Brunswick Sheriff’s Citizens Academy — Week Seven

citizensacademyFirst, it is hard to believe we are already in week seven of the citizens academy.  Time flies!!

This week’s session met at Brunswick County Academy.  We started in the gym, where we were given an overview of what tasers are and when and how they are used.  In a nutshell, the purpose of a taser is to get an uncooperative suspect under control and into custody.

The following definition of a Taser was found on Wikipedia:  it uses electrical current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles causing “neuromuscular incapacitation”. Someone struck by a Taser experiences stimulation of his or her sensory nerves and motor nerves, resulting in strong involuntary muscle contractions.

The Wikipedia page adds that Tasers were introduced as non-lethal weapons to be used by police to subdue fleeing, belligerent, or potentially dangerous people, who would have otherwise been subjected to more lethal weapons such as a firearm.

A 2009 Police Executive Research Forum study said that officer injuries drop by 76% when a Taser is used.  Taser CEO Rick Smith has stated that police surveys show that the device has saved 75,000 lives.  The Officer who made the presentation reiterated the fact that Tasers have reduced officer injuries and deaths, and pointed out that the availability and uses of Tasers has likely saved taxpayers money by reducing workers compensation claims among law enforcement personnel.

A couple of interesting points:

  • The Tasers have a range of 21 feet
  • According to the Officers, studies have shown that an aggressive suspect can cover 21 feet before an Officer can draw their firearm.

We also had the chance to watch a Taser demonstration.  Several new officers were “tased” (I believe all new deputies with the Sheriff’s Office are required to be tased).  Let’s just say I’m glad I wasn’t the one feeling the voltage during the demonstration.

After the discussion and demonstration of Tasers, we switched over to the topic of gangs.  We watched part of a newscast that aired in Charlotte; the reporter had traveled to Los Angeles, studied the gang influence there, and compared it to the increasing gang influence in the Charlotte area.  I am attempting to find an online version of this video, and will link to it if and when I do.

The Officers who discussed the gang issue summed up our goal in Brunswick County very succinctly:  to prevent gangs from ever gaining the kind of foothold here that they have in Los Angeles and other areas.  This requires a pro-active approach that prevents the problem from developing, not one that reacts after they have a foothold.  Where we see a community with little or no visible gang influence, gangs see an open market with less competition.  Our law enforcement personnel are working to prevent them from gaining a foothold.  This is a non-stop fight.

The Officers who facilitated this session discussed:

  • Why people join gangs
  • The four categories of gangs that are prevalent in the United States
  • Gang identifiers, including tattoos, hand signs, clothing, colors, etc.
  • Graffiti (graffiti is, in essence, a gang “marking its territory”).

For additional information on the issue of gangs, you may want to check out the N.C. Gang Investigators Association.  Specific information available on their website includes:

The Officers also touched on the importance of family in gang prevention.  Many young people are attracted to gangs because they want a feeling of inclusion, and their “gang family” fills a void that is not being filled by their biological family.

To sum it up, this is an issue that we cannot and must not understimate.

After the discussion of gangs, we switched over to defensive tactics, also known as SCAT (Subject Control and Arrest Techniques).  In a nutshell, these are tactics designed to enable an officer to bring an uncooperative suspect under control and into custody with as little physical harm as possible.  The Officer conducting this part of the session demonstrated a number of tactics, including pressure points and other such items.

A few things to consider:

  • According to the Officer facilitating this discussion, 53,000 Officers were attacked in the line of duty last year
  • If a suspect is wrestling an Officer, there is a high probability that they are going for the Officer’s gun
  • If the suspect is able to obtain the Officer’s gun, the Officer’s life is obviously in danger
  • Defensive tactics (and tools such as the previously discussed Taser) allow an Officer to defend themselves in such situations
  • If, as previously discussed, an aggressive suspect can cover 21 feet in the time it takes an officer to draw their weapon and be ready to use it, then an officer has a split second to make decisions on whether to use force or defensive tactics and, if so, what method of force to use.

Once again, this was an informative and entertaining session.