The unexpected side benefit of attending the Unified Police Department’s Citizen’s Police Academy is that it has opened a place for healing from old childhood wounds. I have not been able to write anything about the police academy since the active shooter scenario. My mind started processing, bringing down walls to an otherwise inaccessible part of my past, an emotional part of that past I had tried to put behind inaccessible walls. These hidden emotions did find ways to escape, though it was mostly through unconscious means.
I am 11 or 12 perhaps younger / older I do not know. My father has come home for lunch. He has parked his motorcycle directly behind my mother’s car. Having a dentist appointment, my mother and I get into the car. She either forgets or does not know that the motorcycle is parked directly behind her car. Backing into it she knocking over the motorcycle. Momentarily we both look at each other in horror as we realize what had just happened and knowing what is about to happen.
My father running out of the house quickly makes his way the driver’s side door of the car. A scuffle ensues as my father tries to force the door open as my mother is trying to re-shut lock the car door. Being stronger he soon forces the car door open and begins to drag her out of the car while hitting her. Amongst all the screaming I hear her yell ‘lock the doors and stay in the car’.
Soon my father drags her around the car and onto the lawn. My mother curls up on the lawn with her hands wrapped around her head as my father continues hitting her and yelling.
I found myself sitting in a locked car watching helplessly as my mother was being beaten by my father. My mother eventually escapes, running off to a neighbor’s house. My father tied to get into the car but I am too scared and refused to unlock the doors. I was terrified.
Eventually my father picked up his motorcycle and drives off.
Within minutes a county sheriff officer arrives, walks up to the car, knocks on the window and ask me if I am ok.
He was a tall man as seen from the eyes of a child. I still see him clearly in my mind, all but the details of his face. Even that is probably stored somewhere in my memories.
Most if not all of my memories of police officers as a child involved them arriving to my house just after a moment of extreme violence. Their arrival was the indication that all was now momentarily safe. The violence had ended for the day.
For the last ten weeks I have spent every Wednesday night and one Saturday morning surrounded and interacting with police officers. At the end of each of these classes I have climbed into my car and started crying as I have drove myself home. I told Detective Bennett, one of the COP officers, a few weeks ago that my interaction with police officers as a child was as a result of them responding to domestic violence at my childhood home. This last Wednesday night, which also happened to be the last Citizen’s Police Academy class, one of the scenarios we did was responding to a domestic violence call. I found myself acting in the role of a police officer responding to a domestic violence call. The actual scenario was non-violent just a lot of yelling, though it was enough to destroy any and all remaining walls I had encased around those childhood emotions. After running the scenario I mentioned to Detective Malm, who is in charge of the Citizen’s Police Academy, a similar thing that previously most of my interaction with police officers was through responding to domestic violence calls as a child.
Wednesday night I might have slept on and off for three hours and by Thursday morning the barriers to all those emotions were finally gone. I am now finally in a place with my life where little Keith feels safe enough to unlock the car doors and come out. I have a better understanding that some of the emotional, psychological and physiological reactions I experience when interacting with a police officer has been rooted in an emotional past that until now I had been unwilling to fully acknowledge and deal with.
What started out as an intent to better understand the life of a police officer has turned into a better understanding and integration of myself.
[note: My father is a good person with his own issues like everyone else. As adults we do have a good relationship. I am sure that I will have more to say on this in a later post.]
The Metro Gang Unit is made up of a number of Federal and State agencies that work together to identify, reduce and prevent criminal gang activity. During the presentation we learned about gang culture and current gang activity in Salt Lake County.
It was really helpful to go over gang culture. There was a lot of information that I was not aware of. One thing I learned is that gang tags are full of information that can assist the police. In the future if my property is ever tagged I will take a picture of it first before painting over it.
There are two different narcotics units in the U.P.D. There is the Neighborhoods Narcotics Unit. They deal with local level drug dealers and supplies. There is also the Narcotic Diversion Unit. We had officers from the U.P.D. Narcotics Diversion Unit come talk to us. They spoke to us a little bit about what they do and then gave us a presentation on the common illegal drugs on the streets right now.
The Unified Police Department Narcotics Diversion Unit is a specialty group of very unique detectives. This unit is the law enforcement arm of the Salt Lake County Felony Drug Courts. …The detectives of the Narcotics Diversion Unit are on the front lines of the newest drug abuse trends and are instrumental in identifying the dangers posed by the ever changing illegal street drug market. These detectives communicate directly with the judges and legislators to assist in passing effective controlled substance laws that make our community a safer place to live and work.
The biggest issue in Utah right now is opiods and synthetic opiods. This is followed by methamphetamine and marijuana. [I will not jump into the marijuana debate in this post.] This is a change from a decade ago where methamphetamine was the biggest drug issue in Utah. Currently synthetic opiods are causing a big problem. They are easy to order though the mail or obtain on the streets. With any opiods you may be getting a different type then you think you are purchasing. Overdoes is a problem. Opiods are also highly addictive.
Drugs and drug use is a extremely complicated social issue. I was not aware how big the problem opiods currently are until the Narcotic Diversion Unit’s presentation. These are complicated issues within a complicated multi-cultural society.
Narcotics Diversion Unit Detectives may be contacted regarding questions about drug abuse and the prevention of dangerous street drugs in your neighborhood. If you have a family member, friend or loved one who is struggling with drug abuse help is available. Narcotics Diversion Office Number: 385.468.9800.
The training for this week was about basic police scenarios.
Building clearing is done for anything as simple as a building/home is found with a door open to an active shooter scenario. In an active shooter scenario they would eliminate that threat before clearing the building, as was the case in the Trolley Square shooting in 2007. Most of the time they are just dealing with simple building clearings to insure that no one is in the building.
I just always assumed the when someone was cuffed they were being arrested. That is not always the case. There is a difference between being detained and being arrested. In some circumstances the civilian is demonstrating behavior that could be a danger to the police officer or themselves. In those cases it is often better to put them in handcuffs for everyone’s safety. If the handcuffs are not attached to both hands they could become a weapon and put the police officer in more danger.
The police are called out for a wide variety of reasons. Depending on the situation it is either a civil matter and they cannot get involved or it may result in someone being arrested and taken to the jail. It is up to the jail to determine if they will be accepted into the jail or not. We went through a number of them and how each situation would be handled by the police.
Someone doing an action is always faster then someone reacting to the action. A police officer is usually reacting to someone else’s action and are therefore always a few second behind. One way to protect themselves is to always stay 21 feet away or more from the person they are dealing with. Where they are behind on time they have the distance to help over compensate for that.
The officers doing this training were the same officers that did the routine traffic stop scenarios for the EVO class. I always enjoy their training. Each of us were given the opportunity in a practice scenario to go out on a call. In my case I was dealing with a person in the park who was sword practicing. In situations like this you do not know if there could be violence or not. The main thing they wanted us to experience was the stress response that is typical in situations like this. Your ability to hear changes under these acute stressful situations. A color would be spoken out loud on the side. The person participating in the scenario did not hear the color that was spoken outloud.
Each class I am learning something new about the dangers the police officers face every day they go to work. Often it is little things that I would not have considered before. If we want a good policing in our communities we have to be engaged with the police. As with all jobs there are sometimes “bad apples” but for the most part people do try to do their best. If the community is engaged with the police officers it strengthens those relationships and helps to weed out the “bad apples”. Also a lot of the people that police officers deal with on a day to day basis are criminals and the bad elements of society. A little bit of kindness will go a long way.
This evening was spent at the gun range with Range Master Nick Roberts. He has a very impressive knowledge about guns that he has accumulated over many years. I hope to have the opportunity of take his concealed gun course someday.
The first thing I did was to do a couple of scenarios in the VirTra simulator. Basically is simulates actual scenarios in a 360 degree environment to give you an idea what a real situation might be like. In both scenarios I was involved in the scene escalated to a shooting and if it has been real life I would have been dead. The simulation is real enough that the body responds as if you were in an acute stress environment. It is a great way to train for those kind of situations.
When I was in the U.S. Navy, on watch I would sometimes have to carry a gun. Once a year I would go to the gun range to shoot and as long as I hit the target a few times I would pass. Being in an actual acutely stressful environment where guns are being fired was something I had no training for. I had wrong assumptions about how I would react in such a situation, which I learned after doing 2 different scenarios in the VirTra simulator. In the 2nd simulation I was so focused on one area that I never saw the person who appeared on the side and fired shots.
Things can happen so fast and get out of hand in a few seconds. Sometimes the only thing that police officers have between them and death is a few seconds to make the right decision. The officer sometimes has to make split second decisions in an almost impossible to manage situation. In an high stress situation things can go wrong really quickly and mistakes can be made.
The second part of my night was a tour of the gun vault. All I can say is wow they have some pretty awesome guns in their vault. They had two different Thompson Machine Guns one from the 1920’s and one from the 1940’s in the vault. I got to hold both of them. All of the guns owned by police officers in the U.P.D are maintained and fixed in a shop in the vault. That is also an impressive operation. They have a lot of different varieties of guns that they maintain and fix.
I was able to shoot a machine gun in semi-automatic and in automatic mode. That was an awesome experience. There is just something about holding all that power in your hands and then pulling the trigger. It has been a long time since I shot a gun. I had forgotten how much I enjoy shooting a gun on occasion.
Officers go out to the Emergency Vehicle Operations course to learn and practice safe vehicle maneuvering. The course itself is operated by the Peace Officers Standards and Training Division under the Utah Department of Public Safety. This year for the first time they gave permission to the U.P.D. to use the course as part of the Citizen’s Police Academy.
Each of us were able to sit in the passenger seat of one of the U.P.D. police vehicles while they simulated a high speed chase. For safety we were required to wear helmets while in the vehicle. The new Ford Interceptor, because of all the current technology, is an extremely stable vehicles. The older Ford Crown Victoria does not have the same technology so the stability of the vehicle has a lot to do the the skill of the driver. Two of the vehicles driven around the track were Interceptors and one was a Crown Victoria. I rode in the Crown Victoria. It was so much fun to ride around in the police car at high speeds. Inside I was doing my fan girl screaming while on the outside I maintained some sort of decorum.
The second time in the vehicle was a demonstration of the exercises the officers to do learn safe maneuvering techniques. This time I was in an Interceptor. The vehicle felt like it was moving parallel when the driver was maneuvering around obstacles. The other exercise that was simulated was to stop the vehicle in a box from a high speed. Again I maintained my outward decorum while my inner fan girl was screaming.
We simulated deploying tire spikes. They are not so easy to deploy. It can be very dangerous.
Part of the training that day was simulating routine traffic stops and high risk traffic stops. Of all the job related activities police officers do, routine traffic stops are the most stressful. This is something that I never considered before. The reason for this is that this situation inherently had many unknowns. Dealing with unknown situations is always the most stressful. This year Officer Douglas Barney from the U.P.D. was fatally shot responding to a traffic accident.
I found for myself that it was more stressful during the routine traffic stop scenario. I could feel my heart rate increase and my breathing become shallow. I had to stop and take a second to start breathing again.
I am not sure I actually have the words yet to express how this experience has changed my understand of police officers. With all of the rhetoric that is going around facebook and the news it feels like everyone wants to distil the current issues around police officers to either police brutality or 100% support for all police actions around the country. The situations and politics around all this are certainly more complex than I was open to see before I started the citizen’s police academy.
The LGBTQ community has often had a difficult relationship with police officers in general. The entire modern American gay culture came into its own and out of hiding partly because of the Stonewall Riots, which was basically a confrontation of a community against the police. I am beginning to see that I had a lot of unconscious views and beliefs about police officers. I am becoming aware of many of them. My heart is opening and my understanding is growing. That is the foundation of healing from conflict. I am sure that I will have more to say on this topic as I attend move of the citizen’s police academy classes.
The Crime Lab is part of the Forensic Investigations Unit. All of the officers that work in this unit are highly trained and highly educated. There is a lot of demand to work in this department. The U.P.D. puts a lot of effort into their forensic science. I was very impressive.
They have some state of the art equipment that allows them to collect fingerprints that go beyond the standard methods. They have recently acquired a digital fingerprint scanner. The first time I experienced a digital fingerprint scanner was at the immigration office in Sweden. We were also shown the file room where all of the booking fingerprint cards are stored. Digitized fingerprints are revolutionizing forensic investigations making it simpler to match fingerprints collected at crime sites.
There was so many fascinating things at the crime lab. I do not understand the science well enough to be able to adequately describing it in this blog post. I had so much fun though learning about all the different techniques that they have available to them to solve a crime. It is really an impressive department.
I had the opportunity to sit down with two different dispatcher and listen in as they were doing their jobs. I did not realize that their job actually entailed so much. Now I get to admit my past ignorance. I thought that they just took 911 calls and direct calls for the police department and fire department. Understand I do not watch a lot of cops shows.
The fist dispatcher I sat down with was in charge of the Oquirrh area of Salt Lake County. He was actively monitoring five different radio channels, taking phone calls and dispatching police officers to various locations. All of this was going on while he was also explaining his job and how the different radio channels worked.
The second dispatcher I sat down with was primarily taking phone calls. Phones calls come in with only a few second warning. If you are on, a phone call can come in at any moment even if you are right in the middle of a tense situation on the radio with an officer.
Because of all the noise around me I was not able to clearly hear what was said on the radio channels. The dispatchers have trained themselves to hear lot of different sounds at once and distinguish them. This is certainly the ultimate multi-tasking job. They have to be in full attention and full energy mode their entire working shirt. It is a job I would not be suited for. I understand better how Dispatch is a vital part of the Unified Police Department.
I have seen the Salt Lake County Jail a number of times. Not realizing it was a jail, I thought it was just a big warehouse. The county jail is a two story cement building with no windows. Walking up to the building for the first time was when I realized this building is the prison. It is a maximum security jail. This is accomplished by the design of the building. There are no fences or guard towers around it.
Entering the heart of the jail felt like walking into a real life sci-fi dystopia. Moving from one section of the prison to another section required passing through two doors. You would enter the first door into a small area. Once in that small transition area you would have to wait till the first door closed before the second door would open. All the doors are opened remotely by a prison guard in a different area of the prison. There is a name for this kind of system but I do not remember.
All the surfaces in the building were either cement or stainless steel. It felt very harsh and sterile. The smell was a mix of industrial cleaners, body order, and dirt. The colors felt drab and slightly grey.
For the most part the staff, including the jail guards were helpful and friendly. I realize that it would be a different relationship if I was a prisoner there. One of the guards made a comment about how the design of the building made it difficult for rehabilitation programs. This building was designed to extract a pound of flesh for the crime committed. For most of the people in the prison maximum security was overkill.
Another comment that was made, that really stuck with me was about how people do not want half-way houses in their neighborhood. But the truth is that the prisoners when released from jail end up in their neighborhoods in the houses and apartments anyways, just hidden from view. Wouldn’t it be better if they were in a half-way house where they were drug tested daily and required to either work or go to school.
At the very end of the tour I overheard a discussion about the difference between a prison and a jail. For a lay person like me I do not see any difference it is basically a technical one. If it is run by a city or county it is a jail. If it is run by a state or the Federal Government it is a prison.
I walked away better understanding this common mentality that seems to be preventive in American society. If something is Out of Site – it is Out of Mind. If the county jail had a fence around it I would have viewed the building differently upon first seeing it. Guard towers would add to my awareness. I am just beginning to become aware of the actual cost to society in terms of monetary and social cost that are associated with prisons and jails. I might choose different methods of restitution and rehabilitation rather than this idea that every crime must be paid for with a pound of flesh.
Because of a series of serendipitous events I have a spot in the Citizen Police Academy (CPA) put on by the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake. This is an eleven week program were ordinary citizens have the opportunity to learn about the day to day operations of the police department. It is offered once a year and limited to only 40 adults. The day before I inquired about it 2 people had dropped out of the course as a result a spot opened up.
This is especially relevant now because it was my intention to reformat my blog and start blogging again. This opportunity to attend the CPA therefore is the perfect time to start blogging again. It is currently a tense political climate around the police and policing in America. Gaining more knowledge about what it is like to be a police officer will be very helpful in my ability to engage in intelligent conversation around this topic.
In a less intellectual sphere some of the areas that will be covered in the class excite the more masculine part of myself. Of late I have had a lot of fun with my various explorations of a more gender bending personal expression. I do not see any of these activities as inherently masculine. They just excite the more masculine part of my personality which occasionally wants to be expressed.
Some of the subject areas covered are: [the following list comes from the UPD Website]
In addition this year there is a bonus class at the Emergency Vehicle Operations Range which I am really excited about. This class and the time on the gun range are a cause lots of excitement for masculine Keith.
I will be blogging about each of the classes that I attend. I look forward to gaining a better appreciation of what it is like to be a police officer as a consequence of attending CPA. For any of you who are interested you can follow along with me via my blog.