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Cops confront deadly decisions daily

BURIEN — As Washington and the world watched hundreds of

World Trade Organization protestors being doused with pepper spray and

shot with rubber bullets, many questioned whether the use of force by police

was necessary.

Before the conference, members of the King County Sheriff's

Office Citizen's Academy traveled to the Washington State Criminal

Justice Training Center to learn more about why and when officers need to

use force in their jobs.

"About 98 percent of the time deputies can resolve [disputes]

verbally," said Advanced Training Sgt. Dave Jutilla. "But, in 2 percent [of

the cases], they need to use some sort of force."

He defined force as, "to compel someone to do something he/she

does not wish to do, by overcoming resistance through exertion of

strength, weight, power authority or duress." When an officer is confronted with

a situation, they generally go through a multi-step process to determine

how to handle the problem. First, the deputy tries to speak with the

suspect while carefully observing the person's non-verbal cues — are their eyes

darting or are their fists clenched?

If the person doesn't respond to police orders or becomes violent,

the officer can either use pepper spray or physically escort the suspect

away from the area. When that doesn't work, the deputy can opt to use

higher levels of force including aggressive restraint, use of batons,

flashlights, etc., and finally, deadly contact.

A deputy's decision to pull out their weapon is not an easy one,

Jutilla said. Each officer must follow the rules and guidelines set by the

Sheriff's Office and then justify why they chose a particular response.

To prepare the officers for the streets, all deputies are required

to practice role-playing scenarios at the Firearm Training Center. The

$80,000 machine plays a series of events on a life-sized screen and supervisors

critique the officers' responses. One of the most important aspects that

deputies need to remember while pursuing a suspect is to not jeopardize the

safety of others.

"If he runs away, we'll catch him another day," said Deputy

Russ Patterson. "We have to account for every bullet we use."

Deputies are encouraged to yell out commands to the screen such

as "Police, don't move" and "Drop

the weapon" to simulate a real situation. That way, Patterson said, they will

instinctively know how to react because they have practiced it numerous

times. And when a deputy's life is in danger, they must do all they can to

protect themselves and others, he said.

"We don't train to shoot to kill or wound," Patterson said. "We train

to shoot to eliminate or stop the fight and eliminate the threat. They just

don't die like [on] TV … rarely does that happen."

"When an officer pulls out a weapon [the] intent is to use it as

a deadly weapon," added Sgt. Ken Wardstrom, of the Woodinville

police. "We try to stop the threat. If we take

a wounding shot would that stop the threat?

"In our job no one wants to shoot our weapon; we're forced into the

position."

Note: When it was the reporter's turn to try out the Firearm

Training System, she shot the bad guy in his groin at least a half dozen times.

The two were engaged in a gun battle, but the reporter finally won.

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