Sunday, October 23, 2011

Albany Police Academy -Week 7 - Class Two - Evidence, Records, Dispatch, & Firearms Training

Saturday's Albany Police Academy class started with a tour of the evidence room lead by Property & Evidence Specialist Debbie Buchert. She explained the different evidence storage techniques and apparatuses including paper bags, plastic bags, and boxes. Plastic bags are never used for anything wet that could mold. Boxes are often used for handguns and other weapons that fit in them boxes. Some weapons are too big for a box or a bag. She talked about the process for logging evidence and how it's improved with the use of a computerized system. She explained the process for disposing of property from the evidence room. Evidence that isn't returned to the owner can be sold with the proceeds going to the department (see propertyroom.com) or destroyed by fire once it is no longer needed and the designated time period it must be kept has passed. Some evidence must be kept for many years.

One discussion that seemed particularly disturbing to me was regarding anonymous rape kits which in the state of Oregon must be kept for twenty-five years. I didn't find this nearly as unreasonable as some other members of class did. I understand that the kits take up space and that there is no case without a complaintant, but I also understand how devastating it can be for a rape victim to come forward, to put herself to be in the position to be judged by something that wasn't her fault, to be forever placed in a role publicly she can never change. To me it makes sense that a woman might feel more likely to come forward after learning she wasn't the only victim of the person that raped her. This might seem unlikely to happen, but it's not impossible. With the kit in evidence, at least there's something. Okay, twenty-five years might be a tad excessive, but I understand the idea behind it...

Once Buchert finished explaining the way evidence is handled, processed, and destroyed, she turned us over to Mike Peaslee, who explained how the records are handled and accessed by police officers and others.  We then visited dispatch to hear a little about what happens when a call comes in and to watch dispatch at work. Then Peaslee explained the role of those who work the reception area and showed us the records area and explained the process of storing, keeping,and digitizing records and how they are handled.

Finally, we made it to the highlight of the day - Firearms Training - lead by Officer Dezi Meza. Okay, it was simulated shooting, but we used the actual training videos the police officers use to train. Each class member took a couple of turns. After each students' turn, Officer Meza would point out what the student did right and what the student missed. All was handled with a fun attitude keeping the excercise enjoyable.

When my turn came up, I took the "gun" in my hand and realized not for the first time that I'd never shot a gun. I grew up around guns. My Daddy, my Grandpa, and my Uncles hunted. I grew up on a farm. Guns were always around. Daddy had a gun cabinet full of them. Yet, Daddy never let me shoot one. I probably never showed any interest. I really don't remember. The point is as I settled my hands around the gun, I was surprised how natural it felt. Okay, I'd held guns before, but never with the idea of shooting.

Officer Meza told me I was going to face a mentally ill person. As soon as the woman in the video stepped out of the house holding the gun, I had a flashback to a time when I really looked down the barrell of a gun pointed at me while the person threatened to shoot me. I blinked away the image but realized I'd missed the woman's actions. In a real life situation, that likely would've cost me my life. Anyway, Officer Meza stopped the video and asked me what I noticed. I snapped out of my reverie and answered that I noticed she had a gun in her hand but that she hadn't pointed it at me. Still, I realized I should've pointed my weapon at her, so I did as soon as the video restarted. I told her numerous times to put down her weapon and to calm down. Then a point came when she started to move the weapon up so it wasn't pointing at the ground anymore. I shot her in the stomach and took her down with one shot. I couldn't believe it and from the surprise in the instructor's voice neither could he.

He asked me why I chose to shoot when I did, so I explained my reasoning. He said that many officers wouldn't have waited that long and that I'd instructed her to put the gun gun more than enough times to know she wasn't going to. Still, I didn't regret waiting until I saw her start to raise the gun, and he didn't say I was necessarily wrong...

Somehow this simulated situation made me realize how recklessly I'd acted all those years ago when I faced a real gun and talked the person holding it and screaming at me out of shooting me. It would've only taken a moment, a simple squeeze of the trigger she had her finger on to end my life. At the time, I hadn't even been frightened. I'd been so sure I could convince her not to shoot me that it hadn't even occurred to me to be afraid. Geez, I keep asking myself what I was thinking that day...

He started my second video, a suspicious vehicle under a bridge. As I watched the video which simulated approaching the suspicious vehicle in a car, getting out of the car, and approaching the vehicle, it reminded me of Boise. Funny the things that pop in your head when you're waiting for the action. Two girls walked around the suspicious vehicle. I quickly glanced at them and decided they were up to something but were a distraction and not an immediate threat. I'm not sure why. I kept my focus on the car. As soon as one of the girls said something like "Now" toward the car, I focused my gun on the car's door. A guy stepped out. I pulled the trigger as soon as I saw him and the weapon in his hand. I wasn't even sure what weapon he held, but it's glint and the position in his hand made it clear it was a threat. I hit his knee, so it definitely wasn't a kill shot.  I was ready to shoot again, but the video ended.

Oh, well, I was just happy I hit my target at all!

The rest of the class took their turns. When everyone had had a turn and the instructor asked if anyone wanted to go again. I was tempted to say yes, but I didn't. I'm not sure why I didn't. Oh, well!

One of the other students asked Officer Meza to demonstrate how it should be done. He did, and it was rivoting. He did a video from earlier in the class, and the way he handled it seemed so much more reasonable than what any of us had done. He talked to the people, gave warnings, and seemed perfectly confident. It made sense because he has training in diffusing situations, and those of us in the class really didn't. I'd had a little training many, many years ago when I worked in a group home, but I remember very little of it.

I went into today's class expecting to learn how a police officer feels when facing a situation that demands s/he decide whether or not to use his/her weapon. Instead, I learned something about myself. I actually thought I'd freeze even though I knew it was a simulation. I didn't freeze. I learned that I can and will protect myself if I have to, but that I could never take a human life without being absolutely sure it was the only option. It's why I gave the woman who wasn't pointing a weapon at me but only at the ground a chance and why I shot as soon as I saw the flash of weapon from the man exiting the suspicious vehicle.

Oh, and I also realized, I might actually be able to handle a gun with a fair degree of accuracy if I had to or at least with a little training...

I just keep learning that I can actually do things I never thought I could do for one reason or another.

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