Citizens Academy Stories
Press release from: Clackamas County Sheriff's Office
CLACKAMAS REVIEW SCRIBE LEARNS WHAT IT TAKES TO BE A DEPUTY AT CITIZEN'S ACADEMY
The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office hosts an annual "Citizens Informational Sheriff's Academy" (CISA) that provides an opportunity for members of the community to get a first-hand look at CCSO's inner workings.
CISA's goal is to foster positive relationships between the community and the Sheriff's Office. During an intensive eight-week course, citizens from diverse backgrounds listen to presentations, take tours, and participate in intense driving and combat simulations -- and they gain a deeper appreciation of the challenges and decisions faced daily by Sheriff's Office personnel.
Among this year's CISA participants was a journalist: Clackamas Review and Oregon City News reporter Patrick Sherman.
Over eight weeks, Patrick wrote an extraordinary series of articles that beautifully captured the CISA experience. With his newspaper's permission, we've compiled his stories, combined them with photos (many by Sherman himself), and present it below as a single, magazine-length narrative.
We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we did.
WEEK ONE: THE CISA ORIENTATION
It was an unlikely group of recruits that gathered on Thursday, April 5 for the start of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office citizens academy: there was an aspiring deputy, but also a gynecologist, a pair of mental-health workers, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, a sign-maker, a church leader -- even a journalist.
In all, 23 citizens from Oregon City, Milwaukie , Boring, Damascus and even faraway Tigard were accepted into the intensive eight-week program to learn, in detail, about the operation of the county's largest law-enforcement agency.
Sheriff Craig Roberts welcomed the participants, describing how he began his career in 1979 as a reserve deputy and rotated through the office's many specialized departments -- from patrol to narcotics to property crimes to murder investigations.
"The one thing that I learned working homicide is: when we hit a dead end and we don't know where to go, we turn to you -- we get the public involved," he said. "We can't do this job alone. We rely on every one of you to be our eyes and ears."
Roberts expressed his hope that by the time they had finished the academy, this cadre of citizens would be better equipped to help the police in times of need, and that they would also serve as a conduit for information and ideas between his office and the community at large.
For their parts, each citizen came with their own reason for enrolling.
"I like to cruise the jail's website when I'm bored, looking for people I know," said Betinna Birch. "That's how I found out about the academy. It just looked like fun."
Luminita Wynn, who emigrated from Romania nine years ago, said that in her homeland only members of the Communist Party had been allowed to join the police force. Now hoping to start a career in law enforcement herself, she said she was especially interested in studying the relationship between police and civilians.
Another participant, Steven Thomas, explained that he had once pulled over and helped a deputy apprehend a pair of suspects attempting to flee from a traffic stop.
"I thought to myself, 'You know, this is really cool,'" he said. "I want to get to know the sheriff's department better because I really believe in what they do."
Jan Miller, who works in the Mental Health Department of Clackamas County Community Health, hoped that the academy would help her at work.
"It can be very difficult sometimes to explain to the families why law enforcement does what they do," she said. "That's my main reason for being here -- so I can do a better job."
Captain Mike Machado, who launched the academy six years ago, began with an overview of CCSO's responsibilities.
"By state statute, the sheriff's office is mandated to provide certain services," he said. "Among those are civil processes -- like divorces, evictions and prisoner transport. We are also mandated to have a jail, and serve as the corrections department for the county.
"Finally, we are also responsible for search and rescue operations on land and water. We ran over 107 missions last year."
With a land area of nearly 1,900 square miles, served by 7,900 miles of highways, streets and roads, Clackamas County poses special challenges for the police.
"You can get in a situation where a deputy requests a cover unit, and that cover unit is 45 minutes away," said Machado. "It's an extremely large county -- and it isn't just about the roads, its about the waterways, as well."
The county is home to more than 25,000 registered boaters, who ply the waters of the Willamette, Clackamas and Sandy rivers, in addition to Timothy Lake and numerous smaller waterways.
Patrolling them, and fulfilling all of the other requirements of the agency, is the task of fewer than 250 deputies.
"Most municipal police agencies have two officers per 1,000 residents," said Machado. "Sheriff's offices typically have less than one per 1,000, and we generally average around seven-tenths of an officer per 1,000 residents.
"Part of the reason behind this academy is recruiting. Each year, some great candidates come from the members of this academy, or from people they know: their children, friends and relatives."The Laughing Captain (Part 1)
Captain Mike Machado began his talk with an unlikely tale from the annals police work -- telling the academy about a patrol deputy who pulled over a woman and asked to see her driver's license.
Frantic, she dug through her purse before turning to the officer and asking, "What does it look like?"
He replied, "It's a little square with your picture on it."
Searching further, she produced a compact with a small mirror. Seeing her reflection in the mirror, she handed it up to the officer, saying: "Is this it?"
The deputy took the compact and after looking at it himself, he said: "I'm sorry -- if I had realized you were a police officer, I never would have pulled you over in the first place."
WEEK TWO: THE PATROL DIVISION
The Clackamas County Sheriff's Office citizens academy gave its citizen recruits an inside look at the patrol division -- the public face of law enforcement in the community.
"After 5 p.m. and on the weekends, were the only visible sign of the government," said Lieutenant Dave O'Shaughnessy. "We get to be social workers at night, which is frustrating for a lot of our deputies, because we're not trained for it.
"It's almost like the old days, when you would call the telephone operator, and they would patch you through to who you need. It's not just about crushing crime and arresting bad guys any more. It's evolved into more than that."
The patrol division incorporates many of the department's specialized functions, such as the SWAT team, search and rescue operations and the aero division -- but its primary mission is to patrol the county's 7,900 miles of roads and highways.
This rare look behind the scenes at traffic enforcement proved too much of a temptation for local sign-shop owner Steven Thomas, who asked the questions that have crossed the minds of every motorist that has every seen a police cruiser in the rear-view mirror.
"I heard from someone once that sheriff's deputies aren't as likely as the regular police to write a citation -- is that true?" he asked.
O'Shaughnessy summoned up a slide in his PowerPoint presentation that indicated the office had issued 22,022 traffic citations in 2005 -- the most recent year for which data is available.
"We have a five-person traffic team going like gangbusters," said the lieutenant. "We issue about 60 traffic citations per day, but I'd estimate that we do five to eight times that many traffic stops, when we don't write a citation."
He did have one insight to offer Thomas.
"If they are on two wheels, you're going to get a ticket," O'Shaughnessy said, holding the handlebars of an imaginary motorcycle. "That's what they're out there to do. If they are on four wheels, you might stand a chance."
Thomas pressed ahead with another question, perforating another myth about traffic enforcement.
"I've always thought if you were going no faster than seven miles per hour above the speed limit, you'd be okay," he said.
The lieutenant laughed: "Are we going to have to parse the meaning of the word, 'limit?' Realistically, you could be stopped for going one mile per hour over the limit."
By the numbers
In his presentation, O'Shaughnessy offered many numeric descriptors of the patrol division. It includes one captain, five lieutenants, 20 sergeants, 114 deputies, 10 community service officers and four support personnel. Each works four 10-hour days per week.
Most have other assignments, as well: serving as members of the SWAT team or as search and rescue coordinators, scuba divers or pilots.
In 2005, the patrol division responded to 74,667 calls -- an average of 204 per day.
"That's one every seven minutes, on average," he said.
In responding to those incidents, officers prepared 57,836 police reports.
The rapidly growing county that O'Shaughnessy and his fellow deputies serve has an estimated population of 361,300. Of those 149,370 live its cities, with the remaining 211,930 inhabitants making their homes on unincorporated land.
"We are the most visible arm of the sheriff's office," he said. "This is where the entry level sworn personnel begin their careers. Detectives are fed out of patrol. Civil process is fed out of patrol. Special units are fed out of patrol."
In addition to its county-wide duties, the sheriff's office provides police services to several of the region's cities under contract. These range from Estacada, with two deputies assigned 14 hours per day, to Wilsonville, which has 16 personnel providing 24-hour coverage under the leadership of a lieutenant who serves as its chief of police.
"This is a big cost savings for the cities, because they don't need to create all of the supporting infrastructure, that a full police department would require," said O'Shaughnessy.
Hide and seek
Among the busiest of the specialized units within the patrol division is Search and Rescue, according to John Gibson, one of eight SAR coordinators within the sheriff's office.
"In 2006, we conducted 107 missions -- which is about one every three days," said Gibson. "Search and rescue is the busiest specialty unit, and Clackamas is the busiest county in the state."
Pausing, he gestured out the window to the east.
"The primary cause is the white moron magnet called Mt. Hood," he said. "It's the second most frequently climbed mountain in the world. The first is Mt. Fiji, and that's because it's the site of a religious pilgrimage."
The mountain is unique for its close proximity to Portland and its international airport, and for the technical challenges it provides for climbers who are headed to even more extreme challenges elsewhere in the world.
"Within two hours of landing, they can be at the base of the mountain," said Gibson.
He explained that much of the actual searching is done by trained volunteers, who can number more than 300 in a large incident.
"We search until the sheriff tells us to stop," Gibson explained. "We look at mathematical models which tell us the probability of actually finding a person in the search area, and also look at the possibility of survival, given the weather and other factors.
"If we don't find a person, that's an open case. We never terminate a search, we suspend it. Often, we'll continue a search for months or years as part of training exercises. Just because we've said enough's enough doesn't mean we stop looking."
Search and rescue brings with it hazards apart from severe weather, the deputy explained.
"I do more paperwork on a search than I ever do taking somebody to jail," he said.
The Laughing Captain (Part 2)
Captain Mike Machado opened this week's installment of the citizen's academy with another tale from the annals of improbable happenings in law enforcement.
He recounted how an Oklahoma state trooper had spotted a car pulled over at the side of the road after a heavy snowstorm. After parking his patrol car, the officer approached the vehicle and discovered the driver slumped behind the wheel with the engine running, and several empty alcohol containers visible inside.
The trooper tapped on the glass, and the man inside recovered himself enough to roll down the window. He resisted the officer's suggestion that he had been drinking and stomped on the gas to make his getaway.
The wheels of his car spun uselessly in the snow, but the officer decided to play along and started jogging in place beside the car. He eventually persuaded the man to "pull over."
"So, somewhere in Oklahoma there is a drunk who believes that a state trooper is the fastest man alive," Machado said.
WEEK THREE: GETTING SERVED WITH CIVIL
In its third week, the citizens academy gave participants an up-close look at the civil section of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. This group is not "civil" because it asks politely if suspects want one lump or two with their tea; instead, it conducts civil affairs for the office: serving subpoenas, transporting prisoners and protecting judges.
Deputy Danny Dea began by describing the Clackamas County Courthouse in Oregon City, where the section does much of its work.
"It was built in 1937," he said. "We are much busier now, in 2007, then we were 70 years ago. When the courthouse was built, it was also home to the entire sheriff's office."
Through a series of major remodels, the courthouse has been updated. Originally built with just one courtroom, nine more have been added through the decades -- and security has been increased as well. Dea described how a murder-suicide had once unfolded, with a man killing his estranged wife, and then himself.
"How in the H do these guys get weapons into the courthouse?" asked Steven Thomas, one of 24 citizens enrolled in the academy.
"Where there's a will, there's a way," said Kenton Johnson, another participant.
Dea answered: "I haven't seen a gun come through in a long time. Now, we've got a magnetometer and an X-ray machine at the entrance, but things still slip through. Knives, mostly."
He explained that the courthouse is the scene of powerful, emotional events: marriages end, restraining orders are enforced and criminals are sentenced to long years in prison.
"These are people that are not normally problem people, but they aren't there for happy things," said Dea.
In the crowded halls and courtrooms, keeping prisoners secure and separate from the public is a top priority for deputies assigned to the civil section.
"On average, we move 17 inmates between the jail and the courthouse every day," he said. "Sometimes, when it's standing room only in a court room and we're trying to move a prisoner through that environment, it can be a real challenge."
You got served
Another main function of the civil section is to serve notices and subpoenas -- a total of 10,151 in 2006.
"These can be anything from notice processes, which is something like 'You're being sued,' or 'You're behind on your child support,' to enforcement processes, like garnishing wages and restraining orders," said Deputy Larry Jones.
Property seizures are another type of process, and are typically authorized by the court to collect a debt after other measures have been exhausted.
"Till taps at a business are one example," Jones said. "Following an order from a judge, the sheriff goes out and takes all the cash on the premises. It's kind of like an armed robbery, except that we leave a receipt."
Evictions are an expanding proportion of the civil section's work, according to Jones.
"Last month, I got bit by a dog," he said. "We're finding more and more people who are still living at the residence when we actually arrive to evict them, and that's at the end of a two- to three-month process."
Jones estimated that the civil section conducts 50 evictions per month.
"You'd be amazed at some of the living conditions," he said. "The walls are covered with fecal matter."
Civil process is one of only three services the sheriff's office is required by the state to provide, along with search and rescue operations and the county jail. Its other functions, such as patrol and general law enforcement are not technically required.
The Laughing Captain (Part 3)
In another improbable anecdote drawn from the history of law enforcement, Captain Mike Machado recounted for the citizens academy how a woman returned home one evening to find that her front door had been kicked open.
With her panic rising, she looked inside and saw her possession scattered across the floor and soon realized that her home had been burglarized. Distraught, she dialed 9-1-1 and told the emergency operator what happened between heavy sobs.
All of the patrol units in the area were already busy responding to other calls, so a K-9 officer picked up his radio and told the dispatcher that he was on his way. Arriving at the woman's home, the officer and his dog stepped out of the car.
The woman, who had nearly recovered herself, burst out crying once again.
"What's wrong?" asked the officer, concerned.
She cried: "First someone breaks into my home, and then they send out a blind cop to investigate!"
WEEK FOUR: MAJOR CRIMES, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND CHILD ABUSE
For the first time since the start of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office informational academy, participants were led exclusively by officers dressed in plainclothes -- with only their badges and their holstered sidearms to distinguish them from the citizens they serve.
"We're just not out there on patrol, dealing with the public in an enforcement mode," said Sergeant Kevin Layng with the Major Crimes Unit. "If we're going to serve a search warrant, we'll wear body armor and a jacket with some markings on it, though."
Based out of the Shaver Building in Oregon City, Layng's unit comprises seven detectives, two forensic crime scene investigators and a forensic artist.
"We have one detective detailed to robbery, and the rest investigate murder, rape and serious assaults," he said. "If I'm short on people or I've got a huge crime scene to cover, I call the district attorney, who activates the inter-agency major crimes team, which draws on officers from departments across the county."
The Major Crimes Unit investigated five murders in 2006, a process both similar and different than how it is depicted on television.
"You know how they always show the FBI and the local police battling for jurisdiction over a case? Does that ever happen?" asked Steven Thomas.
"No, that's TV," replied Layng. "I've never experienced that in all my time here. We will still make fun of the FBI, though."
Crime scene investigators, universally recognized by the acronym CSI, are capable of amazing feats of deduction, according to Layng.
"They get a lot of training, so that they can tell which direction the blood was flying when it hits a wall, for example," he said, describing a knife murder. "Blood will actually fly off the blade of the knife and leave a specific pattern."
DNA can be used to identify both victims and perpetrators, even in cases where much of the remains have decayed over time.
"It's really common in a situation like this for the bad guy to cut himself, too," Layng said. "Blood and hair are great, but even if we have someone who we find skeletonized up in the woods, we can still get mitochondrial DNA from the bones."
Violence comes home
Detective Kimberly Timeus introduced the academy to the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team, which began in 2002 out of a growing recognition that abuse is widespread in society.
"According to national statistics, 85 percent of the victims of domestic violence are women, and 31 percent of all women in the United States are physically or sexually abused," she said.
Timeus described a cycle of abuse, which begins when the victim meets her future abuser.
"During that initial phase, he is often described as charming and intelligent," she said. "They are often very jealous and possessive, but it's almost flattering. It starts out like any normal relationship, seemingly."
Tension builds as the abuser exerts more and control over his victim.
"Often, the victims will say that the feel like they are walking on eggshells," said Timeus. "I worked one case where this guy would let his wife leave the house, but when she got back, he would go through all of her shopping bags and look at the time stamps on the receipts. He would fly into a rage if an hour was missing, and accuse her of having an affair."
Over a period that can last weeks, months or even years, the strain builds before finally erupting into physical abuse. Those violent outbursts are often followed by a "false honeymoon," when the abuser is apologetic and promises to change his ways, even as the tension begins to mount anew.
Academy participant Randy Kargel was stunned by the level of abuse Timeus reported.
"If those statistics are right, then this is many times more likely to happen somebody than just about any other type of crime," he said. "I mean, you're way more likely to be a victim of domestic violence than you are to have your car stolen. Why?"
She responded: "For many years, this was regarded, for lack of a better word, as a family problem. It's just in the last 10 to 15 years we've started to recognize this as a crime."
"There has to be some sort of reason for this," Kargel said.
"I wish I knew what it was," Timeus said. "That might bring us closer to solving it."
The Laughing Captain (Part 4)
Called away by other duties, Captain Mike Machado still managed to regale the academy by phoning in another improbable anecdote from the annals of law enforcement. Through a proxy, he recalled how a police officer had pulled over a speeder and was in the process of writing him a citation when she noticed a pile of machetes in the back of his car.
Her curiosity piqued by the collection of potentially dangerous weapons, she asked the driver about them.
"Oh," he said. "I'm a juggler -- I use them in my act."
"Okay," she replied. "Prove it."
The driver stepped out on to the shoulder of the road and began to juggle first three, then four, then five machetes, their steel blades swirling through the air in a death-defying display.
A passing motorist happened to see the impromptu performance and said to himself, "Man, I gotta stop drinking -- those field sobriety tests are getting tough."
WEEK FIVE: PROPERTY CRIMES, CAR THIEVES AND ID CRIMINALS
The takeaway lesson from this week's session of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office citizens academy is to buy locks, lots of locks -- and a paper shredder, too. Sergeant Bill Erickson introduced the recruits to the property crime unit.
"We go after mid- to upper-level felony cases, and misdemeanors in the case of chronic offenders, like car clouters -- the guys who break into cars and steal stuff," said Erickson.
He told the participants that automobile break-ins and thefts are common crimes.
"We get hammered, and it's not something that we've got the resources to tackle on a concerted basis," Erickson said. "It's so easy to steal cars, especially certain makes and models: Honda Civics, Honda Accords, Toyota Camrys. In the early to mid 90s, the manufacturers only used four or five different keys.
"These guys carry around a sack full of keys for every make and model."
He divided car thieves into two primary categories -- opportunists and professionals.
"These tweakers and car-clouters, they will steal a car at Clackamas Town Center to drive up 82nd because they are too lazy to take the bus, and if you have any valuables in there, they will take those, too," said Erickson. "If your cell phone is in there, they'll use that for five hours, before it gets cancelled."
Professionals steal cars to part them out in chop shops, or to re-sell them intact.
"Typically, it's a group of guys that can be anything from a fairly formal organization to a loose-knit group," he said. "They may even give the appearance of being a legitimate business.
"We have had successes against chop shops, but it's not something we're doing regularly. We haven't had the resources to dedicate to it, but that's beginning to change."
The police are deploying new tools against thieves -- those who steal cars, and also those who commit residential and commercial burglaries.
"Our deputies are doing a lot with DNA," said Erickson. "We're getting a lot of convictions off guys drinking a can of pop or smoking a cigarette."
The criminals are also taking advantage of new technology, however. With pawn shops fingerprinting and photographing customers who bring in property, the crooks are turning to the Internet.
"Ebay and Craigslist have become the new unregulated pawn shops," he said. "A fair amount of stolen stuff gets listed on the web, but we have to count on the victim to go online and find it themselves. We don't have the time to do that ourselves."
In addition to high-value property, like jewelry, firearms and computers, burglars are also targeting financial information and tax records, in order to perpetrate identity theft following a break-in.
"These guys will even steal your mail," Erickson said. "The worst thing in the world you can do is write a check to the power company, put in your mail box and raise the flag -- that's just an invitation to ID thieves."
The hazard even extends beyond the home.
"If you go in to re-finance your home, find out how the company you are working with disposes of the documents," he said. "We've had plenty of ID thieves tell us that they go to the nearest strip mall and dig credit applications out of the dumpster behind the home loan place."
The Laughing Captain (Part 5)
Once again, Captain Mike Machado regaled the citizens academy with an unlikely anecdote from the annals of law enforcement. He told the class about an officer patrolling a winding mountain road who followed a car around a bend.
Suddenly, it began swerving erratically from the right to the left and then back again. The officer turned on his lights and sirens, and gestured for the driver to pull over to the side of the road.
He complied, and the officer cautiously approached the vehicle. Distraught, the driver rolled down his window.
"Did you see that, officer? I was almost in an accident!" the driver cried.
"I saw that," the officer responded. "What seems to be the problem?"
"When I came around the bend, there was a tree right in from of me, so I swerved to the right, but there was another one, so I swerved back -- I just barely dodged all those trees," said the driver.
The officer reached inside the car and plucked a scented piece of cardboard from beneath the driver's rear-view mirror.
"Sir," he said, "that was your air freshener."
WEEK SIX: THE RECORDS DIVISION
"This is probably going to be the most exciting part of the whole academy," said Lori Vicars, a 25-year veteran of the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office. "Tonight, we're going to talk about the records department."
Vicars told the participants in the sheriff's citizens academy that while maintaining the department's records may not be the most glamorous aspect of law enforcement, it is important nonetheless.
"Most of us, if we're going to be the victim of a crime, it's not going to be a major crime," she said. "It's going to be a car break-in, and you're going to need a copy of the police report for your insurance company.
"Or maybe you're in the middle of a custody fight as part of a divorce, so you want to know how many times the police have responded to your spouse's address. It's not life and death, but for the people in those situations, it's the most important thing in the world."
Like calls to the county's emergency 9-1-1 system, Vicars emphasized that there is a constant flow of reports to file -- at night, over weekends and on holidays -- and that timely reporting is critical.
"Let's say that a woman gets home and finds her car missing from the driveway. She calls the police and reports it stolen," said Vicars. "A little while later, her kid shows up with the car, even though she explicitly told him not to drive.
"She calls the police and cancels the report, but if that doesn't get put in right away, the next time she herself goes out driving, she gets pulled over with a felony traffic stop -- which means guns drawn. The sheriff's office might as well go ahead and write her a check right there, because we're liable for the trauma of putting her through that."
Accuracy is also crucial. Again turning to the example of a stolen vehicle, Vicars described what could happen if the clerk transposed two digits in its license plate while inputting the report. A patrol officer who subsequently stopped the vehicle and checked its plates through his in-car terminal would have no idea that he was seconds away from confronting a thief.
As the manager of the records department, Vicars oversees a staff of 18 full-time employees. In 2006, they issued 8,144 warrants, served just shy of 800 protective orders, recorded 2,350 towed vehicles, responded to 9,377 requests for records and processed a total of 54,341 reports.
Her unit is also responsible for interfacing with the state's Law Enforcement Database System and the National Crime Information Center. Since criminals do not adhere to jurisdictional boundaries, cooperation with other agencies is essential to combating crime.
"Every agency in Oregon enters information into LEDS, so that if a car is stolen in Woodburn, it can be identified in Portland ," said Vicars. "Only cars, weapons and property valued at $500 or greater is entered into the NCIC database."
Crucial to identifying stolen property and returning it to its owner is a unique identifier, such as a serial number or owner-applied number.
"Most of the stuff people report to us is unidentifiable," Vicars said. "Mark these things, take photographs, record serial numbers and keep a file. That's what we need in the event that it's stolen."
Captain Mike Machado cited one example: "We auction off hundreds of bicycles every year, just because we can't identify the owner. You can't just call us up and say, 'I lost a purple bicycle.'"
The Laughing Captain (Part 6)
Drawing once again from law enforcement's annals of improbable occurrences, Captain Mike Machado described how a lawman in the deep South pulled over a car with out-of-state plates for speeding.
Climbing out of his cruiser, he hitched up his belt and took his billy club in his hand. He used it to tap on the driver's window, and then rapped him on the side of the head with it when he rolled the window down.
"What was that for!?" cried the distressed motorist.
"Boy, when I come up beside your vehicle here, you're to have your license and registration at the ready," drawled the lawman. "Is that clear?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir," said the motorist. "We're not from around here -- I didn't know."
The officer took the motorist's documents back to his cruiser and checked them on his computer terminal. Seeing no outstanding warrants, he handed them back to the driver, then walked around to the passenger's window.
He tapped on the glass with his billy club, and when the passenger rolled down the window, the lawman rapped him in the head.
"Ouch!" yelped the passenger. "What was that for?"
"I'm just making your wish come true," the lawman replied.
The passenger looked up at him quizzically.
The lawman said: "You can't tell me that you would have gotten more than a mile down the road before you turned to your friend here and said, 'I wish he'd done that to me.'"
WEEK SEVEN: SIMULATED ACTION
After six weeks of lectures and video presentations, it was finally time for participants in the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office informational academy to see a little (simulated) action.
"As you go through these simulations, think about what happens in the real world," Captain Mike Machado advised the recruits as a group of them prepared for a turn in CCSO's four $125,000 driving simulators.
"It took us four years to get these," said Lieutenant Dave O'Shaughnessy. "We needed them because we couldn't find anyone to volunteer to step out in front of a speeding patrol car to see if the deputy makes the right decision -- we've tried."
Complete with seatbelts, a gear shifter, working instruments and three panoramic video screens, the simulator teaches officers to make good decisions during a car chase, without the hazards and expense of using real vehicles.
"The big difference between the simulated world and the real world is the sense of motion," said O'Shaughnessy. "You'll see buildings go by, and there's a subwoofer under the seat, so you'll feel the rumble of the road, but it won't fool your inner ear."
The session began with an orientation to the simulator itself and ended with participants chasing down white van through a city replete with other traffic.
"It was difficult," said participant Charlie Paul, a veteran of World War II , Korea and Vietnam . "It would take some real practice to get good at, and it keeps you alert -- that's for sure."
In the situation room, recruits strapped on a pistol that fired "simunition:" bullets filled with paint, to test themselves in a deadly confrontation with a knife-wielding suspect.
"In a situation like this, adrenaline causes tunnel vision and shuts down your auditory nerves," said Deputy John Gibson. "You can't see much, and you can't hear anything. Fine motor control fails, so all we have to work with are our gross motor skills.
"That means we aim for the biggest part of the target."
Each participant took a turn, standing 21 feet away from a knife-wielding suspect -- in fact a deputy wearing a heavily padded suit and carrying a rubber blade. When he turned and charged, most of the recruits barely had time to draw the pistol and snap off a hasty shot.
"Even if you get him right through the heart, he can still be up running around for 15 seconds -- and he can do a lot of harm to you in that time," said Gibson.
The experience left an impression on participant Austene Schneider.
"It's quick," she said. "It's scary. I sat there and watched everybody go through it, and I still didn't realize how quick it would be when it came to me. And also, just the thought of shooting somebody, ew!"
The Laughing Captain (Part 7)
Captain Mike Machado once again started the session by describing an improbable happening from the annals of law enforcement, dealing with three new recruits and a police sergeant leading them through an exercise in observation skills.
Prior to class, the sergeant acquired a mug shot of a suspect, which he showed to the first recruit for five seconds, and then tucked it away.
"That's your suspect -- now tell me, how are you going to identify him?" asked the sergeant.
The first recruit replied: "Well, that's easy, sergeant -- he only has one eye."
The sergeant looked again at the photograph, and replied: "That's because it's a picture of him in profile!"
The sergeant showed the photograph to the second recruit, and asked the same question: "How would you identify this suspect?"
The second recruit answered: "He's only got one ear!"
"It's a profile!" yelled the sergeant, exasperated.
Next, he showed the photo to the third recruit, telling her, "Now, tell me how you would identify this suspect, and don't give me a stupid answer."
"Okay," she said. "He wears contact lenses."
The sergeant looked up the suspect's information on his computer and verified that he did, indeed, wear contact lenses.
"That's very good," said the sergeant. "How did you know that?"
"It just stands to reason," she said. "With only one eye and one ear, he can't wear glasses."
WEEK EIGHT: SUMMING IT UP
"This has been such a great experience in my life, I think I would rank it right behind the birth of my child," said Luminita Wynn, expressing her obvious enthusiasm for the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office citizens academy, which ended on Thursday, May 24.
She continued: "People should take the time, one time in their lives, to do what we did. Try to learn about these people who go out every day and don't know whether they will come home -- why they shoot and why they don't shoot. It's not like it is on TV."
The experience made an impression on the other participants, as well.
"I just loved it -- it's been a blast," said Marie Watson. "As a member of the community, I feel safer knowing the department is as good as it is. As a taxpayer, I'd be willing to pay more.
"Spiderman is no longer my hero."
Local business owner Steven Thomas added, "It's been eye-opening. I even wanted to be a cop at one point, so I've really appreciated these sessions. They were very informative."
More than 50 family and friends of the participants were on hand for the graduation ceremony. Sheriff Craig Roberts addressed the audience.
"I could tell from day one that this was going to be an exciting group," he said. "The goal of this academy is to foster relationships with the community. We can't tackle the problems that law enforcement faces alone -- success comes from working with the community."
Captain Mike Machado, who organized the first citizens academy in 2001 and has now seen it send more than 100 graduates back into the community, will soon be retiring from the sheriff's office.
"In a 30 year career, there are many highlights," he said. "But this academy has definitely been a great highlight to go out on."
Even as he steps aside, preparations are already underway for the 2008 academy. Interested citizens should visit the sheriff's website at http://www.clackamas.us/sheriff/ and click on the link to "Citizens Academy." Applications are available now.
The Laughing Captain (Part 8)
In its final session, Captain Mike Machado offered the academy one last story, drawn from the annals of improbable happenings in law enforcement. He recounted how a state trooper patrolling a highway came across a car driving 22 miles an hour, and other traffic swerving to avoid it.
Pulling over the vehicle as a road hazard, he found five elderly ladies inside, four in obvious distress -- their faces pale and anxious. He addressed himself to the driver: "Why are you driving 22? You're endangering yourself and other drivers," said the patrolman.
"Well, that's the posted speed limit," answered the woman behind the wheel, gesturing to a nearby road sign. It read: Highway 22.
"That's not the speed limit -- that's the route number," said the officer. "The speed limit is 55."
He decided to let the woman off with a warning, but he still had one more question for her: "Are your friends all okay? They look nervous."
She answered: "I hate to admit this, officer, but we just got off State Route 110."
You can contact Patrick Sherman at email@example.com. Photos courtesy Patrick Sherman and CCSO's Julie Bliss.
Articles are copyright 2007 Pamplin Media Group; reproduced with permission.
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