Citizens Police Academy, part seven of 10

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Nicole Bohanan fires a Taser in Citizens Police Academy while Det. Kevin Bush supervises and Matt Ayers looks on.

The Citizens Police Academy is a free ten week program offered to the citizens of Sevier County and conducted by the Sevierville Police Department (SPD). The program is intended as an outreach program to educate the public about the operations of the SPD.

Week seven of the Citizen’s Police Academy was a two part class including a ride along with a police officer and discussing the Taser.

The ride along was held Wednesday with Officer Adam Akers, a member of the Sevierville Police Dept. SWAT Team. Akers is a veteran of the Iraq War where he served in the Marines.

The beginning of the ride along was a bit disconcerting for an unsuspecting, untrained citizen. When I first arrived at the police cruiser, I was met by Akers, a gregarious, congenial man who instructed me on what I should do in the unlikely event he was killed. Akers showed me where the shotgun was as well as two pistols and an assault rifle. I initially thought he was joking but soon realized he was serious. His line of work is a perilous one.

The ride along began with Akers driving through neighborhoods throughout Sevier County patrolling the area and making his presence known to discourage criminal activity.

According to Akers, the biggest challenges facing law enforcement in Sevierville are pills, illegal drugs and shoplifting rings. He alludes to numerous crimes committed in the area by shoplifting rings from out of state that come to Sevierville in hopes of pulling off a big haul without being detected in a large crowd of tourists. Less than two months ago three men from Nashville entered the Nike store on Teaster Lane and attempted to flee the store with $1,300 in merchandise. The three men led a high speed car chase during which they attempted to run over a police officer. The chase ended when the three men wrecked their car and fled into the woods. They were arrested soon afterwards and now face lengthy prison sentences.

As in all police jurisdictions there are hardened career criminals and then there are dumb criminals. Every cop has a story of that one criminal that has reached a level of stupidity that makes officers laugh. Akers is no exception. He recalled a case in which he arrested a woman on a drunk driving charge. She was bailed out of jail and her trial date was set several months later. Incredibly, the woman came to court intoxicated and attempted to plead her case.

As Akers continues patrolling the area a call comes in regarding a three car collision near NASCAR Speedpark. Akers takes the call and turns on his siren accelerating to speeds of more than 80 MPH. He approaches intersections carefully making sure to clear the intersection before speeding through. Akers explains that although he must get to the scene of the accident expediently, he still has a legal obligation to protect other motorists and pedestrians along the way. He can’t speed through the town without regard to the safety of others.

At the scene Akers speaks with other officers and medical first responders. He learns that the driver of a Honda Civic sped through a red light and was T-boned by a black SUV. The impact of the crash spun the Civic around causing it to slam into another oncoming vehicle. The airbags of the Honda deployed. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries.

Later in the afternoon, Akers pulls over a driver for excessive speed. After conferring with the driver he lets him go with a warning. Three other calls come in during the afternoon, one of which involved a stolen vehicle. Akers did not respond to the three calls because other officers were at the scene. However, it meant he would have to respond to other calls in the place of other officers if one should come in.

The final call of Akers shift came in shortly after 5 p.m. It involved an assault case. Akers took a statement from the accuser and instructed her on her rights and what she should do to protect her safety. Because there were no witnesses there is little Akers can do because it would be a matter of one person’s word against another’s.

Akers said he became a police officer because he wanted to help people and liked protecting. After his stint in the Marines came to an end, he enrolled in the police academy.

The Taser class discussed one of the most innovative and effective lines of defense. The Taser is a small hand held device approximately the size of a handgun. When the trigger is squeezed two metal prongs approximately one and a half inch long are discharged. The two prongs have a barb on them which lodges into the skin of the perpetrator. The Taser then dischargers 50,000 volts of electricity. The prongs are attached to the gun with two long wires that extends as much as 35 feet. The device is used as a last result on non-compliant arrestees that have become violent. In nearly all cases the arresting officer warns the arrestee he will be tased if he refuses to comply.

Det. Kevin Bush presented a video depicting two cops attempting to arrest a 340 lb. suspect who was uncooperative and refusing to comply. He was warned he would be tased. He still refused to comply. One arresting officer tased the suspect who falls to the ground screaming. “Ok! Ok! Stop! Stop! I’ll do what you asked,” screamed the suspect. He suddenly becomes more compliant and allows the officers to frisk and handcuff him. The suspect responded with a ridiculous statement that reveals much about his character. “I have shot and stabbed before,” the compliant suspect told arresting officers. “But that hurt!”

The voltage of the Taser causes neuro-muscular incapacitation. The device is a much needed and highly necessary tool the police utilize as they deal with increasing dangerous criminals. Police officers today must deal with an increasing number of criminals experiencing a drug induced high and a state of mind known as excited delirium.

This condition is frequently caused by using highly toxic drugs such as cocaine, crack and crystal meth that create a delirious state of mind. Bush describes the user’s state of mind as zombie-like. Several months ago, a Florida man was shot and killed by police after he attacked a homeless man and ate most of the victim’s face off.

Bush displayed a graphic photo of the victim when he was taken to the hospital. His face was more than 80 percent devoured by his attacker. The photo depicted a bloody and mangled face with missing eyes.

According to Bush, when the police first approached the attacker he was ordered to release the victim. The attacker was holding his victim in a tight grip and he looked up at the officer for a moment. He had blood and human flesh hanging from his lips. He ignored the officer’s demand and went back to eating the victim’s face. He was then shot and killed. Meanwhile, several eyewitnesses made videos of the incident and never attempted to help the victim.

Victims of excited delirium experience a high body temperature that sometimes reaches a life-threatening 112 degrees.

“They are literally cooking inside their bodies,” said Bush. “That’s why they begin pulling off their clothes.”

Most victims are attracted to water and lights. They become highly agitated and experience an adrenaline rush that makes them appear to be as strong as two to three men. In another video, a suspect experiencing excited delirium is shown throwing his fist through a wooden fence shattering the structure. He then attacks several officers who are attempting to subdue him.

Another video taken in Philadelphia was featured on the TV series cops. The video shows a delirious man fighting five cops in a barber shop. The perpetrator is seen throwing chairs and hurling officers about. After several attempts they are finally able to subdue the suspect.

But drug addicted delirious suspects are not simply a big city problem. With the nation’s current drug epidemic, police all over the nation—even in Sevierville—are seeing first-hand the delirious state-of-mind drug users display on a frequent basis.

Captain Matt Ayers recalls an incident in which four officers were confronted with a delirious suspect in a more affluent neighborhood in Sevierville. The suspect was a large burly athlete from the Middle East who was ranting about killing police and Americans. While police attempted to subdue the suspect, his younger brother and sister, who obviously thought the situation was humorous, stood by laughing and videoing the altercation. Meanwhile, the suspect’s mother sat idly by drinking an alcoholic beverage while the father stood by silently.

The suspect was attempting to get to a closet where he had weapons and the police were attempting to prevent him from arming himself. They finally subdued the suspect who went limp. Ayers then realized he wasn’t breathing. The suspect was dying. Medical responders on the scene were able to revive the suspect and he survived.

Oddly, after the incident was over, the mother of the suspect who had called police when her son became violent, told Ayers that her son “is a good boy.

This scene repeats itself often as police across the country must deal with the rising tide of drug use, delirium and a public who wants to blame the police when such matters turn tragic. In Sevierville, the SPD has responded to more than 20 such calls since 2006. Fortunately, none in Sevierville have resulted in deaths.

Across the nation there have been 21 reported deaths of delirious suspects while in police custody. Invariably, the police are always accused of causing the death. The fact is that nearly all these deaths have occurred in suspects above the age of 30 who have experienced years of drug abuse. Autopsy results of these deceased suspects reveal their deaths were not caused by the restraint efforts of the police but, rather, the suspects’ internal organs were simply worn out and destroyed by years of drug abuse. In essence their deaths were caused by their own reckless behavior. These facts never seem to deter the families of the victims from blaming the police and suing police departments.

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