Action vs. reaction

HCPOA Citizens Academy examines use of force and active shooter situations

Hamilton County Sheriffs deputy Rod Hicok, left, Iowa State Patrol trooper Dennis Schnathorst, middle, and citizen Dwain Noffke walk through a simulation Thursday evening during the 2017 Citizens Academy.

Students in the Hamilton County Peace Officers Association Citizens Academy were taken through a series of simulations with local law enforcement Thursday evening at the Hamilton County Conservation building.

Iowa State Patrol trooper Dennis Schnathorst has been in law enforcement for 23 years. He was also a defensive tactics instructor for 15 years. Schnathorst presented a power point to the class about the use of force and active shooters.

According to Schnathorst, active shooter calls are not that common in this part of the country.

Schnathorst explained the state code’s definition of reasonable and deadly force to students.

“There’s a lot of things that come into play: skill set, weapons, size…,” said Schnathorst.

—Daily Freeman-Journal photos by Adri Sietstra Members of the Hamilton County Peace Officers Association do a demonstration Thursday evening with plastic simulation guns to show students in the 2017 Citizens Academy how they react to different active shooter circumstances. The Citizens Academy learned about use of force and active shooters doing the class also.

Reasonable force entails defending one’s person or property from a violent attack, theft, or other type of unlawful aggression.

Within reasonable force, there is both active and passive resistance.

“There is active resistance where they are actually coming at you,” said Schnathorst, “and passive resistance where, for example, they chain themselves together along a highway.”

Deadly force is force that a person uses causing, or that a person knows or should know would create a substantial risk of causing, death or serious bodily harm or injury.

Schnathorst provided an example of the pursuit of a vehicle that wouldn’t pull over. He explained that a number of considerations must be taken in in order to best deal with the situation.

The time of day and amount of traffic are key factors in assessing the best way to take control of the situation.

“Our policy in the Iowa State Patrol is is the risk of pursuit more dangerous than risk of not apprehending the subject,” said Schnathorst.

Students also learned about the use of force options an officer has and when each use is deemed appropriate. The following are the ways an officer can show force situation depending:

• Officer presence: how the officer carries oneself, their demeanor/appearance

• Verbal commands: this can be through verbal confidence, loudness of voice or directing a specific person to do something

• Soft hands: using pressure points to temporarily diffuse an individual

• Hard hands: using fists, elbows or knees to stop a threat

• Impact weapons: the use of pepper spray, a taser or baton

• Deadly force

Schnathorst along with Hamilton County Sheriff deputy Rod Hicok about when an individual is justified in using any means of reasonable or deadly force.

Justification is determined based upon three factors: intent, means and opportunity.

The intent could be verbal or action-based. This could include what harm an individual hopes to cause another and what weapon(s) they have to cause that damage.

Means can include what object(s) an individual has that could cause bodily harm to another person.

Active shooters

An active shooter is defined as an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.

Local law enforcement officers walked the class through the Columbine school shooting in Colorado.

This saddening event caused a major shift in how law enforcement across the country dealt with school shootings.

The importance of handgun safety was also taught Thursday night. Here are the four rules for handgun safety:

• Treat every weapon as if it’s loaded

• Never point a weapon at something you do not intend to shoot

• Know your target and what is beyond

• Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to fire

The next Citizens Academy scheduled for Thursday night will focus on traffic stops and patrol procedures.