Monday, October 3, 2011

Albany Citizen's Police Academy - Week 4 (Class 2) - Dogs and Driving

We began class Saturday with a tour of the Albany Police Department. We divided into two groups. I was in Community Education Specialist Westfall's group. She walked us through the halls where we saw a case of old equipments and badges, photos of former Albany Police Officers, several closed doors, the dispatch office where we met the dispatchers and heard a little about what they do. We also saw the report writing area and a wall filled with blankets and stuffed animals the officers carry in the car to sooth children at crime scenes. The tour also included a look outside at the storage shed where patrol bicycles are stored and a look across to the building where the detectives are housed.

Sergeant Drum showed us the interior of a police car. He explained that the back seats are hard plastic because arrestees have a tendency to opt to leave body fluids and waste back there. There's also a drain in the bottom, so the back seats can be hosed out. It's always amazing the depths to which people are willing to sink for vengence.

Everyone was antsy to get on with the K-9 presentation... Okay, maybe everyone wasn't, but I sure was.

K-9 Officers Ard and Kloss began with a classroom discussion about the history of police dogs. The use of police dogs grew out of the usefulness dogs showed in working with the military. Police departments began adapting those dogs talents to the needs of police departments. Police dogs, at least the ones in this area, come from Europe. The toy drive, aka the prey drive, is important in search dogs as it is the motivator for training. The dogs are expensive, but in the end save departments money. The purchase price can go as high as $10,000. Then training can cost several thosands of dollars. The dogs live with their handlers, but the department pays for their food, lodging, medical care, etc.

Officers Ard and Kloss are obviously very connected to their dogs, Joeri and Ruleon. They talked about how they assess situations and won't let the dogs go into situations that are too dangerous for the dog. Both expressed dislike of the bullet proof vests for dogs describing them as hot and likely to create problems such as getting snagged or getting in the dog's way. They passed around the vest. I was surprised at how heavy it was.

Both officers expressed appreciation for the dogs abilities to smell better, hear better, and find targets that otherwise would go unfound. Officer Ard also told a couple of stories to demonstrate how sometimes listening to search dogs is better than listening to human beings when trying to find someone. The dog doesn't get bogged down by what he assumes like humans tend to do. The dog reacts to what he smells, hears, sees.

Watching the dogs in action was really cool and interesting. As soon as they saw the training suits the officers wear, they expressed a desire to work yet both dogs listened for instructions from the handler before taking action. The dogs stood hunched down with hips wiggling ready to to as soon as the instruction was given. The officers demonstrated sending the dog after someone in a car and to find someone hidden in the bushes. The demonstrations were quick and efficient, but I wanted to see more. The dogs' pleasure at capturing the "bad guy" was reward enough at this point in their careers.

Immediately after working, both dogs were brought to socialize with the class. We petted them while discussing them and their work more. The dogs enjoy feeling useful and being worked.

I really loved watching the dogs in action and getting to pet them afterwards.

Officers Kloss and Ard handled the demonstration with ease, efficiency, and joy. They really seem to love their role as K-9 Officers!

After a thirty minute break for lunch, we gathered for an hour class on Emergency Vehicle Operation (EVO) before heading out to the Corvallis Municipal Airport. Sergeant Drum imparted a plethoria of wisdom about driving, crashes, and the operation of vehicles under myriad circumstances including night driving, going into slides, etc. The class progressed to talk about police pursuit techniques including the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT). Pursuit Intervention Technique orginated from auto racing when it was noted that racers would take out other cars to gain advantage by hit them lightly on the rear bumper sending them into a spin.

The presentation Sergeant Drum usually includes toy cars to demonstrate the slides, but he couldn't find the cars. Bummer!

Oh, well, I think most of us were more interested in getting to the abandoned airstrip at the Corvallis Municipal Airport and experiencing EVOC for ourselves!! Or maybe I just speak for myself.

They encouraged us to carpool with the officers headed to the Corvallis Municipal Airport. At first I planned to drive, so I could leave if I got bored. Now that it's over the very idea that I thought I might get bored makes me chuckle. I hopped in an unmarked car with Officer Robert Hayes and fellow student, Courtenay. The ride over was interesting. It was the first time I'd ever been in the back of a police car. The unmarked car has normal seats that are covered in plastic, so it wasn't the hard seats from the regular patrol cars.

It started raining on the drive over.

When we arrived at abandoned airstrip at the Corvallis Municipal Airport, Officer Hayes sped down the runway as did the other officers arriving. He took us through a series of tight turns and emergency lane changes. It was exhilarating!!

The officers set up a series of cones to create other driving conditions. The class took turns riding in the cars. Three to four students rode in each car in both the front and back seats while an officer drove. The officers drove a course using evasive maneuvers and pursuit maneuvers staying within the cones. They also sent the car into skids and slides demonstrating how to drive through them. Some of us took several turns in different cars. Riding in the front seat gave a completely different feel than riding in the front seat. When in the front seat, I could see where we were going and what the officer was doing. It was easier to know what was coming and in a sense to feel like I could prepare for it. It afforded a sense of control over an situation where there was no real control available for me. When I rode in the back seat of the patrol cars with the hard plastic seats, I was jostled around quite a bit. I ended up with a couple of bruises, but it was well worth it!

We moved into the two white cars outfitted with special bumpers to train officers to perform the Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT). Again we took turns riding in the cars - 3-4 students at a time with an officer. The officers performed the PIT maneuever multiple times. Sergeant Drum talked to us as we began our ride in the PIT training cars. He explained that we were the bad guys being pursued. As he kept our attention on him, the first bumper hit came as a surprise just as I'm sure it would be for someone being pursued. After that, the hits were less of a surprise. The hits sent us into spins and turned us around until we were going backwards. The hits didn't always work as Seargeant Drum maneuvered the car. After we were the bad guys, we'd turn and then be the good guys initiating the PIT against the other car sending them into spin or turning them around. After the first or maybe the second hit, I blurted "I don't think I'm supposed to like this this much!" or something to that effect.

I can't believe I thought even for a minute that it might get boring. Okay, there was one downside; standing in a huddle under the temporary cover provided for us as the rain poured down between rides. I hate being cold and am not especially fond of being wet and cold, but it was worth it.

Overall, the EVOC was like riding a roller coaster. I laughed just like I do on roller coasters. I loved this portion of the class! Who knew I could enjoy speed and handing over control of... well anything that much!! I'd take this portion of the class again and again and again...

1 comment:

  1. Wow, it sounds like you had a blast. What a great course to be able to do. I would have been very distracted by the dogs. Very jealous!

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