Split-Second Decision Has Deadly Outcome For Police 'Cadet'

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by Lucinda Campbell

special to the roundup

Since I was a child, I have always remembered the pursuing cop yelling "Stop or I'll shoot!" as he chased down the bank robber, only to follow through later with a blast when he could no longer pursue.

According to Sgt. Todd Bramlett of the Payson Police Department, that bit of fiction is no longer standard operating procedure. The officer's goal in chasing a suspect is to stop the suspect using the least amount of force as necessary.

The lesson of the last Thursday's Citizens Police Academy was learning the use of force, and canine officer training.

A progressive decision-making matrix is used to determine the most effective method to bring this about.

The least of the methods is verbal commands, followed by stronger verbal commands. "Can I see your driver's license, sir?" and "On the ground, dirtball"

When verbal commands fail, officers resort to more forceful means, attempting physical restraints, drawing their nightstick, and ultimately, drawing their weapon.

The split-second choices the officer has to make become second nature.

Sgt. Rod Mamero called me to the front of the room and handed me a weapon my friendly toy plastic red automatic. The scenario described sounded frighteningly possible.

"You are at the south town Circle K and have responded to a sighting of Robert Fisher, the Scottsdale murder suspect who may be on the lam in the area. You have to assume he is armed and dangerous from the 911 call. What do you do?"

With a little imagination and a lot of adrenaline, Mamero is transformed into an aggressive, dangerous criminal in my mind.

With his hands tucked firmly in his jacket, he informs me he will not comply with my instructions and the adrenaline starts pumping as a "fight or flight" response begins. Fight or flight is the body's natural reaction to approach of just about any kind. Your hands sweat, your pulse goes up, your eyes dilate in readiness to run like a rabbit or fight back at whatever is coming at you.

Suddenly Mamero's hand shot out and on the end of it was a gun. My weapon seemed to rise of its own accord to draw him down. Like a scene from "Face Off," I am in a standoff, neither of us having fired, and even though that pistol was red and plastic, I saw death.

"OK, let's try this again." he said as I try to wipe the sweat off my brow and gather myself. Same scene, same setup, same hands. My weapon was already drawn on him. A flash of hand and I "fired" in the face of a perceived deadly attack. In his hand, he held a cell phone.

The lesson: each and every day officers make the split-second decision to use anything necessary to preserve the peace and still go home at night.

Going to the dogs

The second half of the night's lesson was about canine officers, and we were introduced to Kodiak, the German shepherd, and his handler-owner-partner, Les Barr.

In the last few weeks we have had an army of K9 handlers in the area for their annual field training and "summer camp."

Mamero spoke with respect and honor regarding his dog, Brigg, who was forced into retirement after being injured in the line of duty.

Police dogs are not to be messed with, though as evidenced by the tiny divot Kodiak left in the volunteer who donned the attack suit and allowed Kodiak to demonstrate his remarkable ability to control and be controlled. As a working dog, he protects and observes for his human partner during an arrest.

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