Editor’s Note: This is one in an occasional series about the Newton Police Department Citizen Police Academy, which spans nine weeks and offers local citizens an opportunity to engage in classroom and hands-on training.
Wearing the badge gives police officers the authority to carry several items of force, but the proper training of when and how to use them is vital to the job.
During the second week of the Newton Citizen Police Academy, participants were given the opportunity to learn about various kinds of force aside from verbal persuasion — a taser, chemical agents, a police baton, police canines and approved firearms.
Inside the Emergency Management building Tuesday night, a classroom full of Newton residents received knowledge about real-life situations police officers face. A taser instructor from the NPD, Randy Oldfield, explained how a taser operates and when the “drive stun” mode could be used.
Oldfield has been with the NPD for 13 years, and he currently works the third shift, which he said is often more violent. Oldfield said a taser is an effective tool during altercations or when someone has escaped from custody.
“Audible commands are important, you have to articulate it and repeat, ‘taser, taser, taser,’” Oldfield said.
In addition to being articulate, officers must ensure they have a reason every time they deploy the taser, with each pull of the taser lasting around five seconds.
Some instances of when Oldfield has used the taser while on duty included felony warrants and during assaults when someone was doing harm to or threatening someone else.
“I draw it out a lot more than I use it,” Oldfield said. “We have to make judgments in a snap and in the heat of the moment.”
After an officer deploys their taser, they must arrest the individual immediately and transport them to Skiff Medical Center for probe removal and evaluation.
NPD officers must attend four hours of classroom work and practical exercises administrated by a certified taser instructor prior to carrying a taser on duty. Officers also must experience what it feels like to be struck by a taser.
Following training, officers complete yearly training including a written test, firing drills and exposures.
Chemical ammunition is another force officers might use.
Thomas McDonnell, a NPD second-shift officer, said pepper spray is an effective type of force when it is sprayed in the eyes and/or enters the nasal passages of an individual.
“It is effective on people and animals but it’s also horrible for everyone involved, including officers,” McDonnell said. “The effects of chemical ammunition can last up to six hours.”
McDonnell said the chemical ammunition can be beneficial to use during a struggle with an individual because officers can still spray from the can when its upside down.
“It’s also incredibly effective for women to use for self-defense,” McDonnell said.
All NPD officers also received proper training on how to use chemical ammunition and were also required to experience the effects of the spray.
To conclude Tuesday’s class, NPD field training instructor Dillon Lavely explained the importance of “reasonableness” which is covered in the fourth amendment.
The NPD’s policy for use of force states, “The use of deadly force is only justified when a person cannot be apprehended after exhausting all pertinent methods of non-deadly force and there is an immediate threat to life.”
To prove the small amount of time that is given to officers to decide which type of force is necessary and reasonable, four volunteers geared up in police officer vests and participated in an exercise. McDonnell pretended to be breaking and entering into motor vehicles and then ran into a nearby building.
One class participant was given a police baton and was instructed to enter the building to confront the “suspect.” The exercise allowed the class to see how quick confrontations are, how bright the police lights are and how hard it is to see potential weapons in the dark.
The police officer who was playing the suspect approached the class participant with a hammer and another participant with a toy knife.
After the exercise, class participants said the confrontation left them feeling an adrenaline rush and nervous.
“It’s hard to decipher between a real knife and a fake one,” Lavely said. “You have to address the situation the best you can.”
The Newton Police Department Citizen Police Academy is a nine week session that runs from Sept. 19 to Nov. 14 to promote a better relationship between the NPD and the community it serves. Participants were chosen through an application process.
Contact Kayla Singletary at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or firstname.lastname@example.org