Catch up on previous posts here.
Week 11 – Jennifer Thinks She is Annie Oakley Now
This week’s class was all about firearms. We learned a bit about the weapons that the Santa Monica Police Department uses and how the officers are trained. Wisely, we were not allowed to shoot actual guns but we did get to see the firing range and use the simulator.
- The Range Master is responsible for issuing, keeping track of, maintaining, and testing all of the weapons, armor, etc.
- Team of 20 instructors in all
- The Range Master also serves as a taser instructor, 1 qualification per month.
- Officers are required to have 8 hours of training in “perishable skills” every two years. Perishable skills are things that have to be practiced to be maintained.
- Using a shorter barrel shotgun like SMPD has requires special training on top of everything else.
- Officers are trained in low light and no light situations.
- Rookies are put in stressful situations in the simulator and then asked afterwards why they did what they did. This is also good training if they ever have to testify in court.
- FTO = field training officer
- LAPD has different training procedures than SMPD, but lots of overlap.
- Law enforcement agencies in So Cal often train together because there are so many so close together around here.
- There are 79 domains officers will learn and be tested on.
- Training/standards mandated by POST (Police Officer Standards & Training)
- 9mm – can carry more bullets
- Officers shoot to stop a threat, no “warning shots” or anything like that.
- Officers are trained to aim for the upper respiratory region to stop oxygenated blood from getting to the brain. Shooting someone in the leg (for example) very often doesn’t stop the threat.
- It is extremely difficult to shoot a gun out of someone’s hand, contrary to what TV & movies tell us.
- An officer’s choice of weapon should be determined by the situation.
- Most people shoot better with a rifle because of the longer barrel.
- Some bigger, heavier bullet proof vests stop knives. The lighter ones do not.
- Not all law enforcement agencies have their own range. Because SMPD does, they can do their own qualifications.
- Any training farther than 25 yards and they schlep out to A Place To Shoot.
- Simunition – training ammo, if you get hit it hurts and will leave a mark.
This is what happens when bullet proof glass is shot. Maybe “bullet resistant” would be a better name for it because with the right gun at the right distance and enough ammo you could easily break through.
It’s kind of beautiful in a strange way…
- In any police shooting where someone is hit, the officer is required to see a mental health professional before they are cleared for duty. (They don’t have to talk if they choose not to, but they have to go.)
- There are also officers who are confidential “peer support” so an officer always has someone to talk to. If they are more comfortable, they can go talk to peer support at other agencies.
- There is a specific mental health professional who SMPD officers can go see for any reason, paid for by the city.
- Officers are accountable for every shot they fire.
- Weapons training isn’t just about marksmanship, they also talk about what to do in various scenarios so an officer never has to stop and think about what they are supposed to do.
- “The first time you see something shouldn’t be out in the field.”
This week gave me one opportunity to ask my question about when entertainment media has gotten closest to the realities of law enforcement. The answer I was given is End of Watch, something I have heard as a response a lot.
Yesterday I got the best haircut of my life. On the way home I had to use my pepper spray to chase off a would-be-mugger. I’ve been extra cranky ever since…
Catch up on previous weeks here
Week 10 – “Why did you become a cop?” “Well… I think I look good in a uniform”
– Captain Lowe
If the name Captain Lowe sounds familiar that’s because I introduced you to him back in Week 1 and again in Week 5 when I was learning about “rules of arrest.” Captain Lowe is the instructor I quoted as saying, “treat everyone with dignity and respect, but always have a way to kill them” which may have made him sound a little bit scary. I’ve only met the man three times, so weigh what I say accordingly, but he has never been ‘scary’ or anything less than delightful in my presence. Imagine a really cuddly teddy bear… with a gun. (I’m not really helping here am I?)
This week ‘class’ was one long discussion with Chief of Police Seabrooks and Captain Lowe. (They sort of handed off the baton to each other, but the conversation all flowed.) Captain Lowe let me bombard him with questions I had about his background (“zombie apocalypse management”) and what that actually meant. Oh, and Chief Seabrooks is my new BFF. (You will totally believe that by the end of this post.)
Deputy Chief of Police Venegas was also in the room, but appeared perfectly content to watch from the sidelines. The role of the deputy chief is to oversee day to day operations, freeing up the chief for policy and ‘big picture’ stuff. I do want to mention that Deputy Chief Venegas is a bona fide hero who has been awarded both the Medal of Valor and the Medal of Courage among others. He talked about it in class like it was NBD, but it is a BFD so I wanted to mention it and ‘lovingly embarrass’ him a little.
This is proving to be the hardest ‘write up’ of the Santa Monica Community Police Academy so far… There were so many things we touched on during class, but no one thing that was really discussed in depth. (Not enough time!) I have bullet points in my notes, but most of them are reminders of things that I wanted to look up online later or things that were said in the context of a much larger discussion. I can post my notes here, but without the context I run the risk of misrepresenting something the Chief said. Or making Captain Lowe sound scary. (Did no one read the ‘dignity’ and ‘respect’ parts of that quote?!?!) I’ll do my best, but if something sounds “off” just assume it’s due to my poor note taking and not a reflection of anything the Chief or Captain Lowe said…
- The closest we got to a ‘formal presentation’ was a discussion on “implicit bias.”
- The entire Santa Monica Police Department, both officers and civilians, has had training in this.
- Bias and prejudice are not the same thing.
- “Policing cannot be driven by biases.”
- “If you want to change something, do it from the inside.” (I love this!)
- Inkwell Beach – historically non-white beach in Santa Monica.
- 21st Century Report on Policing
- A “bad police event” (what a phrase!) is typically investigated by the District Attorney’s office. Sometimes the U.S. Department of Justice is involved. These DoJ investigations are politically motivated; it all depends who is the President at the time. (HORRIFYING!)
- Rioting – It’s not just current events, you have to look at the long history and the context.
- The lack of proper response to the LA Riots made it so much worse.
- IAPC = International Association of Police Chiefs. Meet & talk with other chief, training in things that pertain to managing police departments.
- Most police agencies are 50 employees or under.
- Consent Decree re police abuses.
- CA Attorney General has the authority to investigate police departments in CA.
- Maywood PD shut down –> Sheriff’s department contracted to patrol.
- Civilian Oversight can take many forms. Individuals calling to complain about police behavior, there can be a civilian oversight board, that board might have the power to issue subpoenas and have special training in these matters.
- Chief Seabrooks answers to the city manager. They have done team-building exercises together. (Until proven wrong, I am going to believe that the city manager is Chris Traeger and these ‘team-building exercises’ were slightly goofy until something went hilariously awry and became a real life episode of Parks and Recreation.)
- A police department isn’t going to be 50/50 male/female until society changes the way it teaches/enforces gender roles. A more realistic goal would be 80/20.
- The Sheriff’s department has a higher number of women because women are needed to police their jails.
- The Santa Monica Police Department has included Hispanic officers since it was created.
- The first black officers joined the Santa Monica PD in the 1930s. They weren’t allowed to enter white homes or arrest white suspects.
- The Santa Monica Police Department is far more diverse than the community it serves.
- “The police department works in the best interests of the community”
- Corrosive nature of politics in policing.
- “Unintended consequences” <– another thing I wrote down with no context. I don't think it needs any specific context though, I think the fact that it was said by an officer of the law in any context is huge. Intent is not at all similar to outcome. In my opinion a lot of problems, both in law enforcement and society in general, would be better served if more people understood this. I could talk about this A LOT, with examples and numbers even, but this post is already long and late. Ask me in person if you want to hear my rant-o-gram on the topic.
- SMPD’s biggest need at the moment is more people.
- “Like toothpaste, squeeze the tube and out pops the chief.” <– best quote from the night
“The profession was taking a beating over things caught on social media” is something the Chief said in class that caught my attention not for what she meant, but her word choice. The profession was taking a beating over things caught on social media? What’s that, a beating you say?? Okay, I don’t actually know the Chief well enough to know her sense of humor (despite our new status as ‘besties’) or how she feels about puns so I’m not sure if it was intentional or not. If you’re someone who thinks it was an incredibly clever way to very subtly throw shade, then yes, our Chief is awesome like that. If you think anything else, it was something that made me giggle for its unintended meaning.
During the discussion we watched the video above and talked about it a little. More context was given to us, followed by more discussion. There was not enough class time and too much ‘class’ to get to, so we didn’t get to talk about this enough.
— Jennifer (@bdbdb) May 4, 2017
— Jacqueline Seabrooks (@SantaMonicaCoP) May 5, 2017
— Jennifer (@bdbdb) May 5, 2017
Feel free to press ‘play’ and go to lunch. Your co-workers won’t mind.
This week I was able to ask both Chief Seabrooks and Deputy Chief Venegas my question about the closest entertainment media has come to accurately reflecting the realities of law enforcement. (Captain Lowe already answered back in Week 5.) Chief Seabrooks agrees with everyone who’s answered The Wire. Deputy Chief Venegas answered (as you may have guessed from the video above) Law & Order. (Dun-dun)
Wait! Don’t go yet! We have late breaking news…
Only days after cementing our ‘besties for life’ status, Chief Seabrooks announced her retirement.
— Jennifer (@bdbdb) May 6, 2017
— Jacqueline Seabrooks (@SantaMonicaCoP) May 7, 2017
That totally means I can sleep over whenever I want. I’m pretty sure. 😉