Special Reports

WCSO Deputies: When to use lethal force

Editor's Note: This is the 3rd of a 3-part series. The related previous stories are included.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Ore. (KOIN) -- Another crucial step in the hiring process at the Washington County Sheriff's Office is teaching recruits when to use lethal force. 

It can happen in seconds, and sometimes a sheriff's deputy has just as long to react.

As part of the recruitment process, the sheriff's office sets up "Confrontation Simulations" that mimic real-life scenarios. For example, an assault at a school or a suicidal woman at her house.

These are simulations that help recruits build skills and then show their instructors what they've learned -- in a safe environment.

"If you really go home at night and think about it, what you did wrong, what you need to improve on and you go through it again and training kicks in," recruit Timothy Waldron said. "I definitely think it's a huge advantage of doing these."

There are 4 times when Washington County Sheriff's Office instructors say it's legal to use lethal force.

  • To protect someone else

  • To protect yourself

  • To make an arrest

  • To prevent an escape

When deputies are put in a position when lethal force becomes necessary, they have to react fast -- more so than what the average person would think.

Sgt. Kelly Degman gave Jennifer Hoff advice during the process as she was given the chance to see what recruits have to go through. It was her first time holding a gun -- and shooting one, so Sgt. Degman made it clear that the "bad guy" already "made a conscious decision to do something."

"You're going to react whatever he does, so we're behind that power curve already," Sgt. Degman said. "I'm not justifying what we do, I just want you to see that timing."

Recruits are also required to learn fast driving techniques, which includes these 3 things: match speed, make contact and input steering.

The intense training recruits go through to become a deputy takes up to 6 months -- and if you're hired, there's 18 more months of probation.

"As the population grows, we need to hire more deputies, so that we can provide the same quality service we have been providing," Sgt. Caprice Massey said, who's in charge of the recruitment team.

Massey cannot stress enough how important it is to get as many recruits as possible considering 50 deputies are eligible to retire in Washington County.

"In the 80s statewide, there was a huge hiring for law enforcement -- because of that, every other county is dealing with the same issues we are and every police department, so we are competing against them as well," Massey said.

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