Thursday, May 5, 2011

WANDERLUST: Police Academy for the press

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Every year, the Spokane Police Department invites members of the media to their Police Training Academy in east Spokane for a half-day crash course in law enforcement. The purpose? To educate the press on Spokane's police practices. 

But this weekend's press day wasn't only about hands-on defensive tactic demonstrations. Or shooting guns at the firing range. Or having your carotid artery collapsed until you pass out. (They swear that this is perfectly safe.)

There was also a philosophical discussion that ran throughout the day, as we were asked to consider a number of challenging questions. How do you define an "acceptable use of force"? What do you know about the reasons that police use force? Who should determine the boundary between personal liberty and the government's right to justify an intrusion? 

I, of course, don't have the answers to these questions, but I left the training with a greater appreciation for the ambiguities and uncertainties that modern-day policing presents. As Officer Terry Preuninger pointed out, it's wise to "ask hard questions," because when it comes to certain matters in law enforcement, "it's an art, not a science."

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Officer Terry Preuninger begins the day with a presentation on the Myths of Modern Policing. He lays the ground rules by saying, "There are no stupid questions," then adds, "OK, there ARE stupid questions, but at the Academy, we check our egos at the door. That's how we learn". 

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Stephanie Golson of KREM listens attentively as Officer Preuninger describes one of many possible police encounters with danger, then challenges his audience to consider what they feel is an "acceptable" response. 

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Hands-on (and hands-cuffed) exercises began the "Use of Force" demonstration on Saturday. 

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Defensive Tactics Instructor Shawn Kendall shows members of the media one of the dart-like electrodes fired from a taser. The delivery of electrical currents is used to disrupt voluntary control of muscles, helping police officers subdue fleeing or potentially dangerous suspects.

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Sally Showman of KXLY wears a taser electrode while locking hands with members of the media class as they prepare to be tased. In training, all officers experience a tasing at least once so that they understand the effects of using tasers as a law enforcement tool.

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Police canines are primarily used to track and apprehend suspects but are also trained to attack on command, if necessary.

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Mayor Mary Verner looks on as Officer Shawn Kendall demonstrates the proper use of leg restraints on Stephanie Golson of KREM.

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Corporal Mike Carr discusses the challenges and decisions that officers face daily in the field, while KYRS intern Denise Jennings and KHQ reporter Anthony Gomes wait to shoot targets on the range. 

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Carolyn Lamberson of the Spokeman-Review takes aim at her target and fires, leaving nothing but smoke behind.

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Officer Mike Russo gives Sally Showman, of KXLY, a quick tutorial on target shooting at the range. Even when not officially on duty, many officers still carry their firearms with them in public. 

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