I have the opportunity to do this cool thing that I’m really excited about. It’s called the Santa Monica Community Police Academy and (so far at least) it is both fascinating and fun. I was going to wait until it was over to do a write up about the class in its entirety, but now I think week by week is better. (The early information will probably have fallen out of my head by the end of the course!)
Week One: Introductions and Free Food
I was so paranoid about getting lost and being late that I ended up being entirely too early (typical) so I wandered around taking photos (also typical.)
The class was introduced to each other by way of a memory game that got progressively harder as each person took their turn. (I picked the ‘correct’ side of the table without knowing it so I got off easy, whew!) We went over the typical ‘first day of school stuff’ like the program’s goals and the syllabus for the course. Then we got a chance to meet with the heads of the three ‘branches’ the Santa Monica PD is organized into. (There’s an organizational chart here if you want to read more about this.)
Captain Shirley heads up the Criminal Investigations Division. Captain Muir handles the “Strategic Services” Division. (Does this make it sound like he’s in charge of a group of WWII spies to anyone else?) Last but not least, Captain Lowe oversees Operations. They all report to Chief of Police Seabrooks.
We were told the Chief would be coming down to introduce herself but I don’t think anyone expected her to give us as much time as she did. I’m trying to think of a single thing she said that stands out but they all just kind of faded into each other because they all stood out. Chief Seabrooks talked to us like a real person, listened to and answered our questions, and didn’t give a single answer that felt like she’d gotten it out of a manual on ‘things to say when you’re chief of police.’ What did become clear throughout her various answers was that her interest is honestly in making the community safer, not just “enforcing laws.” If it sounds like I was really impressed with Chief Seabrooks, you’re right, I was.
I heard the @SantaMonicaPD Chief of Police speak very eloquently last night so I’m basically qualified to arrest people now. 👩🏻✈️⚖️👍🏽
— Jennifer (@bdbdb) March 2, 2017
The syllabus for the rest of the course is really exciting, so provided I don’t get arrested for being obnoxious (being “mouthy” still legal right?) I should have some fun stories to tell in the weeks ahead…
Week Two: Jennifer Thinks She’s Rambo Now
The first order of business was an anonymous questionnaire about the previous week’s class. …where we played a game, ate free food, and had our questions answered by the qualified people with answers. I’m sure there’s a way to give some constructive feedback, but I’m not sure how. (Feedback on the game? Too much pressure. Or the food? It’s free food, I never complain about that. Or the introductions? What kind of feedback could a person even give? Please introduce harder next time?) Everything sounded awesome the week prior, and I was excited to get started.
Now to the topic of the evening, active shooter/workplace violence. What a horrible topic. (I mean horrible that it’s so common we need to be trained in it, not that it’s a horrible topic for a class. It was actually quite fascinating.) There’s an entire presentation that has been put together by the Santa Monica Police Department to help people know what to do if they ever find themselves involved in an “active shooter scenario.” Instead of inundating you with complex terminology and police tactics, everything is presented in a common sense way that makes you think “I totally knew that already” even if you didn’t.
Some things I learned during class:
- It’s a “shooting spree” not a “school shooting”
- Combat breathing (inhale four seconds, hold four seconds, exhale four seconds, hold four seconds)
- Survival mindset (dwell on something you love/look forward to)
- If you run have something you’re running to, but don’t run in a straight line
- If you hide barricade the door otherwise you’re just playing hide-and-seek with the shooter
- Fight as a last resort, but fight dirty, work together (best chance for success is in numbers not strength)
- Police academy training is to always watch the hands, hands will kill you
- When describing a suspect try to describe something that doesn’t change very often (hair, tattoos, shoes) instead of things that are easily changed like a hat or jacket
- Cover vs. concealment (a tree stump is cover, tree branches are concealment)
- First responders are there to asses the threat not help victims
- When the police arrive calmly put everything down, show your hands, tell them where the shooter is, leave in the direction the police entered from
- If in a locked room etc., ask police for IDs before you open the door, they expect it
- “Attack the crack” is a legit law enforcement term/tactic
- I am not yet mature enough where that won’t make me giggle
- “Funnel of death” is another one
- It has nothing to do with funnel cake
- Or an incident on the “tunnel of love” ride at the fair
- Or anything to do with the fair at all
During class the only question I asked was about TV and Movies. (But only after all of the “real” questions had already been answered.) I know, I know, my interests are predictable, what can I say, it was my career for years… It was a fairly silly question in the grand scheme of things but I really want to ask it of every officer we interact with just to see how varied the answers are. (I’m not sure I’m that brave though…)
My not-at-all-unscientific survey of “officers teaching me active shooter response” (survey size of one) is that the closest entertainment media has gotten to accurately portraying the reality of law enforcement is something like this:
mixed with this:
Make of that what you will.
Every time I visit the California Science Center I love it just a little bit more…
The Dead Sea Scrolls: The Exhibition is currently at the Science Center…
There was no photography allowed inside the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit, but I couldn’t stop myself from taking this one. The is me touching a three-ton stone from Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Not even close to the same as being there of course, but an emotional moment all the same.