and was halfway down on the trigger of the Simmunitions gun I was wearing in my duty holster before I realized he had just thrust a black flip-style cell phone in my direction. Realizing this I immediately dropped the muzzle off-line and continued my verbal commands while the suspect continued to yell at me. A few seconds later the facilitating deputy called off the role play to discuss what happened.
Under the case law, I would have been justified in firing upon the suspect, even though he did not have a weapon. Amazingly, I had the ability to discern in the middle of the stress that it was indeed a cell phone and not a gun, then let off the trigger fast enough to avoid a shooting. Later I was even praised by another deputy for doing a great job and also noting that “almost EVERYONE else shoots”.
For the next hour plus, I was coming down off of that adrenaline high, just from a role-play simulation. Wild stuff. Even two days after I am still replaying that 2 minute scenario over and over in attempts to deconstruct and figure out how/why I reacted as I did, and if I would react in the same way if put in the same scenario again. This was a big revelation for me, as I now understand, if only in a small way, what some of the emotions are that run through a deputies mind during and after a potential lethal force encounter. I see this as a bit of a personal test for myself as I had always wondered how I would react in similar situations. I consider this a pass for me. In fact this particular scenario was the highlight of the day for me, hands down, because of what I learned about myself.
After the role-play simulation, we moved on to the Range 3000 course as we traded places with the second group who would now run through the simulation. The Range 3000 is essential a big real-time video based game projected onto a 10′ x 12′ screen. It runs through branching scenarios to help deputies with their judgment skills for shoot/no-shoot situations. An amusing situation developed from the FIRST person who was volunteered and selected by the range master: As she began the scenario, the range master described what to do, the scenario began and she just stood there for a moment, finally throwing out some verbal commands, and the shooting the suspect. Immediately after the scenario was done, we all find out that the actress in the filmed scenario was the volunteer’s best friend! What are the odds?!?!?! We all had a good laugh, especially when the shoot was a perfect hit and fully justified. You could see that the initial volunteer was honestly a bit shaken to see her friend, but it all turned out well.
After the Range 3000 drills, we adjourned back to the padded training room for a bit more instruction in what they call “The Box”. In this drill, a recruit or deputy is taken outside, a box is placed over their head, and then they are walked back into the room and situated for particular scenarios. The box is then removed, and the deputy/recruit must react -appropriately- to the situation. This could range from being attacked and fighting out of it, to suddenly having a person next to you asking for directions. For our class volunteers each scenario resulted in a few laughs and a better understanding of human reaction.
At this point the day had gone long. We were at 4pm already, so the deputies offered us this: for those that desired, a few deputies would stay for an hour more to demo the taser. Out of the 30 participants, I’d say a good 20 stayed for the next hour. Myself being one of them.
Once back down in the seminar training room, one of the deputies began by explaining how the taser works on the body, and dispelling some of the myths to help us better understand the non-lethal nature of this compliance device since it IS so highly misunderstood by the general public. While it does put 50,000 volts through your body, voltage is not what does damage. The damage is done by the amperage/joules. In this case the taser only puts out 7 joules, which is less than what a 9volt battery produces.
After some substantial questions and answers, the deputy called for any volunteers. I glanced around the room and saw NO ONE raise their hands. So I did. I was curious to know who it really affects the body, and I wouldn’t fully understand it until I actually felt it. Some things you just have to try…
Now, I do need to explain that I have a very low pain tolerance, despite the fact that I have a number of large tattoos; so I was a bit trepidatious about the whole experience. When I got to the front of the class, I was asked if I wanted to have the probes taped to me, or if I wanted to be shot. Being the first up, I figured that I should go full bore and get shot, not only so the class could see what that was like, but also so I could experience the whole ride. (As an aside, the deputies call this “Riding the Buffalo” or “riding the white lightnin'”.)
As two other volunteers walked to the front to hold me by each arm so I wouldn’t fall and hurt myself, I removed my nice shirt, so it wouldn’t get any holes in it.
Standing there in my undershirt and khakis, with a person on each arm, my stress level started to rise again…. I hear the deputy calling out his actions (for safety) behind me:
At this point, I had absolutely no control over my body. I reverted to what they described as “taser tourettes” and heard myself yell: Oh! Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu…..”
Only, it came out as “Oh FuuuUUuuuUUUuuUUUuuuUUuuuUUUUuuuuuUUUUuuuUUUuuuUUuu” in synchronicity with the frequency of the voltage running through me. My muscles seized at the -precise- moment the probes struck me, causing the exclamation, but subsequently not allowing me to either stop yelling, nor yell something else or lower my volume. I literally had no control, yet I was perfectly lucid and conscious of everything that was occurring; I just couldn’t do anything about it. As my mind continued to process what was occurring, I remember thinking, ok it’ll be done now…. ok maybe now… ok now… my god how long is this going to go?!?!?! All the time my muscles are completely contracted and I am halfway collapsed, but held up by the two volunteers and well as the rigidity of my entire body. All in all, I was tased for only 5 seconds.
Then, as quickly as it started, it was over any my body released allowing me to collapse to my knees. I was then instructed to lay on my stomach so the deputies could remove the barbed probes from my back. Oddly, this didn’t hurt at all since the probes self-cauterize as the entered. I took a second to regain my composure, and then stood up, put my shirt back on, and describe to the class what I just felt.
The probes only left two small bee-sting sized marks in my back, but the lasting issue I have felt is some very sore back muscles. I should note that another 10 volunteers also got tased, though they only had the leads taped to their bodies, and none of them have the soreness I feel. The soreness in my back is only due to my particular physiology and a direct result of the muscles contracting for a sustained 5 second duration, which they just aren’t used to. Everyone else got one second, though one other individual got a more sustained 2.5-3 second tase.
Wow, what an experience! I now know exactly what this compliance device can do to a relatively healthy human body from direct experience. Looking back on it I still giggle at it. The deputies did record it on video, and I am trying to obtain a copy of it to show to all of you, who will get a BIG kick out of watching me get shot with a taser and dropping like a fly. Rest assure you will have it when I get my hands on it.
The rest of the day was spent riding home, relaxing at a neighbor’s BBQ, and then relaxing on the couch with some naproxen in my system to deal with the muscle soreness. Sunday was sitting on the couch and relaxing from the adrenaline highs of the day before….