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I highly encourage everyone to attend the OCPD Citizen Police Academy. You will learn things about the operations of the police deparment that will truly amaze you. The only cost is your time, yet the information is invaluable. Sessions are held in the fall and spring, and you can apply at any time. Here’s information on the CPA, and you can download the application here.
Session 1, Introduction and Overview
August 19, 2014
I have wanted to attend a Citizen Police Academy for many years. I've thought about attending Shawnee PD's CPA, and have checked into attending Norman's. But the 12-week commitment was always difficult so I never took the plunge. That is until I got the Citizen Alert from the OCPD announcing its upcoming CPA that would start on August 19th.
Law enforcement officers (LEOs) are people just like us with families they want to go home to, and they have a very difficult and dangerous job for which they do not get paid nearly enough! I work through what I teach in classes, and in having LEOs speak for classes and contribute to the newsletter, to build good relationships between police departments and their citizenry. Attending the OCPD CPA will give me an even better understanding of how they operate so I can help you − the OPD student and newsletter reader − better understand what those who are sworn to protect & serve you actually do. I asked permission to write about my experiences and post them in the OPD newsletter and it was given.
So I'm going to be writing an article each week about my experiences at the CPA, and then posting them each month in the newsletter. I will try to combine some of the sessions so as not to drag it out for an entire year (I don't want to keep you all in suspense!) but it'll be a several month ongoing series of articles about the Oklahoma City PD Citizen Police Academy. I hope you'll find it interesting − I'm already excited about all the things that are on schedule for the next 11 weeks!
The first session was an introduction and overview of the Oklahoma City Police Department. Our main speaker was Chief Bill Citty who has been chief for 11 years. Chief Citty commented that he's the longest serving chief and that most chiefs only serve three years. He was asked why such a short term and he said because of the terrible stress in dealing with the media, arbitration, and personnel issues. He said, "In my job forgiveness is huge because if I got angry at what people did or said I'd be angry all the time." I had only known of Chief Citty through the news, and after hearing him speak I could tell he is truly dedicated to providing the best police department for the citizens of Oklahoma City.
The OKC Police Department has over a thousand sworn police officers, which seemed like a small number when Chief Citty told us Oklahoma City covers 621 square miles. The service area is currently divided into four divisions − Hefner, Springlake, Southwest, and Santa Fe. You can see the areas on their website here − they currently have Will Rogers still listed but this has been brought into the Southwest division. The Operations Bureau, consisting of the four divisions, has around 700 officers on patrol. The Chief told us that it takes 14 months to take a new officer through the entire process from the academy to field training to patrol. This is why, even when they have the budget to hire more officers, it's not instantaneous to put an officer on the streets.
Chief Citty told us that OCPD is equipped to do everything − forensics, DNA, investigative, processing crime scenes, etc. OCPD and Tulsa PD are the only two departments in the state that can do everything in-house (other departments rely on OSBI for many of these services). OCPD is the largest police department in the state, and has earned the prestigious CALEA award for the past five years. CALEA is an outside agency that certifies police departments as having the best practices in place. You can read about it here. This credential alone should tell you something about the Oklahoma City Police Department!
The Chief said that there are almost a million calls per year to 911, of which 400,000 are for the police. He also confirmed something I constantly tell my students, and those of you who attended the August 9th U.S. Law Shield heard reiterated, and that is a "break in" or "burglary" call is low priority as it's a property crime. I tell my students if someone kicks in their door to call 911 and use the words, "Home invasion in progress!" which bumps it up to a high priority (priority 1) response.
He talked to us about their Crime Scene Investigators and said there are 16 sworn officers. Did you know that we have one of the best forensics training programs right here in Oklahoma City at the University of Central Oklahoma? Since UCO has such a great forensics program, OCPD is beginning to incorporate civilians as CSIs (called CIS, Civilian Investigation Specialists) and they now have eight. He said they make very good CSIs because they can focus on the investigation process whereas sworn officers are more focused on catching the bad guy. This really makes sense to me, and reminds me of nurse practitioners whom I have found to be typically more thorough than doctors because they can take the time to really focus on the patient.
Chief Citty also said something that I teach my students and that is open carry makes you a great big target for a bad guy to steal your gun or take you out first if he's going to commit a crime. He said he believes everyone has a right to own firearms, and he is not opposed to conceal carry, but there's a common misconception that open carry prevents crime and that's simply not true. I wholeheartedly agree. I tell students in the Girls Day Out class that if a guy walks into a restaurant to shoot his estranged wife and sees you sitting there eating with a gun in plain view he's going to shoot you first. However, if he walks into a restaurant and sees 30 people sitting there eating, all wearing guns, he's probably going to leave. So unless you travel in a big herd of openly armed persons, it's not going to deter any bad guy and it puts you at risk!
My Citizen Police Academy is #37 − they hold two per year (fall and spring) and have been conducting them for the last 15 years. I counted 20 in my class, eight men and twelve women. Attendees range in age from early 20s to mid 60s, and are a diversified group. There's a police chaplain and his son, a 911 dispatch manager, a woman whose son is an officer, a married couple who formed a neighborhood watch, a man who attended a previous CPA and is attending #37 to support his wife, a few college students, some retirees, OCPD civilian support staff, and an instructor from OPD (yours truly!).
In closing, OCPD's Lt. Pollman went over the next 11 weeks of the CPA...we'll learn about crime scene investigation, we get to try their firearms simulator (goodie!), we'll take a trip to the OCPD gun range (double goodie), we get to do a ride-along with a police officer, our names will be put in a hat and the one drawn gets to do a ride-along in the police helicopter (oh, let it be me!!!!), we get to see tactical maneuvers and things get blown up (triple goodie)...and at the end we'll have a graduation ceremony. You can see now why I'm so excited about it.
All of a sudden, 12 weeks seems too short!
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Session 2, Administration Bureau and Gangs
August 26, 2014
Session two of the OCPD Citizen Police Academy started out with Deputy Chief Ken McDonald talking to the class about how the OKC Police Department functions. There are four deputy chiefs who manage the different bureaus within the PD. They have the budget for 1149 sworn officers with a vacancy of 135 sworn officers. Current sworn officers work overtime to make up for the vacancies, and as those positions are filled the need for overtime subsides. OCPD also has 280 non-sworn staff and 75 part timers. All of these people make the PD function for the 621 square mile area that is Oklahoma City. The population of OKC is around 600,000, but it jumps up to 1,250,000 during the day when people from the surrounding areas go to their jobs. It takes a lot of work to successfully operate a police department for that many citizens!
Some of the areas the Administration Bureau manages include Training, 911 Communications, Fleet, Inmate Processing, Planning and Research, Staff Inspections, IT, and Records.
The Training Division's primary mission is to put recruits through the Academy. Their target is 55 recruits because they typically lose 20-25% of the recruits before they reach completion of the training. DC McDonald explained the recruits go through 1100 hours of instruction (26-27 weeks) to become a sworn officer with the OCPD. This is almost double the 600 hours CLEET (Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training) mandates for law enforcement officers. To put it into perspective, I am a CLEET Certified SDA (Self-Defense Act) Instructor, which required only 16 hours of instruction.
The FTO (Field Training Officer) Program is a four-month program that follows the Academy. DC McDonald told us this gives new officers hands-on learning experience out on patrol before they hit the streets as a sworn officer. Every sworn officer must attend 25 hours of in-service training per year. This includes mental health, firearms (officers qualify twice per year), LEDT (Law Enforcement Driver’s Training), and Chief directed items such as training on domestic abuse crimes or a new protocol for reporting traffic accidents. Also, every quarter 91 sworn officers are randomly tested − half for drugs and half for alcohol.
We learned that 93% of 911 calls are answered within 10 seconds, that 78% of calls are from cell phones, and that 911 dispatch sets off the tornado sirens for both tests and alerts. We also found out that the Records Unit processes 45,000 priority reports (attacks, murders), 130,000 non-priority (burglaries, property crime), and 14,000 car wrecks per year.
The Deputy Chief told us there are 125,000 persons booked into the jail per year, and that 97% of them are identified at booking − he explained that 3% of the bad guys lie (imagine that!) about who they are and they have to ID them. Something I found really interesting is OCPD has a place called the Public Inebriate Alternative where persons who are picked up for drunkenness but aren't committing a crime (nor have a criminal record) are taken for a 10-hour period to basically "sleep it off." You can read about it here.
There are over 960 vehicles in the OCPD fleet. These include 590 marked police cars, 199 unmarked, 18 motorcycles, 52 trucks, 25 vans, 2 helicopters, 1 Bearcat, 8 boats, and 1 Command Post. The Command Post is jointly shared between OCPD and OKC Fire Department. He told us this is very unusual in a large metropolitan area, but that it makes handling a disaster such as a tornado much easier. He also told us that all new police cruisers are fitted with Kevlar driver's side door panels − a normal car door will not stop a bullet, but these are ballistic panels that officers can actually use for cover when fired upon. Some of you heard Officer Katie Lawson talk at a Girls Day Out class, she survived being shot multiple times with an AR during an ambush...bullet resistant door panels were inspired by that incident.
One more interesting thing he covered is body worn cameras. He explained that they're not overly expensive to purchase, but that storage is a tremendous issue and cost. Considering over 1100 officers recording events, some of which must be kept indefinitely as evidence, that's huge!
Our second speaker was MSgt. Tim Hock from the Gang Enforcement Division who told us they're often referred to as the "Drive by Detectives." He said, "Gang members are the most highly active criminals in Oklahoma and other states," and that "they're the biggest problem we have."
He gave the criteria they use for determining an individual is a gang member, including: 1. they admit they're in a gang at point of contact with a LEO, 2. their clothing, paraphernalia, tattoos and hand signs, 3. they've been arrested multiple times for drugs, guns and other gang activity ("gang activity" is anything they can make a buck at that's illegal), and 4. they're identified by a LEO.
The statistics are sobering, there are 121 confirmed gangs in Oklahoma and 283 non-confirmed. Of that there are 5939 confirmed individual gang members and 1638 that are suspected.
I'm sure it is alarming to most normal people that gang members start their training at 8-10 years old, but this was no surprise to me because a number of years ago I did some volunteer work at a Shawnee youth jail called Carter Hall. One of the things I did was take my praise band in to bring church services to the inmates. I had a really difficult time convincing my band members that these were not children but rather hardened criminals. You see, Carter Hall was where anyone under the age of 18 went upon arrest for major crimes such as rape or murder. The average age was 14, but the youngest "child" I met at Carter Hall was seven years old. MSgt. Hock explained that the "baby gangstas" as they're called train by holding drugs and guns for older members, and they serve as lookouts for older members committing crimes.
The second level in gang hierarchy is the "gangsta" (G) who starts at approximately 13 years old. These are the soldiers who commit most of the crimes. He told us you'll see the same individuals in the same spots committing the same crimes. This is good reason for you, the law-abiding citizen, to learn what gang members look like and avoid areas where you notice them!
The racial profile of gangs in Oklahoma City includes 22 Asian, 4 Middle Eastern, 438 Caucasian, 3400 Black, 161 Native American, and 7 in the "other" category. Of these 5488 are males and 335 are females. Yes, there are females who are violent criminal gang members...I teach in Between the Threat and the Bang and Defensive Awareness classes that a violent criminal might be a female and might be a child. MSgt. Hock confirmed this to the class.
He told us something that I did find alarming, he was sued by the family of a gang member. He was part of an entry team that went into this gang member's house, the gang member pulled out a .357 magnum revolver and pointed it directly at MSgt. Hock and he shot and killed the man to save he and his fellow officer's lives. The family sued him for 16 million dollars. And this is precisely why I promote U.S. Law Shield legal protection for law-abiding citizens − if you've attended one of our Gun Law Seminars, or heard a USLS representative speak at an OPD class, or heard me speak on the topic, you've heard us say that even if you are justified in shooting an attacker you still might face a lawsuit that could ruin you financially.
MSgt. Hock showed us a surveillance video of a shooting at Crossroads Mall. A fight broke out in front of a store that sells gang merchandise (yes, there are t-shirt stores for gangs!), a 15-year-old kid pulled out a .25 caliber pistol and shot another kid in the chest who then ran off. Police officers on the second level heard the gunshot and ran toward the scene. From 30 yards away, upstairs and running from around a corner, an officer shot the shooter as he ran after the kid he shot − one .40 caliber bullet behind the ear dropped the 15-year-old on the spot. The kid shot in the chest with a .25 survived. This is a great lesson in stopping power, which is something I teach in my classes (it's why I carry a full size .40). It's also a great lesson in the importance of training. That was no lucky shot by the officer, rather a very skilled and justified shooting as a result of good training.
By the way, that officer had approximately 5 seconds to make the life or death decision to fire his weapon; most officers have 1.8 seconds to make that decision. As I said in my first article, LEOs (law enforcement officers) have a very difficult job for which they are not paid nearly enough − they deserve our respect and our prayers!
MSgt. Hock told us there are eight top gangs that make up 80% of OKC gangs, and he showed us how to spot each one. Here are a few of what he called "huge gang indicators." They all wear military style web belts with the tails hanging way down and all the belt buckles have a number or symbol of the gang like these. They all have some version of the theatrical "laugh now, cry later" or "smile now, cry later" tattooed on them somewhere. Here are several examples. When you see "EBK" or "ABK" graffiti in an area, you know it's a gang claim − "EBK" stands for "everybody killer" and "ABK stands for "anybody killer." They wear major league ball team shirts with the number 13 or 14 on it. They will have a number tattooed on each arm, such as a 2 on one arm and a 3 on the other for 23. These numbers connect them to their specific gang. For example, the second largest gang in OKC with 598 members, Grande Barrio Centrale (GBC), associates with the number 23 because they started in the area of Central Avenue and 23rd Street in Oklahoma City. A teardrop tattoo filled in indicates the person has murdered someone − more than one teardrop means more than one murder. I tell my students in Defensive Awareness class to profile potential threats, including watching for tattoos. This verified my instinct in that regard.
MSgt. Hock said gang members are cowards who are all about threat and intimidation. One guy by himself will cry like a little girl if he gets cornered, so they travel in groups and carry guns.
By the way, MSgt. Hock showed us a lot of photos, many of which displayed kids (teens and 20 somethings) holding guns in various poses. He answered my unvoiced question at the end and said that they constantly shoot themselves and each other playing with guns like this, and many are killed as a result. I could write another 20 pages on that topic alone, but anyone who's ever attended an OPD class or knows anything about us knows that we enforce safety in all ways at all times without exception − there's a reason for that folks!
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Session 3, Intelligence Led Policing – Real and Virtual World
September 2, 2014
I’m going to call our speaker for this session “Jack” to protect his identity. Jack is an investigator in the OCPD Criminal Intelligence Unit (CIU). He started out by telling us that he only teaches this class to sworn officers, and the only civilians he teaches it to are the Citizen Police Academy. I immediately felt it an honor to be there, and that was in the first five minutes of class. By the end of the first hour I wanted to hug his neck, but I settled for going up to him on the break and thanking him for his work. After all, I didn’t want to alarm him, a strange redheaded woman in a tie-dye grabbing him and hugging him!
Jack said it’s his job to, “detect criminal patterns and stop them before they have the ability to commit the crime.” He gave us an introduction to some of the things he and his men do, which I would simply refer to as covert – I would liken it to the predator becoming the prey, when the good guys turn the table on the bad guys. He and his men are so deeply undetectable that, as he put it, “If we do our jobs well enough, they (bad guys) never know they’re talking to the police.” He went on to tell us, “The best intelligence you can get is information they don’t know they gave you.”
Jack told us his specialty is child predators, and he unapologetically said that he hates them, wants to bury them, and loves putting them away. OPD students often hear me (sarcastically) talk in classes about the guy who had to attack you because he had a bad childhood…well, Jack doesn’t have any sympathy for scumbag predators either. Somewhere in this part of Jack’s talk I said, “Amen!” out loud.
The areas of focus for the CIU include criminal gangs, organized crime, radical violence, predators, and counter culture.
He explained that because OCPD has such a great gang unit, the CIU doesn’t need to spend much time on that area. But he told the class that OKC does have organized crime – specifically Asian and Hispanic car theft rings. And just like bad guys don’t go to Academy and buy a gun to use in their crimes (this is why gun control doesn’t work), these bad guys don’t write checks for their criminal transactions. Rather, they use bit coin, an online currency you can purchase online and trade for products and services.
Jack told the class that radical violence isn’t what first happened in Ferguson, Missouri, rather it was what came out of the woodwork. For example, the same people who showed up in OKC in masks to protest had been in Ferguson. They were looking for an opportunity to spread their radical agenda, not legitimately (peacefully) protest. He told us as long as someone is protesting in a peaceful manner, it’s no problem…the problem is when it becomes violent. He said that it took 16 years from the time Timothy McVeigh was first identified as a potential threat until he bombed the Murrah Building. Sometimes it takes much less time, and Jack and his men work to identify and track potential radical criminals and stop them before they can become a Timothy McVeigh.
The predator category includes human trafficking, child porn, and sex crimes against children. Jack told us that when a predator surfaces, if they don’t get them right away they can be gone forever. He told us about one of the things he and his men do, which is to go to the little kid’s ride section at the State Fair and watch the “dad line.” The “dad line” is that line of dads watching their kids on the rides. If you hang around awhile, and the same man is in the “dad line” without ever picking up a kid, he’s a predator. This reminded me of a time I was at Woodland Hills Mall in Tulsa with a friend, we were walking around the mall on the second level and we stopped to rest within view of the children’s playground area below. I immediately spotted a man standing off by himself watching the children. It was easy to spot the actual parents because they were near their children, most interacting with them, so this man stood way out to me. I pointed him out to my friend and said, “that man’s a predator.” I’m not a parent but what I do makes me hyper aware of predators – all parents should learn to spot predators…it’s not that hard, remember the NQR (not quite right) and look for who’s out of place.
Jack told the class that counter culture is generally non-criminal in nature, and he gave the example of the so-called church of satan in OKC that’s been in the news. He said the leader is a registered sex offender and he called the church members, “a bunch of greasy mom basement dwellers who can’t get a date.” (Jack, from a long line of Irish cops, has a great sense of humor!) What the CIU watches for are radicals who may try to come into a group like that…again, these are people who want to cross the line into violent behavior.
One of the tactics the CIU uses is reading and watching the news, and they pay special attention to the comment section below the articles online where all the idiots (my word but I bet Jack would agree) post their thoughts. They also monitor Facebook, which is no secret – it’s in the news quite often all around the country how bad guys often post their criminal activity on FB (like I said, idiots!). And yes, Twitter…idiot criminals send out their goings on on Twitter (let’s all say it together, I-D-I-O-T!). The CIU also uses confidential informants at times, and while it’s rare, they do some undercover work. Jack explained that it’s very difficult work because the officer has to be deeply embedded undercover, separated from their family as well as the assistance of other officers. It is, in a word, dangerous.
Jack went into more detail on radical violence with the following points…
|• It springs from traditional thought
• It is radicalized over time (remember Timothy McVeigh)
• It may appear innocuous
• It moves from thought to action to violence
• It is extremely dangerous and hard to predict
He also gave the class more details on predators, saying they fall into three categories: sadistic, sexual, and exploitative.
The modus operandi of the sadistic predator is pain, degradation and fear. They get satisfaction in the way the crime is committed. They’re the worst, extremely damaging but thankfully pretty rare. He told us there have only been about 600 documented serial killers in the history of the U.S. and most of them have been caught.
The sexual predator believes they’re engaged in a relationship with their victim. They’re attracted to the age when they were successful. For example, Jack told us about a 35-year-old man in OKC who was preying on a 15-year-old girl. He said the man appeared in his texts to be a 15-year-old boy.
The exploitative predator uses the same hunting methods as the other two, and basically plans to sell humans to one of the other two predators.
During class, Jack told us about a case where they’d been tracking a predator who thought he was texting the mother of an 8-year old child who planned to sell her child to him (yes, this actually happens). Jack said the sicko was happily texting all the things he planned to do to the little girl as he got off the plane at Will Rogers World Airport. Unbeknownst to the predator, both an FBI agent and an OCPD officer were on the plane with him. Sicko walks off the plane with the rest of the passengers (including the LEOs), and Jack sidles up to him and says, “Oklahoma City Police, you need to come with me.” The way he described it was like the parting of the Red Sea as passengers split around this guy, giving the LEOs room to surround him. About that time Jack said his foot slipped, which was because the big bad sicko had peed himself. I tell my students all the time that predators, like bullies, are cowards and when you stand up to them they back down…or run away…or wet themselves.
The CPA class goes from 6-9, but Jack had to leave at 8:00 because, he told us, he had a bad guy to meet. I pictured him at the airport, waiting on the next sicko to come off a plane, with his big (and very sincere – he loves what he does) Irish grin.
In closing Jack said, “Almost nothing my department ever does is ever known…if we do it right, nobody ever knows we were there.”
I felt deeply honored to have spent two hours with this humble man who truly does God’s work. If you’re a praying person, please join me in keeping Jack (God knows his real name) and his men in your prayers.
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Session 4, 911 Communications Center
September 9, 2014
Week four of the CPA took us on a field trip to the OCPD 911 Communications Center downtown. Director David Shupe started out the class by telling us about his background as a patrol officer, working his way all the way up to Deputy Chief. He said when he retired he took the job as Director of the 911 Communications Center, which he told us was the best job ever. (I might add that so far every one of our speakers has said their job is the “best job ever.”) He said, “What I learned when I got here was what a toxic environment this was.” He went on to tell us they had been having problems for 20-25 years. There were issues with the schedule, the high stress of the job, and a number of difficulties amongst the employees. Turnover was pretty high, which was a problem since it takes $54,000 and 10-12 months to train each new employee. Director Shupe told the class that his work as a patrol officer, and then Deputy Chief, helped him revamp the 911 Communications Center in a way that was truly positive for everyone. One of the changes they made was to start referring to the police officers and firemen they spoke with on calls as customers.
In 2005 they moved into their current location on Robert S. Kerr downtown Oklahoma City. The state of the art technology, improvements in the environment and scheduling, and most importantly the people, have made the OCPD 911 Communications Center second to none. Director Shupe told us they receive national recognition and departments from around the country come to OKC to see how to revamp their communications centers. The OCPD 911 Communications Center is a division within the Administration Bureau. They have 70 authorized dispatchers and call takers, all civilian.
The Center is referred to as a PSAP (sounds like peace app), which stands for Public Safety Answering Point. Housed under the same roof are the OCPD, EMSA, and Fire Department call centers. A 911 call in OKC could be routed to any of the three. As I mentioned in my first article about the CPA, 911 receives almost a million calls per year. Currently about 83% of those come from cell phones. This presents its own challenges. For example, when calls only came in on land lines they might receive three or four calls about a particular large incident such as a wildfire. In today’s world with cell phones, they might receive 400 calls on the same issue. This can make it difficult for them to make their goal of answering all calls within 10 seconds!
The Director told us they have a real problem with 911 hang-ups. You may know that deactivated cell phones can still call 911. Some of you may have even donated your old cell phones to battered women’s shelters or other such places. These phones can call 911, but if the call is disconnected the call center has no way of reconnecting or finding the location of the person using a deactivated phone. I wonder if those who receive the phones for emergencies know that. He also told us that a lot of parents give their children their old phones to play with and they inadvertently call 911. He said 10% of 911 hang-ups are from deactivated phones. A smaller percentage come from pocket dialed phones.
Director Shupe explained that the government requires PSAPs to maintain a 7-digit number so they still use the number they used prior to 911. If you lived in Oklahoma City before 1989 you may know that up until that time residents called 231-2121 in police emergencies and a different number for fire emergencies. In the early 90s the 911 system came into effect, but both agencies still maintain their 7-digit number per the government requirement.
Then he talked to the class about the history of emergency communications. In 1932 police communications were broadcast over an AM radio frequency. Officers could only receive calls on their radios. They were required to stop every 30 minutes and call in on a telephone line.
By 1973 multiple consoles were added and radio communication was exclusive to each console. He told us it was very much like the beginning of Adam-12 (one of my favorite TV shows from the 70s) where you saw the index cards running along the conveyor belt. He said there were times a particular console would go an hour with no calls before they’d realize the cards were stuck on the conveyor belt somewhere.
In 1980 Communications was located on the second floor of Fire Station 1 at 5th & Classen. It began to be computerized in the early 80s…and if you remember anything about the first computers, they took up entire rooms so I can just imagine how big that was.
In 1989 citizens had to call a 7-digit number for police and a different 7-digit number for fire. By 1993, the OCPD had taken over Communications and the 911 system came into being. In the mid 90s the civilian director position was eliminated and replaced by an OCPD captain. In 2005, 911 Communications moved to its current location.
He told the class that the government will require PSAPs to take text messages in the not too distant future. It’s part of the next generation of 911, and he thinks it’s a very positive thing because, for example, there are times when a text will go through and a call won’t. Other times a person might be hiding in their house from a bad guy and they can’t talk but they can text. He said photos will be a part of this as citizens could take a picture with their smartphone of a bad guy leaving the scene, send it to 911 who then sends it to the officer en route.
One of the CPA students asked him why the current location was chosen to house 911 Communications. He explained that it’s very central to Oklahoma City and that helps with their radio system (I did notice quite a few antennae on the roof).
In closing, Director Shupe told us that LEOs know how a call turns out because they’re there so they have closure, 911 call takers don’t. Sometimes they never know what happened, and it can be devastating when they’re on a call with a hysterical person in a life or death situation and once officers arrive, they disconnect and go on to the next call. He said they are very active in focusing on employee care, such as through the C.H.A.P.P.S. program. He said, “It’s a terribly difficult job and it takes a special person to do it.”
Our next speaker was Jamie Welch who is a training analyst at OCPD 911 Com Center. Jamie told us it takes three months to hire a new employee (due to the extensive background checks) and 10-12 months to train each one. She said they’re in the classroom for about four weeks and they bring in different departments to talk to them, much like the CPA. They also tour various locations in the OCPD to get an understanding of the officers and departments they’re working with. Then they do various training to learn the logistics of using the equipment and how to respond on the calls. One of the things they do are mock calls to give the new personnel a real life scenario drill on what they’ll be dealing with. She said the job requires a great deal of rote memory plus common sense – this is not a job you can simply go down a checklist!
They use what’s called a CAD, Computer Aided Dispatch. CAD is software used to initiate 911 calls, route & dispatch the calls, and maintain the status of responding resources in the field (read more about CAD here). How it works is a call comes into 911, a call taker (CT) answers the call and routes it to a dispatcher – the CT sends it to the dispatcher based on address (I’ll talk more about this below). Finally, the dispatcher sends the information to the LEO. I saw the receiving end of this on my ride-alongs as calls came up on the laptop in the patrol car. At the point the dispatcher receives the call is when details are collected to relay to the officer en route to the scene. The more information the officer has, the better (and safer) he or she can respond to any given situation. Jamie told us the first thing a 911 caller should give is their address/location – this starts the process I just described so that it’s routed to the right dispatcher. She said that most people start yelling as soon as the call taker answers, which delays the time response in getting an officer there because they have to calm them down and get an address. So if you ever have to call 911, be sure you give your address/location first!
|At this point one of the trainers, Dorothy, took us on a tour of the actual call floor. It was impressive to say the least. The first thing I noticed was how dark it was in there, which gave the initial feeling of relaxing…you know how you dim the lights and light a candle to relax at home? However, I knew this was actually because the dispatchers had big computer screens in front of them that they’d be looking at for their 10 hour shift and dim lighting was necessary. I liked it, but then I’m a night person so I like the dark.
(click photos for closeup)
I explained in my first CPA article that Oklahoma City is divided into four divisions – Hefner, Springlake, Southwest, and Santa Fe. Each division has it’s own dispatcher on the call floor. At the time we toured the Com Center I had only been on one ride-along in the Hefner Division so I perked up and listened as we walked by Hefner’s dispatch…I could picture it from the officer’s perspective after being on the receiving end inside the patrol car.
CAD keeps track of the officers, and pings their vehicle every five seconds. I watched on the screen as little rectangles moved, and Dorothy told us those were the patrol cars. She also showed us the various priority calls, which I had learned about on my ride-alongs. Priority 1 is the highest and is the emergency call that an officer responds to immediately – these are life & death situations, like the officer involved shooting on my first ride-along. A priority 6 call is the lowest and would be like the wreck that happened six days prior to the call Officer Callaway on my first ride-along responded to. Seeing all the moving rectangles on the screen reminded me of the board game Battleship – I was basically watching a computerized version of Battleship!
Dorothy explained that both EMSA and the Fire Department have their own call center areas on the floor. The OCPD 911 and EMSA call takers are all civilians whereas the Fire Department call takers are all firemen. This means they are there 24/7, so they have a sleeping room and showers and a kitchen – basically everything they have at the firehouse (except the big red trucks!). Each of the three have their own CAD which are not connected so they don’t see each other’s calls.
She took us to the training center adjacent to the call floor and it’s like a miniature call floor. There they can replicate everything so new employees can learn before taking actual calls. This is where they do the mock calls and put them through various scenario drills to prepare them for real life situations. The training center can also be used as an extra call center, such as in a tornado disaster.
She showed us how the radio tables move up and down to suit the comfort of the employee. Some were standing at their stations in the call center, others were sitting in really nice ergonomic chairs, and we noticed those large exercise balls up against the walls – she told us many of them like to lower their table enough they can sit on those balls. There are also individual small reading lights on the tables so they can read (not that they’d have time!).
We also learned that the large screens that we saw on the call floor are used during a large event such as a wildfire to display, for example, a News 9 live feed on one, a fire truck locator on another, and maps on the 3rd. In other words, they can display whatever is needed at the time on the large screens.
(click photos for closeup)
I toured the Com Center after my first ride-along so the computer screens I saw in dispatch made sense to me as I had seen the receiving end in the patrol car coming across the laptop. The other thing that made sense was listening to the police scanner, which I have done for the last several years through an app on my iPhone called 5-0 Radio Pro. Now when I listen to it, I can pick up the officers I did the ride-along with based on their call number, and I can tell the divisions based on the location and/or the letter they use (Delta is Santa Fe, Baker is Hefner, Charlie is Springlake, and Adam is Southwest). For example, Delta 75 is one of the officers I did a ride-along with. Now, after my ride-alongs and a tour of the Comm Center, I realize just how important it is to provide details. On my second ride-along, a call coming in to dispatch as a woman unhappy that her 15-year-old daughter was dating a 23-year-old man (not a crime) turned out to be a crime when the officer I was with discovered she was four months pregnant. Another call coming in of “a group of people fighting in the parking lot” was one drunk woman. I’ve realized how important it is for the officer’s safety to have as many details as possible, so please, if you call 911, give details – location and address, what’s going on, who’s involved, what are they doing?
We then went back to the conference room where Jamie played some 911 calls for us. The first was a 15-year-old girl who was home when some men broke in to rob her home. Jamie explained to us that a burglary is stealing from a structure (house or business) whereas a robbery is something taken by force or fear so it involves a person. The teenager went to hide in a back closet where there weren’t any valuables as she figured the bad guys wouldn’t come there. She was right. It was really amazing to hear both the 15-year-old girl and the 911 dispatcher on the phone together. The girl called 911 from a landline, and her mother kept calling her on her cell phone while she was hiding from the men in the house. So if you’re a parent and this happens to your kid (God forbid), don’t call her and give away her position while she’s hiding from the bad guy! The officers arrived, we heard shots fired in the background (either the bad guys or LEOs fired, we didn’t know which), and finally the dispatcher told her the officers were there and she was safe to come out. Wow, that was amazing. The young lady was not only calm but she was polite, she kept saying, “thank you” and “yes maam” and she was even polite to her mother when she said, “Please don’t call me, I’m trying to hide.” Wow.
The second call sounded like a woman who was totally confused, she started out by asking if she needed to bring some paperwork to the school. The 911 call taker (CT) told her this was 911 where you call with a life or death emergency. RP (reporting party) said “yes maam.” Then the RP asked if she needed to bring her birth certificate. The CT said, “maam, this is 911 where you call if someone’s life is in danger, is someone’s life in danger?” RP, “Yes maam.” CT, “Who?” RP’s response was bleeped to protect the name. Finally the CT said, “Are you being held hostage?” RP, “Yes.” It took several seconds for the CT to realize the RP was being held hostage, it was a domestic violence situation and he was sitting right there but he wasn’t suspicious of her calling “the school” to ask questions about their child. Brilliant on the part of the RP, and lest you judge the CT, I sure didn’t get it, I would have hung up way before the CT got it!
Jamie said she liked to end on a humorous note and she played us a 911 call where a woman got the wrong order in a drive through and called 911 to complain. Again, the CT really handled it well – I would have hung up on the RP, but not before using a few choice words (that’s why I’m not a 911 dispatcher)!
I forgot to ask Jamie if they ever get calls from dogs like this accidental call from Sophie, or intentional calls such as these from Major and Buddy. I’d like to think my Golden Retriever, Bogie, would be smart enough to call 911 if I couldn’t, but chances are he’d drop my iPhone in his pool along with his ball.
Jamie told us that she speaks for various groups and also can arrange for different groups to tour the 911 Communications Center. Email me if you’re interested in touring the Com Center, if I get enough interest I’ll schedule an OPD student tour.
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Session 5, Metro Operations Bureau and Homicide Investigations
September 16, 2014
Our first speaker for CPA session five was Operations Bureau Deputy Chief Tom Jester. He told us, as has everyone before him, “My job is the best job in the department.” On the screen behind him was a slide that read, “We serve with pride.” And P.R.I.D.E. was spelled out in the acronym:
All of the OCPD personnel I’ve met and interacted with through the CPA and ride-alongs have exhibited all of those traits. In fact, I’ve used those very words as I’ve written about the ride-alongs. DC Jester said, “I consider us a high integrity police department and it starts at the top with Chief Citty.”
He told us he’s been with the OCPD for 29 years and that he started the academy in 1985. He was a patrol officer, and then he took the detective test, passed, and moved to the Sex Crimes Unit where he investigated child abuse. He said it was really hard interviewing child victims because unlike so many persons the police deal with, they never bring it on themselves. From there he was a Major in the Santa Fe Division, then Captain, went back to Sex Crimes Unit for awhile, and then became Deputy Chief in the Operations Bureau.
The Operations Bureau is divided into two parts – Metro Bureau and Central Bureau – each having its own Deputy Chief. The Metro Bureau is commanded by DC Tom Jester. I mentioned in my first CPA article that the 161 square miles of OKC is divided into four divisions. DC Jester has three of the four divisions under him – Hefner, Springlake, and Santa Fe. He explained that each division is divided into districts and the officers patrol specific areas within their district. Each division has a briefing station, which is basically a clearinghouse for the officers. Officers arrive for their shift, attend the roll call, and hit the streets. I saw this on my ride-alongs. The briefing stations have locker rooms with showers and also a room with exercise equipment so the officers can work out.
One of DC Jester’s duties is investigating officer-involved use of force. He said, “When one of my officers uses force, they make a split second decision to use force.” Then it comes to him and he gets out all of the law books, investigation information, and spends a lot of time going through everything. The officers simply don’t have all of those resources. He said, “Someone is on top of them and they decide to put bullets in them, then they (OCPD), with their attorneys, decide if it was a bad decision. Most of the time the officers get it right.”
One of the students asked him what’s the coolest vehicle OCPD has. He said he really likes the new Ford Interceptors. He told us they’re V6 but they have more horsepower than a V8 – they’re smaller, lighter, and have more HP than the older Crown Vics. I’ve ridden in both and I agree, I really like the new cars! He also said he likes the Bearcat, which is an armored vehicle they use that doesn’t look like a military vehicle. He explained that smaller departments are often given old military armored vehicles, which the public often criticizes. When they’re facing a threat with multiple high-powered weapons, they need an armored vehicle so I for one don’t care if it looks like a military vehicle!
Our next speaker was Detective MSgt. Cris Cunningham. She’s been with OCPD for 23 years, started out as a patrol officer in Hefner Division, and for the last 10 years has been a detective in the Homicide Unit.
The Homicide Unit has 14 investigators working current deaths and one working cold cases. They investigate murder, suicide with a weapon, and officer involved incidents. The latter includes shootings, use of force, and in-custody deaths. She told us that every time an officer discharges a weapon – whether it hits anyone or not – it’s investigated internally. They investigate the circumstances of an incident, collect facts, do interviews, and present the information to the prosecutor who decides if a crime has been committed.
The Homicide Unit assists the Medical Examiner in identifying bodies in both natural and suspicious deaths. She said they do a lot of next of kin notifications. She told us, “I detest this part of my job but I try to make sure they don’t remember who I am because if I’ve done my job the focus was on their loved one and I’m not adding to their trauma.”
A homicide detective conducts crime scene investigation, interviews & interrogates suspects, and is responsible for developing and managing the case from start to finish. She explained that TV shows like CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds ruin jury pools because people think that’s how crimes are solved when in reality those shows are total fakery. She said, “You solve a homicide if you work hard on it, if you’re lucky, and if people who know stuff come forward.” She also told us investigating a crime scene is not cookie cutter because each one is different. It’s very much like solving a complex puzzle, and I would also say the ability to think and use your common sense is a crucial component.
She told us that interview & interrogation is her favorite part of the job. She said, “It’s the best feeling in the world when I’m with a suspect who’s dumber than a box of rocks but thinks he’s smarter than me and I already have the facts and call him on it.” She talked about a suspect in a domestic homicide who asked her how his wife was (the one he killed). She didn’t tell him she was dead, and she told us the whole point of the suspect sitting in an interrogation room talking to a homicide detective escaped him (duh, obviously she’s dead or you wouldn’t be talking to a homicide detective!). Just watch a few episodes of COPS and you’ll see that criminals aren’t very smart. She said suspects can confess all day long but what she really wants is for them to tell her a story that she can disprove with the facts. She said she likes the “got’cha moments” the best.
She said she might say something like, “So you’ve never been to that store?” Suspect, “No.” Detective Cunningham, “We swabbed the store for DNA, you don’t mind if I take a DNA sample, do you?” She told us, “It’s a game I take very seriously, but a game I can’t let them win.
One of the CPA students asked her if she was the good cop or bad cop in the interrogations. She said, “It depends on who’s sitting across the table from me. I treat people with as much respect as they allow me to…you just be polite to people until they don’t let you.”
She explained that the CSIs investigate crime scenes along with the homicide detectives. They take photos, document the scene, and collect evidence. She said, “There’s no better unit than our CSIs.”
Detective Cunningham told the class that the Medical Examiner conducts their own investigation. She said, “I don’t touch dead bodies, I find out how they got dead.” She further explained that in Oklahoma it is illegal for anyone but the ME to touch a dead body.
She said in Oklahoma the ME will mark one of five manners of death on a death certificate: homicide, suicide, accident, natural, or unknown. The ME’s office does things medically factually and conducts their investigation based on medical evidence. The ME determines the cause of death. Homicide simply means life is taken by another person. That’s why you’ll hear about a suspect dying in a police use of force situation and it’s ruled a “homicide” – this is not the same as murder which is a criminal act. Detective Cunningham told the class, “The people who work in that office are amazingly good at their job. You have an outstanding staff at the State Medical Examiner’s office.” She went on to say they are understaffed, underpaid, working in a horrible building, but they’re an incredible group to work with.
She told us the Homicide Unit currently investigates death in the following areas: fire deaths, suspicious deaths, kidnappings, and victims whose whereabouts are unknown. She said investigating fire deaths is especially challenging because firemen who were initially on the scene might be off work for several days following an incident due to the fire department schedule. She told us about an investigation where a family of six had died in a fire. A week prior one of the victims made a police report that she was raped. Her brother, who was trying to get into a gang, had offered her up to other gang members who raped her. A week later the entire family was killed in the fire except the brother who wasn’t there. Another case was a 15 year old who was taking Xanax and throwing Molotov cocktails. He threw away some of his stuff in a trash can which set the neighbor’s house on fire, killing an elderly couple one day before they were to move into a retirement home.
Detective Cunningham told us about a case of an officer involved shooting in September of 2005. At 2:12 in the afternoon 911 dispatch put out a “shots fired call.” When the officers arrived, several witnesses gave a description of a suspect and pointed to a field where they said he ran. Lt. Steve Whitson gave chase in his patrol car and as he turned a corner at the end of some buildings, the suspect ran out. The suspect had changed his clothes behind the building but he still had the clothes in his hand so Lt. Whitson recognized him as the suspect. Lt. Whitson got out of his car and yelled, “Down on the ground!” several times. The suspect didn’t comply and kept jumping at the officer, he finally doubled over and charged at Lt. Whitson. Lt. Whitson, believing the suspect had a gun, fired twice and killed him.
It may sound from my description like this took a long time but it mostly likely took no more than 5-10 seconds…this is the split second decision DC Jester talked about. Very much like self-defense, you simply don’t have a lot of time to think about what’s going on in a life or death situation. That’s why good training – in both self-defense and law enforcement – is so very, very crucial.
Detective Cunningham then told us the back-story. A man had gone to a bar at the location earlier where he had paid one of the dancers for a lap dance. Apparently he wasn’t happy with it so he demanded his money back. The bouncer threw him out as he made threats toward the dancer. At 2:10 pm the bouncer walked the dancer to her car where they were ambushed by the man who shot each of them multiple times. The dancer fell to the ground, but the bouncer wrestled with the suspect, causing him to drop his gun before he ran off. At 2:12 dispatch put out the call, at 2:16 the first officers arrived. (That is a VERY fast response!) The suspect ran into a big open field and around a large building that apparently was a group of stores. His car was parked on the other side of this group of stores and he was backtracking to get to his car. This is where Lt. Whitson encountered him. The bouncer and the dancer lived, but the dancer has permanent damage and disability due to the shooting. The suspect was killed.
Detective Cunningham told us they don’t just look at the discharge of a weapon, they look at the entire scene. In this case the suspect had run across the large field and around the large group of buildings to get back to his car, encountering Lt. Whitson before he made it to his car. In addition to eye witnesses they also had an “ear witness” who didn’t see what happened but heard the entire thing as she was hunkered down between a couple of cars in a parking lot as Lt. Whitson was yelling at the suspect to get down. Her details corroborated all the other details. It was dark by the time they took photos of the suspect laying in the street where he was killed, but they were able to get aerial photos of the scene while it was still light and we could clearly see where the ambush occurred (there were photos of the dancer’s car and blood stains on the ground), where the bouncer wrestled with the suspect (Detective Cunningham pointed out his gun laying on the ground), the path he took as he ran across the field and around the building where he encountered Lt. Whitson, where the suspect was killed, and where his car was – the destination he never reached. The windows were rolled down on the car and CSIs took photos from outside of the inside (thus not needing a warrant) and you could clearly see a bullet laying on the floorboard which Detective Cunningham told us matched the casings from where the suspect shot the dancer and bouncer (the bullet had red paint around the primer, giving it a distinctive marking). Also inside the car was a really large pile of $100s, several thousand dollars worth. Yeah, I guess the guy really needed his money back from the lap dance!
Detective Cunningham told us the shooting happened on 9-10-05, the DA ruled it justified on 10-17-05, and Lt. Whitson was back on duty that very night. She said now they try to have all of their investigation to a supervisor within 30 days. She told us officers are allowed 48 hours before they’re interviewed, which is one of the points I try to get across to my students if they ever have to use their firearm for self-defense…it’s why I promote U.S. Law Shield so that you have legal representation that specializes in firearms laws. I teach my students to invoke their Miranda rights immediately and not give any statement until their lawyer is present. If law enforcement officers are encouraged to wait 48 hours before they provide a statement, a civilian certainly should also wait!
Detective Cunningham told us they interview everyone present at a scene – EMSA, fire, citizens, anyone named. They collect all the ballistics, serology, cell phones and cell phone records. For an officer involved shooting everything has to be completed before giving it to the supervisors to move up the command chain (this is what DC Jester was talking about reviewing). All of their cases are turned in in large 3-ring binders, and sometimes there are several 3-ring binders. She said people often get upset and say they’re not getting results fast enough, but they are taking time to do the investigation right. “Every investigation goes through the same process.” She said. “If it takes 37 days great, but if it takes 37 months then so be it.” She told us in an officer involved shooting, “If they’ve done it right or wrong, our investigation will show it.”
She explained to the class that, “We work cases on people who are not making the best choices in life but they didn’t deserve to lose their life over it. If there’s a murderer walking the street, there’s a murderer walking the street and it doesn’t matter what the victim did.”
She said one of the things she likes about working homicides is that they can bring closure to the family when they find the person who’s responsible, and that helps the family with the final stage of grief.
I could see that it would be a very difficult job to work in homicide. Detective Cunningham admitted that when she started working in homicide she really liked people but now she’s “not a people person.” I can understand why. It’s a job most people couldn’t do, and I would invite anyone who is tempted to criticize a law enforcement officer for the way they do their job to think about whether or not you could ever do what they do.
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Session 6, Firearms Simulator and LEDT
September 23, 2014
MSgt. Mark Sexton was our first speaker for session six. He has been with OCPD for 27 years, and for the past 20 he’s been teaching LEDT – Law Enforcement Driver Training. He told us this about the program…
What is LEDT?
1. It is driver training specifically designed for law enforcement.
2. The Police Academy provides a two week training course and all officers have 80 hours minimum of training…typically most have 120 hours of training.
3. New officers learn basic to advanced driving skills and proper maintenance of vehicles. For example, proper tire pressure is really important.
4. All officers are required to do an annual LEDT in-service – odd digit badge numbers do so on odd years, even digit badge numbers on even years.
LEDT is to keep officers from having terrible wrecks. MSgt. Sexton showed us photos of several bad wrecks and explained that the majority of wrecks are from backing up. Lt. Pollman said that’s why they all back into parking spaces, so they’re not quickly backing up if a call comes in.
Where do they train?
1. OSU Police Department Training Center, under 60 mph.
2. OCPD Training Center drill field, under 60 mph.
3. Burns Flat, OK where they can reach speeds up to 120 mph. In the 1960s it was a military base, it is now retired and used for LEDT. Departments from all over the country come there to train.
4. Sheriff Department Training Center at Burns Flat. It was an alternate runway for the Space Shuttle and has the longest landing run.
How do they train?
1. Shuffle Steering – light hands on the wheel, barely moving the wheel.
2. Serpentine – line of cones, weave in and out.
3. Evasive Maneuvers – instructor tells driver trainer left or right at 65 mph.
4. Braking – controlled braking, learn to steer while braking.
5. Backing – hardest course they’ll go through.
6. High Speed Pursuit – courses at Burns Flat.
MSgt. Sexton told the class, “We also teach recruits to put a car where they never thought it could go.” They learn this to get through intersections where there’s mere inches to get through.
How is LEDT different from civilian driving?
Routine driving – they have a police radio, 911 calls to respond to on the computer or radio, other drivers as they’re going to a scene, suspect in the cruiser, lights & siren. They deal with all of these things, often several at the same time, while driving. On my ride-alongs I was amazed at how each officer was able to drive to a call location while checking the computer screen for updated details, sometimes talking on the radio, and turn on lights & sirens at intersections (they don’t go code 3 – lights & sirens – the whole way with a civilian in the car). The officers were in complete control of the vehicles at all times and I never once felt unsafe even though they were multitasking to the max! I also experienced suspects in the back seat who were everything from quietly talking to themselves to loudly ranting and cursing at the officer. Talk about distracting. Unfortunately there’s not a mute button in patrol cars.
Pursuits – very dangerous for the officers and innocent drivers on the streets. MSgt. Sexton said that 15 years ago they used to just chase if the perp ran. Now if it’s really a bad guy, like someone who shot someone, they’ll pursue. They now consider risk versus reward when deciding to pursue a suspect. They changed this when Officer Jonathan Dragus was killed.
Police pursuit training teaches new recruits how to safely pursue feeling suspects. They use realistic training methods during LEDT because you have to practice for the actual potential (this is something I constantly teach my students about self-defense).
When an officer is in pursuit they give the tag number over the radio, and every time they make a turn they have to radio that information. A supervisor listens in and calls it off when needed. Now the Air 1 helicopter can find fleeing perps so officers can simply go get them.
After MSgt. Sexton spoke, the class divided into halves and half the class went onto the driving course, the other half to the Firearms Simulator. I chose the driving course first. On the course there were two cruisers, one driven by MSgt. Sexton, the other by one of the captains. MSgt. Sexton has one of the older cruises which is bigger and I felt probably would be more solid in the turns. The other vehicle was one of the new Ford Interceptors. I got in the front seat with MSgt. Sexton, another student in the front with the captain. To save time, some students decided to also ride in the back of each cruiser. I had to wait for a front seat, but I knew not to ride in the back seat because I get car sick in the back of normal car rides and I knew this was not going to be a “normal” ride. One student who rode in the back got so sick she had to leave right after she got out of the car.
If you ever attend the CPA, when you get to this part just wait for the front seat, especially if you’re prone to getting car sick in a normal car…this is a ride like no other, and even in the front seat it was all I could do to keep from tossing my cookies!
In the drill, one car goes in front and the other behind in a mock high speed chase. They have a particular course that goes through little orange cones, and by “little” I mean they are much smaller than regular orange cones, you can’t see them when you’re driving between them (it seemed to me they merely guide you where to aim your car). Then they switch and the chased becomes the chaser. This is what it looks like (click photo to watch video).
On the course our highest speed was 38 mph, but MSgt. Sexton explained to me and another student in the back seat that it feels like you’re going 70 mph. It sure did. In the video on the left you can hear him say, “We hit about 38 there.” And I reply, “It does seem like 70.” The video on the right shows the shuffle steering technique (click photos to watch).
At the end of the chase, they back the cars up into an imaginary parking space outlined by orange cones that looked to me to be about a foot tall. Talk about skill! On my second ride-along Officer Eikel told me he failed the LEDT training a couple times because he kept knocking down cones. He was on his last chance to take it again when he passed it. These officers are really skilled!
Here you get a perspective of how small the cones are...and how wilted the back seat rider is!
On two of my ride-alongs the officers used lights & sirens going through intersections, and we definitely reached some speeds. Both times the officers kept asking me if I was getting carsick and I actually wasn’t. However, on the training course in the mock high-speed chase it was difficult not to get sick because of the fast turns they made. I’ve had officers tell me about getting sick, or seeing other officers throw up, after going through these drills. I was very happy I didn’t get sick. However, I did get a serious adrenaline rush, which I first noticed when I stepped out of the car and realized my legs weren’t working very well. They felt like rubber, and it was a major effort to walk the few yards from the driving training course inside to the Firearms Simulator.
I had seen a firearms simulator a few years ago when I visited a gun range in Ohio that had one. It’s a life size video, meaning the characters on the screen are life size, and you can interact with them. Interacting includes barking orders, shooting, and getting shot. Sometimes the subjects on the screen respond if you bark a serious enough order at them, they’ll comply and drop their weapon or stop what they’re doing. You realize real fast that you can’t discuss or negotiate with someone, you have to act, and the first action is often barking an order. As usual, I think I scared all the men in the room because I was loudly yelling at the screen, “GET ON THE GROUND!” while pointing a gun at the subject.
It’s called FATS, which stands for Firearms Training Simulator. Actual firearms are specially equipped with lasers and when you pull the trigger, the laser shows on the screen where you hit. If you get shot it tells you that too. It’s pretty obvious when you take a lethal hit. Talk about sobering. Again, you realize real quickly that what you see on TV is not reality. And all the people who criticize police officers for shooting someone have absolutely no clue. Police officers are highly trained, far more so than any civilian, and they make difficult split second decisions to save their life and that of innocent civilians. OPD student Cyndi sent me this link of a type of firearms simulation that a man, previously highly critical of law enforcement, decided to do. The video says it all. When placed in high stress, split second decision situations, he got it right sometimes, other times he got (mock) killed, other times he (mock) killed an innocent bystander.
The OCPD Training Center has a room with a FATS and they use it with the specially equipped actual police issue firearms to prepare officers for real life. The day I was there they had an assault rifle, a Remington 870 pump shotgun, and Glock pistol (I shot the shotgun and pistol). Sgt. Kent Cochran runs the FATS and he’s able to program various scenarios in to challenge officers. You have to rack the slide on the pistol, pump the shotgun, and charge the AR. Students who forgot, or got a jam, or ran out of ammo got killed because they weren’t prepared to do something when the gun didn’t fire.
Sgt. Cochran does firearms training at OCPD and is also on the SWAT team. He was a patrol officer for 13 years, then he moved to FATS, and he’s still on the SWAT team. He also teaches taser and bean bag shotgun – he’s got 300 hours training in taser, and 100 hours in bean bag shotgun. As with all the officers I met, he’s very skilled and highly trained.
Sgt. Cochran told us, “This training is stress training, so the first time an officer fights for their life it’s not the first time.” This is what we at OPD call adrenalized training, we do mock drills in which the student has to make a quick decision on how to evade an attacker or fight for their life. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and even in OPD classes like BTB where we’re using blueguns and often laughing at the scenarios the OPD team cooks up, students still have the adrenaline rush.
Sgt. Cochran explained that the simulation adds being shot by the bad guy so officers realize they really have to be on top of their game. It’s very sobering to get shot even by a bad guy on a video screen that tells you you’re dead. He said the simulator puts the officers through different situations which is completely different from programmed live fire, i.e. standing flat footed shooting at a paper target that isn’t moving. With FATS it’s training with movement and all kinds of different scenarios. They use various weapons, including the AR 15 patrol rifle, shotguns, and handguns that are the actual weapons they carry on duty.
By the way, I got such an adrenaline rush from the mock high speed chase that when it was my time to shoot in the FATS, I was shaking so much I had a very hard time coming on target and keeping it there. Talk about stress. I got shot a couple times by the bad guy, and I failed to save the good guy in a couple scenarios. I did shoot some bad guys with the shotgun, and I finally got the shooter in the school shooting scenario, though it wasn’t a clean shot…I shot him through the corner of the locker he popped out from behind. I might add it was this same locker he popped out from that he shot me in the first run through of that scenario. I got a second run and I knew where he was…in real life, we don’t get a do over.
The left photo is a still of the replay of my active school shooter scenario. In the middle of the picture is the bad guy, he just popped out from behind the locker. The red circle with a line through it indicates where I shot him. The right photo is my friend, Jeannie, doing a drill using the AR. (Click photos for closeup).
We as civilians need to train. Don’t just stand flat footed and shoot a non moving paper target, get scenario training. OPD offers various non-live fire adrenalized training – classes start at Girls Day Out and advance you level by level. Next after GDO is Between the Threat and the Bang in which we put you through various potential attack scenarios and you have to know how to react, including drawing your bluegun. After BTB is Airsoft where you’re shooting actual pistols that use plastic BBs at various targets, including mock bad guys running at you. Other places like SOR Training Center offer civilian live fire scenario training for US Law Shield members, and Will Andrews’ Pistol Skills series is a great source for live fire scenario training.
Each Citizen Police Academy session gave me an even greater appreciation for police officers. Don’t criticize or judge police officers for their actions. Most of us have no idea what they’re dealing with, but I do know first hand most of them are very highly trained and skilled way beyond you & me. If the police officer goes away there’s nothing between us and the criminals, so let’s show our support for LEOs and appreciate them for what they do.
Session 7, Good Samaritans and Victim Services
September 30, 2014
Session seven had a number of speakers who are in various roles of helping victims of crime, and helping to prevent crime by working with and educating citizens.
Our first speaker was Kim Garrett, who is the coordinator of the OCPD’s Victim Services Program. Ms. Garret is a civilian (not a police officer) and is a licensed social worker and victim advocate. She told the class that for every crime there are victims left behind, and that there are 23 amendments in the US Constitution for offenders but none for crime victims. The OCPD Victim Services Program assists victims and witnesses of crime and their families by providing access to support services that can respond to their immediate needs. They serve in the following categories:
• White collar crimes against the elderly
• DUI injury/fatality
• Hit and run
She told us that in 2013 they helped 108 victims of crime. She further explained that besides the direct benefit to the victim, a victim who receives services is more likely to cooperate with law enforcement, which means more offenders are prosecuted.
Some of the available services for crime victims are:
• Crisis intervention and emotional support
• Information and referral – often a crime victim doesn’t know how to get information on their case.
• Crime Victim Compensation – they can apply for reimbursement for lost wages, damage repair, etc.
• Referrals to counseling.
• Immediate health and safety issues such as locks, door replacement, alarm systems.
• Victim information notification
Ms. Garret explained to the class the common needs of victims are 1. safe housing, 2. access to information, 3. information such as what happens next?, 4. support services, 5. continuity (same person helping them), 6. a voice, and 7. justice. OCPD Victim Services helps crime victims in all of these areas.
She told the class that funding for Crime Victim Compensation comes from what they call “bad guy money,” which is a fee attached to anything that goes through the Court system. She also told us there is no time limit on helping a victim, and that sometimes it takes years.
She said there are three potential responses when someone is a crime victim: fight, flight, or freeze. This is something I work to teach women…if you’ve trained and are prepared, you’ll fight. Any sane person (including the trained & prepared) who has an opportunity to run away will most likely run away. However, the person who has never once thought about what to do, hasn’t trained, couldn’t imagine it could happen to her, will freeze. That’s why you hear crime victims say they just stood there, or they “froze” while bad guy did whatever he did to them. My point as a self-defense instructor isn’t to blame a victim, my point is to get it across to women that you do not have to be a victim just because you’re a woman and physically weaker than a male who is attacking you. This is why I have written the classes I have for OPD, I teach women to be aware so they can spot a potential threat and stop it before it can become an attack (aggressive STOP! command and body posturing), to flee if they can, or fight if they have to. We as women won’t overpower a man so I don’t teach hand to hand fighting, I teach the use of tools such as the firearm and several layers of non-gun tools which give us enough of an advantage to break off the attack or get away.
Ms. Garrett went on to say that being attacked is a scary event and the victim will have a huge chemical release of adrenaline. This can block pain and thought (that’s why you need the muscle memory we teach in OPD classes so your muscles take over when your brain can’t think). It produces a potent emotional memory event, and over time reliving the event can result in medical conditions.
She told us that home invasions are very traumatic for children. Again, this is why we teach what we teach at OPD – not just for women but for moms who have kids to protect. You can be prepared, aware, and effective even with little kids in tow. Check out OPD instructor Cherise’s Mom’s Corner article on the topic here.
Ms. Garrett closed by telling us some of the things she’s heard victims say:
“It may take the rest of my life to get over this.”
“It’s a life changing event.”
“I walk around the house with pepper spray.” (after a home invasion)
“I don’t know what to do.”
“I need to move.”
Thankfully most women who come to me for training do so because they don’t want to be a crime victim. Sadly, though, I have had an increasing number of women come to me for training because they are a crime victim. I have heard these same things directly, and I’ve had students who moved and carried around a can of pepper spray in the house. It is so not worth it to not be prepared, and ladies EVERYONE can do what we teach at OPD because it’s not cutesy gimmicks, nor is it stuff most women can’t do (like kick some guy in the face), it’s real personal defense for the 70+ woman, for the teenage girl, for the overweight woman in her 40s, for the young mother with three little kids – we teach practical self-defense for women based on our own experience as women who live in the real world!
Our next speaker was Lt. Wayland Cubit. He told the class about FACT, which is Family Awareness and Community Teamwork. The FACT Unit works with OKC school systems to find kids with five or more unexcused absences, writes citations for those absences, and helps at risk youth ages eight to eighteen to stay out of gangs. FACT employees are Gang Prevention police officers who work closely with faith based groups. He shared with us four facets of FACT:
1. Gang intervention – they get referrals from law enforcement officers, teachers, family, school, church.
2. Character development – they have “movie night” where kids watch movies and the officers break them down into real life applications.
3. Mentoring – these are civilian volunteers, and they’re always looking for quality mentors. They vet volunteers through interviews and background checks.
4. Community gang awareness education – FACT officers do presentations for community groups.
Next SSgt. Matt Sites talked to the class about PAL, which is the Police Athletic League. Their slogan is “cops helping kids succeed.” SSgt. Sites has served with OCPD as an SRO (school resource officer) in a couple of schools, was a truancy officer, and now he’s the outreach coordinator for OKC PAL. He said that PAL was founded in New York City in 1914 by NYCPD Captain John Sweeney to reduce tension between cops and kids and provide a safe place for kids (see its history here). SSgt. Sites told us that PAL is all over the world and it’s really taking off in the US. He said that FACT goes after borderline kids, PAL goes after everybody else. On their website they describe themselves as, “A juvenile crime prevention program providing educational and athletic activities for all children, primarily those in high-risk neighborhoods.” And that, “OKC PAL brings youth under the constructive influence of responsible adults and police officers who volunteer their time as positive role models.”
He told us there are six officers and three civilians who teach different sports for OKC PAL such as martial arts and archery. They start in elementary school and go all the way up through high school. They have an after school program for kids where they feed them, do character building exercises, and play games. They also have high school led sports camps. SSgt. Sites told us they use drug seizure money to buy fishing equipment and they take kids out and teach them to fish. You can learn more about OKC PAL events on the website here.
I also learned that OCPD has a youth citizen police academy for students between the ages of 15-18. It’s much shorter than the adult version, one week instead of twelve, but it covers some of the same topics. Students learn about LEDT (see my February article), get to go to the OCPD Firearms Range (see my upcoming April article), and learn about other cool topics not in the adult CPA such as motorcycles and the Bombing Memorial. More information is on their website here.
Our next speaker was Sheryl Presley and she talked to us about TRIAD, which is a crime prevention program for seniors. The OCPD and Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Department are the two supporting agencies behind the program. They provide education and victim assistance programs for older persons living in the OKC area. TRIAD has a council called SALT (Seniors and Law Enforcement Together). The SALT Council is the advisory group that carries out TRIAD activities. Ms. Presley told the class there are currently three SALT groups (North, South and East) and a fourth one is coming. The groups hold events for seniors such as backpack stuffing for kids, Thunder holiday assist, and crime prevention programs for older persons. They also have a “Senior Prom 55+” which she showed us pictures of and it was really cool, it was seniors coming together for a formal dance, like a prom (how fun to get your hair and nails done and get all dressed up in your best dress and jewelry and go to a formal dance…I wonder if anybody spikes the punch!). Ms. Presley explained that today’s seniors grew up in a time when they could trust, so they are often taken advantage of. She said, “In their golden years they shouldn’t be a victim.” TRIAD offers speaking events that educate seniors on things like identity theft, mail safety, personal safety, current frauds and scams. Everything is free to the seniors. For information contact Sheryl Presley at (405) 316-4336 or (405) 297-1110.
Our last speaker was Lt. Robert Mercer who is in charge of OCPD School Resource Officers. If you’re not familiar, SROs are commissioned police officers whose patrol area is a local school. In the OKC metro they are typically sheriff deputies or city police officers. OPD instructor Cherise wrote about the importance of SROs in her article here.
Lt. Mercer told us there are 88 schools in the Oklahoma City district. Districts like Putnam City, Bethany, and Edmond have their own SROs. He said in the OKC district there are 43,000 children that 20 SROs guard every day. There’s one officer in every high school, middle school, and in many elementary schools.
SROs deal with any potential criminal activity at their school. Lt. Mercer gave us an example: if a 4th grade girl went home and told her parents she was bullied on the bus by a boy who said he was going to bring a knife the next day and kill her on the bus, they would deal with it THAT night. He said the girl would get driven to school, and the boy would be identified either that night or on the bus the next day. It could result in an arrest (yes, that’s a 4th grader – years ago I mentored in a youth jail and the youngest kid I met was seven.)
Lt. Mercer told us they also deal with suicide. You may think it’s mostly middle school or high school kids, but he told us that in 2013 there were five attempts in elementary schools.
He said they guard all sporting evens, and there are lots of arrests at basketball and football games. He told us he learned “you don’t try to take down a football player by yourself.” It’s often the typical high school fight you hear about, or perhaps have witnessed, and it used to be just two kids fighting – now it’s a felony.
He explained that police work works with rational actors (a word police officers use for a person engaging in criminal activity) who respect consequences. Police work doesn’t work with irrational, crazy, hormonal middle school kids so they have to be creative. He said he recently had to arrest an 8th grader for disorderly conduct. He told us there’s a 10 day limit on suspension, and after that an arrest is the only choice.
OCPD SROs have emergency training in 23 different hazards such as a natural gas leak, tornado, earthquake, or active shooter. He said active shooter training evolved from Columbine where they all huddled. He told us SROs rarely actually shoot the bad guy (he usually shoots himself). This is because shooting incidents typically are over in 30-45 seconds. So what do you do if you’re a student or a teacher? “Best answer, whatever you need to do. Lock the door/barricade yourself, throw books, hide, fight back, don’t fight, run.” He said, “The bad part about school shootings is there’s no info, you have to decide on the spot what to do.”
This CPA session really gave me an appreciation for how much OCPD does for the citizens of Oklahoma City. I particularly like the programs they have for youth, especially PAL and the youth citizen police academy. If I had kids or grandkids I would get them involved in those. And when I’m an old lady (how old is old?) I will so attend the TRIAD Senior Prom!
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