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JCSO’s detention deputy academy in full swing

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By Deborah Swearingen

Editor’s note: This is the second of a three-part series.

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The instructor shouted, “Taser, Taser, Taser.”

There was a short pop as probes shot into Casey Buell-Schoenman’s left hamstring. Thousands of volts of electricity coursed through his body, and his muscles went rigid.

After a few seconds, the voltage ceased and his fellow recruits gave him a small round of applause as Buell-Schoenman pushed himself off the mat and stood up.

“As soon as it hits, you can feel all of your muscles lock up,” he said. “My left side was (affected), but I felt like I could still move my hands.”

One by one, most of the recruits lay down or stood on the mat and helped the instructors demonstrate various scenarios of Taser application. Within an hour, all 15 recruits in the Jeffco Sheriff’s detention deputy academy knew what it felt like to be hit with a Taser.

“I view it as a right-of-passage,” said Buell-Schoenman, a Lakewood-area recruit.

The detention deputy recruits are in the latter half of their 10-week academy and are scheduled to graduate on Oct. 25 and then start two months of practical field training at the Jeffco jail.

Sept. 21 — week five — was their Taser certification course. Weeks six, seven and eight included several hours of arrest control and firearms training, among other courses, as well as physical fitness.

Buell-Schoenman described how the recruits were learning things at a good pace, and that, now, everything was building on the topics and training they’d covered in the opening weeks.

One challenging exercise, he said, was a scenario training during which the instructors dressed as detainees; the recruits had to keep track of multiple people at one time.

“Trying to pay attention to so many different things at once — it was a wake-up call for what’s coming,” he continued.

The recruit said he has been loving the academy more and more, especially the sense of community both between the recruits and the instructors, and among the 15 recruits themselves.

“That camaraderie that we felt pretty early has gotten stronger,” he said of the recruits. “We’re still getting to know each other, but we feel like a team.”

Arrest control

On Sept. 29 — week six — the recruits practiced how to apply and escape bear holds and choke holds as part of their 64 hours of arrest-control training.

Sgt. Greg Gompert, one of the academy’s instructors, explained that arrest control is the ability to take someone into custody in a way that keeps everyone involved as safe as possible.

Arrest control tactics are governed by changes in case law and state statute, but the go-to strategy, Gompert said, is to defuse or de-escalate the situation without use of force. And when force is applied, it is dictated by the detainee’s actions, he said.

Throughout the recruits’ arrest-control training, the instructors work their way up the use-of-force scale, covering pressure points, control holds and take-downs — the latter having a higher risk of injury for both the deputy and the detainee.

Detention deputies also train in firearms, collapsible batons, pepper spray and Tasers, but only the latter two can be used in the jail.

Once on the job, deputies drill on one or two techniques during an annual in-service and eventually cycle through all the techniques, said Gompert and co-instructors Sean Sweeney and Brandon Keller. They clarified that detainee-on-deputy attacks are very rare, with about six a year.

“The biggest thing is to have rapport with (the detainees),” Sweeney said.

Buell-Schoenman, who served in the Marine Corps, pointed out how the recruits included veterans from four of the five U.S. military branches, as well as a martial-arts instructor.

Yet, everyone was learning something new. Buell-Schoenman pointed out that while the techniques they were training in were visually similar to what he learned as a Marine, the equipment and mindset was very different among detention deputies.

Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-350-1043 or cwesteman@evergreenco.com, and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.