Category Archives: Shift Diary

Subject Behaviour / Officer Response

It’s been a busy few months in Delta with several dozen shootings along the Delta / Surrey border related to the street level drug trade.  I’ve been working as part of a uniformed Violence Suppression Team initiative.   Our mandate has been to be highly visible and check anyone suspected of involvement in gangs or drugs and to disrupt their business in the area.  Some of our activities involve priority response to shooting scenes, vehicle checks, curfew and condition compliance of known offenders, our Inadmissible Patron Program (removing anyone related to gangs, violence or drugs from licensed establishments) and street level drug and weapons enforcement. We’ve been quite busy.

As you may imagine, dealing with the potential violence of armed offenders with a predisposition to public violence, we have certain tools and force options at the ready.

In the photo above are a couple of the guys I’ve been working with. As the project and investigations are on going I can’t speak much about them.  I can talk about one call that my partner and I happened upon while working one evening though that speaks to our preparation and our deployment of force options.  This call actually combined the use of many of our specialized tools available to properly trained patrol officers in Delta.

To set the tone, I was working a Violence Suppression shift with my partner, my good friend who happened to also be my partner at the Academy.  We’ve been close since we got on the job and we work very well together, he truly is a brother (from another mother).

It was a dry night, just past dark and we were just leaving the Police Station, I was driving and he was probably making a joke about my control issues (I’m not a great passenger).  We got half way down the block away from the station and saw a male walking up the shoulder toward us drinking from a 40oz liquor bottle.  I’d passed him, turned around and got back in front of him. I stopped the truck, the male turned away, I turned the emergency lights on letting him know we were stopping him.

Partner and I both stepped out of the truck, the male turned back around at us, about 20 meters away, drew a knife from his pocket and began screaming at us that he was going to make us shoot him. This very routine pedestrian check just turned hostile and potentially deadly.   We couldn’t let him walk away and we couldn’t let him harm himself or us.

Have you ever seen how long it takes a goal oriented person to run 20 meters?  No time at all.  Knives are quite capable of inflicting lethal wounds.  Partner and I both instinctively drew our sidearms.  My partner had the male’s attention and began giving him commands to stop moving.

Put yourself in our shoes, let me walk you through this.  Imagine what you’d see, what you’d feel and what you would do;

You’re on a dimly lit street, houses on one side, a large school field to the other, police station behind you, more houses behind the person. An emotionally distraught person, with a knife, demanding that you kill him or he’ll attack you forcing you to kill him.  He’s 20 meters away and there’s nothing between you.

  • You’re holding a sidearm
  • You’re looking down the sights
  • Your finger is indexed, off the trigger
  • You have to get on your radio and let everyone know what’s happening.
  • You need to turn your light on to see him better
  • You need to talk to him
  • You need to think clearly
  • You need to de-escalate
  • You need to know if there’s someone behind him
  • You need to see if there’s someone else, a bystander, that he could attack
  • You need to understand what he’s screaming
  • You need to protect the public
  • You need to protect yourself and your partner
  • You need to protect the subject
  • You need to assess and decide on a “line in the sand” when you must deploy lethal force
  • Is this alcohol induced? Is this a mental health issue? Is this an emotional reaction?  Does it matter?
  • You have a microsecond.

Now allow me to illustrate what went through my mind and what steps we took; Seconds go by.  My partner begins to establish dialogue with the male.  Because we work well together, know each other’s training, have trained in reality based scenarios, we have confidence in each other.  Our tasks split.

My partner had dialogue and naturally took on the role of negotiator.  I took on the role of lethal overwatch and as resources started arriving, became the team lead. My partner is constantly assessing the male’s behaviour while actively listening to him and starting dialogue in an attempt to de-escalate.  He still has to protect himself and manage his force options.

I take a moment and quickly transition to my patrol carbine.  My carbine (rifle) has pin-point accuracy at a greater distance than my pistol, it also has magnified optics mounted on it so that I can assess the male’s behaviour from a safer distance.  I know that if I have to use lethal force it’ll be dynamic, extremely quick and close, I need to be precise and accurate.

My job now is to let my partner negotiate, but still stay engaged.  I may need to switch roles if the male’s focus changes to me.   I’m now lethal overwatch and my partner’s safety rests in my hands. Seconds go by.  I’ve let everyone know what’s going on and I can hear sirens in the distance and voices in my ear asking what I need and where I need it.

The male begins to close the distance, he’s walking toward my partner.  15 meters.  He’s still screaming that he’s going to make us kill him.

  • I’m looking through my rifle scope, assessing what’s in his hands. It’s a fixed blade knife.  40oz bottle in the other hand.  Something heavy in his coat pocket, another bottle? a gun?
  • Where’s my partner
  • Where’s my line in the sand
  • I need less lethal options
  • I need police to surround the area and make sure no bystanders get close.
  • I need a K9 officer
  • Do we have a helicopter up in case he runs?
  • Can we stop traffic?

My next two police officers arrive, now I have 4 police officers here.  I have pistols, rifles, a bean bag shotgun and conducted energy weapons (CEWs or more commonly known as Tasers).  We also have our batons and OC Spray however with a lethal force threat, such as a knife, batons and OC are not viable force options.

The 12ga bean bag is an extended range impact munition.  Think of it as a baton launched from a shotgun.  The injury potential from the beanbag may be higher than that of the baton depending on the range deployed and the area of the body targeted.  The bean bag, while potentially causing some injury, is mainly a pain compliance tool.  As with OC Spray, if a subject is goal oriented or impervious to pain stimulus, the bean bag may be entirely ineffective.

The CEW typically fires 2 barbed probes at a subject, when the 2 probes make contact with a subject, the electrical component of the CEW creates Neuro-Muscular Incapacitation (NMI).  Simply put, it disrupts the bodies ability to control muscle response.  NMI is very effective in stopping a subject’s threat.  However for NMI to be effective the police officer has to realistically be within at least 12-15′ (5m) of the threat, both probes (which leave the CEW at an angle to each other) must contact the subject and then the NMI is limited to 5 seconds.

This subject wants us to harm him, it’s what he’s been screaming for what seems like an eternity but has only been 2 or 3 minutes.   I believed deploying bean bag rounds would only stimulate him. We are not close enough to use a CEW.

He’s still 15m away.  We’ve moved to a position that puts our police car between us.  My partner is still negotiating.  I communicate a plan that involves us holding our ground at the police car and a layered force approach if the male comes at us where we attempt to employ less lethal options to stop him before having to use lethal force. I do not want to use force on this male.  My deployment of force is going to be based off his behaviour.

  • I’m still focussed on my role as lethal overwatch.
  • I now have a negotiator and 2 officers with less lethal options out that I have to protect.
  • I also have to keep my eyes up for bystanders coming into our area.
  • I direct other police resources to strategic points to control the male if he decides to run
  • I have to make sure each of those containment points has proper layered force options (firearms, CEWs, bean bags)
  • I have to keep the bosses in the loop, I’m also the eyes for incident command
  • I have to formulate and communicate contingency plans, what if the male starts stabbing himself?  What if he charges us?  What if he runs away?  What if he finds a bystander?
  • I’m still watching his hands, now he has 2 knives, a fixed blade and a box cutter
  • He’s still upset but is maintaining dialogue with my partner
  • My partner is still maintaining efforts to de-escalate and doing a great job given the behaviour of the distraught male.

I have to formulate a plan, if this male begins to critically harm himself how are we going to intervene?  We don’t have the luxury of risk avoidance, we only mitigate risk.  We might have to physically intervene.

My intervention plan, should the male begin to critically injure himself includes us closing the distance, deploying bean bags to change his focus until we’re close enough to deploy the CEW so that we have 5 seconds to get our hands on him and stop his self-harm.  This is an incredibly dangerous plan and involves us launching force options and causing harm, but less harm than the subject is causing himself.

One of our K9 officers has arrived.  We decide that the K9 deployment is a last resort as we don’t want to force the male to injure the police dog.

I broadcast all of the contingency plans.  The 4 other officers I’m with have to know their roles.  The containment officers need to know their roles and incident command ultimately has to approve our plan to deploy force (incident command approves plans for a planned response, for spontaneous threats, the individual officer still maintains the authority and discretion to deploy force).

Just as my partner has to keep assessing the male’s behaviour, the environment and all of the circumstances, I have to formulate and broadcast these plans while maintaining lethal overwatch, assessing the environment and all of the circumstances.

This is complicated by the male himself who is intent on moving around, walking through a fence line into the school field and forcing us to move with him maintaining as much safety as possible while I manage and shift containment teams. The male begins to violently stab himself in the abdomen.  At least that’s what it appeared.  Do I launch my intervention plan? I have microseconds.  One last assessment through my magnified rifle scope and I can just see that he’s using the butt end of the box cutter, not the blade.  Apparently in an attempt to get our attention.

  • I have to observe
  • I have to keep my team safe
  • I have to keep the public safe
  • I have to keep the subject safe
  • I have to communicate what I see
  • I have to decide, launch less lethal and intervene or hold?
  • I have to decide to deploy force and jeopardize my team’s safety
  • I’m on the radio, I’m focussed on the subject, is the area still safe?

A microsecond, a split second decision. Go or no go.

No go.

The male realizes that he didn’t force our hand.  My partner is still talking to him.  The dedicated negotiators have shown up, they’re backing up my partner, he’s still primary because he’s got a rapport and doing a great job. I’m back to lethal overwatch, ensuring I’ve got all the resources I need.  Is everyone safe?  I’m back to being the eyes on the radio so the incident commander knows what’s going on. The male tries to force our hand again, rushing toward us.

  • Do we pull back to a point of safety?
  • Communicate on the radio
  • Ensure the safety is off on my rifle
  • Aim, Breathe, Concentrate
  • My team mates with less lethal have to launch first when he crosses their threshold
  • He’s almost there, if he keeps going I may be forced to use lethal force.  I don’t want him to force me to press my trigger but I can’t let him harm my team or me.

He stops, just before our line in the sand to launch a bean bag as if he knew. This back and forth, negotiation, constant focus, constant assessment continues for 4 hours.

In the end our most valuable tool was communication.  We were able to take the male into custody without deploying force.  We had everything available to us out and prepared.   Each person and each force option had a specific purpose.  Our combined purpose was to preserve life.  Our response is driven by our subject’s actions.

My partner and I spoke to the male after he was in custody and had calmed down.  His plan was to come into the police station and attack someone forcing the police to kill him, a concept known as “Suicide by police”.

We have all of these force options available to us.  We train with them, we train with each other.  Some of these tools look pretty scary but they all serve a specific purpose.  I hope I’ve given you some insight into what the purpose of each is, and how we can deploy with them.  From this call though, I’d like to highlight how important our ability to communicate is.

Once the male was in custody, we all took a breath, ensured the required investigational steps were completed, knew there’s some paperwork ahead and headed back out on the street for the next call.

This sounds a lot like “My partner and I…” and a little bit about the rest of our team.  The reality is that I could write intimately about this specific incident because I was there but this is what we do and by we, I mean the policing profession as a whole.

This was that “Police incident, road closed” report that you never see further details about.  This was that time you saw a police car parked, emergency lights on, but no one around and didn’t think anything further of it.  This was that call at 2am on your street that you slept right through.  This is the 99.9% of the time that police deploy force options and aren’t forced to use them.  This is the professional work that police do every day, in every city across North America that never results in a media story.

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Summer Highlights

It’s been a busy summer ladies and gentlemen.  I’ve had my latest Boot with me all summer and it’s been a great 3 months of training.  I thought I’d catch up with a bit of a highlight reel (for lack of a better term).

On June 27th, we participated in the Twitter “Global Police Tweet-a-thon” marked by hash tag #poltwt. It was a great success from a social media perspective and I had a lot of good feedback from the community.  If you missed it, have a look at my feed starting here:

Our focus for the summer was to get the Boot to as wide a variety of calls as possible and introduce him to the process and investigative avenues available to him.

We went to everything from neighbour disputes and bylaw complaints, to thefts and frauds, to high risk calls involving assaults with guns and knives. In between the calls, we managed to pick up 8 impaired driving investigations for him.

He got to experience everything from walking into a restaurant in uniform and having everyone watch him, to talking a distraught lady off the railing of a bridge, to chasing a suspect with a K9 handler, to a high risk vehicle stop involving guns.

First foot chase

During the Boot’s first block out, the shift responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle in someone’s driveway.  The license plate came back to a stolen vehicle.  As we were all coming into the area to setup on it, the driver got spooked and ran, taking the Boot on his first foot pursuit.  After a tumble in someone’s front yard, the Boot recovered and caught up to the suspect taking him into custody.  We recovered the stolen vehicle, some items from multiple break and enters and a replica handgun.  A great catch!

Jumper

We received a report of a distraught person that was on the outside of the railing, mid span, on the Alex Fraser Bridge.   While driving through traffic in an attempt not to scare the distraught person, we discussed our approach, safety considerations and crisis intervention tactics.  We located the distraught person and quietly walked down the guardrail.  There was no doubt in our minds that the person was trying to convince themselves to jump.  I took the lead in making contact and we convinced the person to come to us and took them into custody for their safety.  Once safely in our custody, the Boot took over contact and built a rapport with the distraught person and we took them to the hospital for help.

Code 5 (High risk) vehicle stop

We were called to a house where someone inside had presented a knife and made threats to people inside.  The suspects had just left in a vehicle as we arrived.  We took off after them and stopped them several blocks away.  As there was a report of weapons being used, we conducted a high risk stop and employed tactics and layered force options to keep us, the public and the suspects safe.  With several police officers present we layered our force options and had less lethal bean bag shotgun, taser, a police dog and lethal overwatch including a carbine present.

I gave commands for the suspects to exit the vehicle one at a time and come to us, where we took them into custody and searched each one individually. After I demonstrated with the first couple occupants, I turned the verbal commands over to the Boot so that he could get experience.  In the end, we took all of the occupants into custody and recovered several weapons including a pistol.

Forcible Confinement

Along with several members from the platoon, the Boot and I responded to a report of a distraught woman who was found running down the sidewalk.  Through the investigation, we learned that her husband had forcibly confined her in their home, assaulted her, prevented her from leaving and destroyed her clothing.  As a platoon, we took this on as a complex, domestic violence investigation.

While providing compassion and counselling, we had to obtain an audio/video recorded interview.  After the interview, the victim had to be relocated to a safe house for the night.  We developed an immediate safety plan.

The suspect was arrested and interviewed, then held in custody.

Our Domestic Violence Unit and Victim Services were involved for ongoing safety planning and support.

The unfortunate reality of this career is that great learning opportunities often come at the expense of someone’s wellbeing. While this file was an eye opener for the Boot, demonstrating many facets of an investigation, a tragedy had to happen.

Community Relations

We took the time to try and connect with the community where we could-between the adrenaline and the report writing.  One sunny afternoon we happened to come across a group of kids and their lemonade stand.

Impaired Driver in a Stolen Truck

While working a counter attack shift, I was roadside, walking up to and talking to drivers as they arrived at the check point.  One such driver refused to stop for us, almost hit 2 of us and then sped off from the check point almost hitting another car.

We gave chase, as we’d just been informed the vehicle was reported stolen and involved in a hit and run with a driver that was possibly impaired.  It was in the public interest that we stop the vehicle before anyone else could be hurt.

Within a couple blocks the driver lost control and crashed into a tree. Luckily no one was injured.  The driver was impaired by drugs and taken into custody.

This really demonstrates the diversity of our role in Patrol.  On any given day we can be shifting from crisis intervention and talking someone into changing their mind about suicide, to giving advice at a neighbour dispute.  We may find ourselves holding the hand of a child who’s been assaulted or even sexually assaulted then be called right into a bar fight.  We may have just attended a collision where one driver is impaired and the other has a life altering injury and then locate an armed suspect and make a high risk arrest with guns and layered force options present.  We don’t get to chose our calls and we have to be able to switch mental mindsets in the time it takes to drive from one call to the next.

Squamish Valley Music Festival

As a member of the Lower Mainland Integrated Tactical Troop, I had the opportunity to work all 3 days at the Squamish Valley Music Festival.  The Boot stayed in Delta and had an opportunity to ride with a different field trainer and get a different perspective.

The Music Festival was a great break from regular patrol.  For the most part we spent 3 days filtering through the crowds getting high fives and posing in ‘selfies’ with festival goers.   While we needed to make our presence visible, our intention was not to disrupt the festival, only to keep the participants safe.  As could be expected, the sun, alcohol, drugs and 38,000 people meant we had to unfortunately arrest a few people and assist with some medical interventions.

Overall the participants were great and the weekend was fun!

Courtesy of CTV, Walking my team into the day time crowd at the main stage Tantalus

The crowd for Eminem.  We’re in there.. somewhere..

It’s never what you think

In this line of work you need to be prepared to see all kinds of things. At some calls you end up being caught by surprise and sometimes have to see something you never want to see again….

It was a night shift, well past midnight, there was a light sprinkling of rain and the police radio had been fairly quiet for the last hour.  My platoon mates were either out hunting for lurking property crime offenders, impaired drivers or catching up on paper work.

Our dispatcher broke the radio silence by calling me on the air “Two Echo One Five, can you start making your way to..” as she gave me the location of my next call.  We hear our regular dispatchers all shift long and can recognize their voices, her voice sounded off.

As I acknowledged, my dispatcher began to relay the circumstances of the call and I could make out the faint horror in her voice as she read the remarks on the CAD call.  The computer in my car started making the familiar “tick tick tick” as a freshly dispatched call was waiting, I opened the screen to read what my dispatcher had just said over the radio to make sure I heard her correctly.

 

CAD-1

We use “COM” for “Complainant”, the person who initiated the call. Dispatch also confirmed that our COM was 10-10 (no warrants, no criminal record and confirmed that there were no previous mental health files).

On the way to our calls we routinely mentally prepare for what we’ll have to deal with.  My initial thought was, “This can’t really be a skinned dog, maybe a Coyote got someone’s pet though”.  One of the things I started to consider was how to identify the dog and how I’d have to locate the family and break the news.

I got into the area and there was no one standing outside the path like indicated in the call.  I had to use my spot light to light up the path and saw a figure all dressed in black crouching at the side of the path, huddled over with their back to me and it looked like their hands were up to their face.

That struck me as odd.  The COM wasn’t where they were supposed to be to meet me. There was a figure dressed all in black where my scene was supposed to be.  That figure was crouched, hunched over, hands to their face and didn’t flinch when my spot light lit the pathway up like day light.

I parked just up from the entrance to the path, grabbed the spare flashlight from the console and stepped outside.  There was a light mist in the air and it smelled like fresh spring rain.  I let dispatch know that my COM hadn’t met me at the road and may be crouched in the path.  Our Sergeant was in the area and came by for cover.

I stepped quietly into the entrance of the dark, moonlit path and could just make out the dark figure, still crouched and hunched over, over what I could only assume was about to be my scene.  My eyes adjusting to the darkness.

As I approached quietly I stopped and listened for a second and then calmly let the figure know it was the Police.  I’d obviously startled him, he bolted straight up and urgently requested I not turn my flashlight on as he didn’t want to see it.  He was obviously upset.  I could see that the Sergeant arrived and had parked right at the entrance to the path so I directed the upset caller to him so that I could see what I had.

I waited for the COM to get halfway to the Sergeant before I clicked the flashlight on to illuminate the gruesome scene that I was expecting.

If you follow the blog or my twitter feed, you may know I have a dog who’s a part of our family.  I was still considering how I would identify this dog that I’d been told had been skinned but that I was betting had been attacked by a Coyote.  I’d have to wake up a family and let them know their dog was dead.

As the COM walked out toward the Sergeant I could hear him say “How could someone do that?”.

I lit the scene up, knowing what torn flesh, muscle tissue and organs look like, expecting to see a carcass in some state…..

Instead I had to choke back a laugh.  I grinned.  You’ll hear that sometimes emergency services personnel can have a dark sense of humour and that’s what gets us through some of the tough calls.  At times we have to make light of a situation and some people don’t understand or appreciate this sense of humour.

This wasn’t one of those times.  This, this was a legitimate smile, it was funny.  There’s really no need for a disclaimer for the next image.  It wasn’t the gruesome scene I expected….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scene-3

I’ll admit, I did feel a sense of loss for the family.  Somewhere there was a toddler who was missing an adorable little lion costume.

I walked out of the path to the COM and the Sergeant. The Sergeant looked at me…

“It’s a lion” I tried to keep a straight face and pause for effect but at 3am, after a long night, this was funny.

The COM, once he believed that it was actually a costume and not a skinned cocker spaniel in the moonlight, said he felt embarrassed.  After speaking with him it was apparent, by the odour on his breath, that he’d previously enjoyed several alcoholic beverages.

We all had a laugh and ensured our COM got home safe.

In Progress Robbery

CTV News Report
CTV Photo

It’s been two fairly busy blocks that I’ll condense into one post this week.  On top of my own workflow I’ve got my boot (or my recruit) and I’ve had a handful of regional Tac Troop call outs on days off.

Before I get to writing about the big call of the 2 blocks, I wanted to talk about some of the good work the boot’s been up to.

Alleged Assault

We received a call from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (“MCFD”) about a possible child abuse case.  These cases are taken quite seriously and can be very convoluted and complex.  We started off making contact with the alleged victim and the boot took a very detailed statement.  It became obvious that there was some truth absent in the statement so we confronted the alleged victim and some more truth came out.  We then had to interview witnesses and family members to corroborate the information.   Once we had all of the facts the boot updated the MCFD contact that there were no grounds for charges and no safety concerns.

On days off the boot was contacted by MCFD and told that the alleged victim had been reported missing.  If you haven’t guessed it by now, this job is somewhat of a lifestyle and never really stops so the boot made some phone calls to on duty supervisors and the shift working took care of it (and located the alleged victim).

The next block there was a report of a family disturbance and the boot recalled the address was one of the family members we’d interviewed so he made his way knowing he already had a recent rapport built with the family.  We assisted with mediation and wished  the family well.  These kinds of files are great examples of street level police work.  The boot conducted a thorough investigation to determine the facts from several sources, had contact with support agencies, built a rapport with people and where no charges were appropriate helped mediate.

Mental Health Apprehension

Speaking of follow ups, we were called to a disturbance inside a house and met an 18 yr old girl struggling with addiction and mental health problems.  We apprehended her under the Mental Health Act and took her to the hospital to be seen by psychiatric staff.

While in the hospital we had a very surreal conversation that included her gift bridging two planets and bringing life to earth.  I do find it quite interesting trying to listen to someone in her state that night.  Our focus though was to ensure she was safe.

During our conversation in the hospital she did have some lucid moments and talked about how her freedom had been taken away and wanted to be self-supporting.

It’s not required but we followed up with her anyway the next block to see if she was sober and how she’d made out with the psychiatric staff.  She wasn’t thrilled to see us at her door but she did give us a few moments of her time to talk about how she was sober now and wanted to finish high school while she still had the chance.  We offered some information but ultimately she’s going to have to make the decision to stay sober and follow through.  A reminder to never take our own support systems (family, friends, etc) for granted.

Bank Robbery – In Progress

Perhaps if you follow us on Twitter or the website you saw the media release: Delta Police Investigating Bank Robbery or maybe you saw CTV’s story Delta bank robbed, suspect flees Well that was our shift’s file.

I had just returned from swearing an information with a Judicial Justice of the Peace on a project I’ve got going on so my boot was riding with another platoon mate.  We were alerted to a bank robbery in progress.

This is one of those times I wish I could talk about the details of the file, however as it’s currently in the court process I can’t.  Everyone involved did a great job! It was a 19 hour day but ended with high fives all around.

The initial responding members to the bank did a great job getting information from witnesses and getting that information out to us on the road.  Shortly after the robbery we located a house in Surrey that became the target of our investigation.  I was first on scene from Delta along with a handful of members from Surrey RCMP as support.  In certain circumstances Police can make entry into a residence without a search warrant, and one of those is the exigent need to preserve evidence.  I made entry along with Surrey RCMP members to detain all of the people in the house and preserve the evidence we had reasonable grounds to believe was inside.  More Delta Police members showed up shortly after, including my boot.

After everyone was detained, suspects were identified and arrested.  Our major crime team was called out to assist with writing a search warrant for the house and interview the suspects.  Platoon mates had to secure the residence while the lead investigator, that was first on scene at the bank, and I returned to the office to write our involvements so that a search warrant could be obtained.

Late into the evening we were issued the search warrant and searched the residence where we located some of the evidence from the bank.

Great team work from everyone involved on the platoon, assistance from the neighbouring RCMP, and our major crimes team meant a successful conclusion to the investigation!