law enforcement

KN, p. 145 “What does a Texas Ranger do?”

 

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Last week in “Who are the Texas Rangers?” I chatted about a bit of the Texas Rangers’ colorful history. But, what do they do? Are they really like “Walker, Texas Ranger,” the old TV show? Or the “Lone Ranger” of TV and movie fame? Well…yes and no. Most Rangers do not go around karate chopping the suspects or jumping from car to car on the roofs of trains barreling down the railroad tracks. That makes for great TV, but not for smart investigation and apprehension of the criminal types. Setting aside the flamboyance of the entertainment characters, here is what the Rangers’ area of investigative responsibility might include:

  • burglary rings
  • bank robberies
  • fraud
  • sexual assault
  • kidnapping
  • murder
  • jail suicide
  • cold cases
  • serial killers investigations
  • public corruption
  • officer involved shootings
  • border security operations
  • apprehending escaped/wanted suspects and convicted criminals

Basically, they are the primary criminal investigative arm of the Department of Public Safety in Texas and serve in whatever capacity will help the local law enforcement agencies. They are ‘subject to call’ at any hour of the night or day, in the counties to which they are assigned. When needed, they also assist in counties outside their own jurisdiction. Texas Rangers are a bit like a State Bureau of Investigation that operates in other States. Think CSI, without the TV glitz or instantaneous results.

 

These guys do it all, from the beginning to the end of a case, selecting and collecting evidence, photographing the scene, conducting the investigation, searching for, capturing and questioning the suspects, filing the reports, and more.

 

The Texas Rangers out in the field have to be able to handle every type of case that comes their way. And, I say “comes their way” because they are invited by local law enforcement to assist and/or take over certain cases. If a small town Police Chief normally has nothing more than drunks carousing on a Saturday night to deal with, and a bank robbery occurs or a murder is committed, he/she is likely to call the area Texas Ranger to help out with evidence collection and/or investigation/questioning.

 

With that in mind, a Ranger maintains a well-supplied trunk load of gear, including tire impression kits as well as chemical testing and other kits, so that he’s ready for whatever he’s asked to do.

 

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If the Police Chief or Sheriff has never had experience with the particular case at hand (serial killers, kidnappings, etc.) he/she may ask the Texas Ranger to take the lead on the case – and then the local law enforcement follows the Ranger’s direction. Local people handle the press and dealing with the public. The smart Rangers work hard at establishing a good working relationship with the cops and sheriffs in their territory. Building trust is key.

 

Technical Training:

The Texas Rangers have ongoing training. They are required to take 30 hours of training a year, sometimes in firearms, but in any area that needs to be addressed. The hours might be spent on:

  • CSI – technical information
  • Murder Investigation
  • Criminal Profiling

When blood spatter analysis was being looked at as a viable method of crime scene investigation, the Rangers trained in that. Other areas, such as better ways to collect fingerprints, etc. also became part of the preparation. You can’t be an expert in everything, but they have to know where to find the experts.

 

Firearms training:

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m really a stand-and-shoot guy and would never be able to shoot a rifle while on a moving horse. I was happy to discover that firearms training starts with bull’s-eye shooting for a Ranger. I could at least handle side-by-side with them at that stage. Lol They start with stand-and-shoot, then over the range of their careers, they learn to move-and-shoot, with a moving target and a moving shooter. They become proficient with handguns as well as long guns.

 

Sometimes, special circumstances require more than just one Ranger to show up. For those times, there is the Special Operations Group. Under that umbrella?

  • Special Weapons and Tactics
  • Regional Special Response Teams
  • Crisis Negotiation Units
  • Explosive Ordnance Disposal

 

Famous Cases:

I recently had the privilege of meeting with Texas Ranger, Ret., Richard (Dick) Johnson, who chatted with me about a few of the cases he worked on.

 

A nurse in small town Nocona, Texas, likely killed 23 people under her care. From December 11, 2000, to February 18, 2001, Vickie Dawn Jackson murdered ten patients at Nocona General Hospital, probably another ten, and attempted to murder five more. She was not a mercy killer trying to help patients who were terminally ill or in terrible pain. Prior to her killing the patients, she had appeared to be a sweet, caring nurse. She knew most of the victims personally. She injected the patients with mivacurium chloride, a muscle relaxant used in surgeries. The only murder that seems to have had any clear motive behind it was the last one, when she injected the grandfather of her ex-husband.

 

Sergeant Johnson collected the evidence, including exhuming the bodies, and stayed with the case until it was concluded. It took six months to do the collection and investigation and he had to handle all of his other cases and anything else that came up during that time. It was grisly work, not like the glamorous stuff we see on TV.

 

Another case of his involved chasing four Texas capital murder convicts into Oklahoma. The FBI was called in, and then they deferred to Dick Johnson. It took 160 hours over ten days, but Dick and a team caught the guys.

 

During a kidnapping case, he was in ‘hot pursuit’ of the kidnapper and had to cross the Red River (the border between Oklahoma and Texas) but he was not about to wait for permission to enter the next jurisdiction and lose the suspect and the victim. So, he radioed the dispatcher and told her he was about to cross the Red River. He figured he could deal with the investigation later. Thanks to his clear thinking, the suspect was caught.

 

Ranger Johnson had five counties under his responsibility during his time in North Texas. Those counties are miles wide and include everything from small towns to good-sized cities to ranches and mesquite trees. If he got a call in the middle of the night telling him that shots had been fired and a crook was on the loose, he might have asked, “How soon do you need me?” and “Do you need horses or dogs for the manhunt?”

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The man had an amazing career, to be sure. He enjoyed working in the trenches, and is one of the guys that preferred the “Mud, blood, and the beer,” rather than the glamor and glory attached to being part of one of the most respected law enforcement outfits in the world.

 

Many thanks to Texas Ranger, Ret., Dick Johnson for generously sharing his experiences and extensive knowledge of the Texas Rangers organization. Any errors in fact are mine, not his.

 

For more information about the ‘Angel of Death’ please see:

http://www.texasmonthly.com/story/angel-death

 

Next week: The Modern Texas Ranger and how to become one.

 

*Photos by Patti Phillips

 

 

 

KN, p. 138 “Cold Weather Gear for Cops”

 

It’s cold out there. It’s been cold for months, with snow and ice and freezing rain getting in the way of daily life. Cops in Florida rarely have to deal with a drop in temperature, but almost every other state in the USA has a winter of some kind. That means, cold weather traffic stops, cold weather arrests, suspect chases in the snow, recovering evidence in bad weather conditions, and the list goes on. Just because the wet stuff is falling out of the sky doesn’t mean that crime stops. It may slow down a bit – after all,  the criminals have to get around on the same slippery roads that we do – but unless there is an all out blizzard, somebody is still trying to get away with something.

 

Cops on street patrol need to stay warm while tromping through snowy sidewalks and answering calls for help. Other police officers will be responding to traffic accidents caused by slippery, ice and snow-covered roads.

 

How do they stay warm while being outside for hours at a time, often with no way to get inside to warm up or dry off until the shift is over or the accident is cleared?

 

They wear layers of clothes made of special materials that shed moisture or wick it away from the skin. They wear hats that cover the ears in below freezing weather. They wear flexible gloves, also made from great materials. They wear watch caps or skull caps. In other words, they wear clothes that you might see on hunters or skiers or guys and gals that are used to spending time in the bitter cold.

 

They use common sense and keep their heads covered. I would add: keep the neck opening covered as well. That helps keep the body heat from escaping and being wasted. A long time ago when I was still skiing, a savvy instructor told us to wrap scarves around our necks and we would stay warmer that way. It seemed like an easy fix to stop me from shivering and it worked.

A great liner for a winter parka is a fleece zip-out for the really cold days. It adds a layer of protection against the wind, and if designed correctly, can be worn alone. I wear my fleece liner as a jacket when playing golf on chilly days.

 

Gore-Tex is used in the firefighter uniforms and police officers also benefit from its reliable waterproof and windproof features. Parka length jackets are popular because they cover the back down to the tailbone, really important when the wind is howling and the snow is blowing. Some of the parkas have quilted liners, some have pile lining, but the best ones are warm, without being bulky.

 

You can bundle up and have your body stay nice and toasty while working outside in blustery weather, but if your feet are uncomfortable, you will be miserable all day long. Take it from me, ya gotta have a pair of great waterproof boots that flex from heel to toe, as well as being non-slip. There are several great designs being made these days that allow law enforcement officers to run comfortably and more safely if they have to get through the woods or over uneven, snow covered surfaces quickly. The high boots work best for me and a couple of companies make a side zip version of that.

 

Another cold weather concern is the guns. Obviously, a law enforcement officer needs to be able to rely on the firearms to be ready to fire when needed. The only way to do that is to make sure it is properly cleaned and maintained. See “Did you clean your gun this week?” here.

 

 

Beyond the actual cleaning, extreme temperatures affect a gun’s performance because of the oil/lubricants used. I have it on good authority that the best cold weather oil/lubricant is from Remington and is supposed to work to -40F degrees. Some guys I know never clean their guns, but then they don’t have to rely on them in cold weather either. But, a great lubricant will help protect the gun from the extreme temperatures. Checking/cleaning it periodically will help prevent it from accumulating gunk during the winter.

 

Frostbite harms the fingers and toes, but hypothermia (body core temperature dropping too low) can kill. Better to be protected than injured or dead.

 

For more information:

 

www.blauer.com

www.ehow.com/how_7406515_proper-care-cold-weather-storage.html

www.tacticalgear.com

 

Photo credits:

Snowy gate: Patti Phillips

Fleece liner: Blauer catalog

Glock parts: Wikipedia

 

 

 

KN, p. 135 “What does it take to be a sniper?”

 

Sniper:  an expert marksman that operates from a concealed position some distance from the target, usually having the additional advantage of elevation.

 

Snipers have been used as an effective strategy in fighting wars for over 200 years. They came into use in law enforcement as a way to combat domestic terrorism without involving the military. There is more to it than being a great shot, and there are several differences between police and military sniper jobs as well as different types of training involved.

 

A law enforcement sniper in a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit generally operates as part of a team in hostage situations or other hi-risk events, sometimes to provide protection, sometimes to eliminate the threat of a specific target. The targets are generally under 100 yards away and the assignments are usually completed in a few hours. Police snipers shoot only as a last resort.

 

A military sniper works with a spotter or a team to protect and defend his military unit from harm while they are on assignment during wartime. He is typically shooting from a higher, concealed place, so that he can spot the enemy and alert the troops below of enemy movement. On occasion, a military sniper is shooting at a target 1000 or more yards away. The record for a long distance confirmed kill shot is currently held by British Army CoH Craig Harrison, achieved in November, 2009, at a range of 2,707 yards.

 

SWAT team members have sometimes entered law enforcement after serving in the military, so if you’ve ever wondered what it takes, here are some of the requirements from both military and civilian routes.

 

Each of the branches of the military has similar basic training programs, but vary slightly because of the specific needs of each.

 

Potential Marine Snipers (like Special Agent Gibbs on NCIS) can expect a rigorous thirteen-week training schedule after Marine Boot Camp and then additional training, depending on the specialty.

While in Boot Camp the candidates must attain at minimum:

  • Expert rating with rifles
  • Physical Fitness Test (PFT) with a first class score
  • Swimming test – including 30 minutes treading water and testing whether the recruits can survive in the water while wearing all combat gear (rifle, helmet, flak jacket and pack)
  • 20/20 vision, no color blindness

 

There is Infantry Training after Boot Camp where the candidate may volunteer for scout/sniper school at either Recon School or at the Infantry Battalion. The candidate must have scored well on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), have no Courts Martial on record, be of sound mind, and have achieved the rank of at least Lance Corporal.

 

Just in case you’re wondering what is required past the basic Physical Fitness Test (which is mostly about cardio fitness and endurance while wearing workout clothes), all Marines must now complete a Combat Fitness Test while wearing the complete uniform (boots, etc)

 

Combat Fitness Test Requirements

Males
Age 880 Yard Run Ammo Can Lifts Maneuver Under Fire
17-26 3:48 45 3:29
27-39 4:00 45 3:55
40-45 4:19 44 3:57
46+ 4:30 43 4:28

 

 

Army Sniper

It is suggested that a candidate for an Army Sniper spot must be great at math and science, in order to know how to adjust the angle of a shot for wind speed, direction and target range.

 

They should have learned the basics of marksmanship and have entered shooting competitions before enlisting in the Army.

 

Graduating from Advanced Infantry Training (AIT) means that you have passed the minimums. You are given two minutes for each:   pushups and sit-ups. The two-mile run is timed. The chart below shows minimum requirements.

 

Age Group

Gender

Push-Ups

Sit-Ups

2-Mile Run

17 – 21

Male

42

53

15:54

Female

19

53

18:54

22 – 26

Male

40

50

16:36

Female

17

50

19:36

 

After graduating from Boot Camp, the candidate will wait for a sniper opening and then try out.

It is possible to become a spotter for a sniper as an alternate plan. Spotters go along to protect and defend the sniper from enemy attack and keep track of the enemy while helping the sniper adjust his shots. 

 

Navy SEAL Sniper

During training, the candidate learns about digital photography, computer imaging and satellite communication.

After the technical part is mastered, he also learns about camouflage, patrolling, and how to get in and out of hostile territory without leaving any trace behind – not even bullet casings.

Advanced marksmanship is only one part of this training. No out of shape hunters need apply. Navy SEALS have one of the most demanding physical training regimens anywhere.

 

FBI Sniper

FBI snipers are part of elite SWAT and Hostage Rescue Teams (HRT)

They must be able to work independently and in team situations, since they often arrive at the scene before any local task force and have eyes on the targets before anybody else does.

 

Minimum requirements for the FBI:

  • The candidate must be 23-37
  • Four year college degree
  • Three years on the job experience.
  • Must pass a variety of physical, medical and drug tests and interviews.

Then, if accepted, candidates attend the FBI Academy in a 21 week training program, then serve in a field office for at least two years.

After the two years, they can volunteer for SWAT or HRT training and then must attend Marine Sniper Course for 12.5 weeks.

Every field office has its own SWAT team.

 

Still want to be a sniper? Before you open the door to the recruiter’s office, think.

 

  • Do you have what it takes to get through all the training?
  • Can you handle the intensity of the job?
  • Are you good at waiting?
  • Can you lie on the ground, motionless for long stretches at a time?
  • Are you patient?
  • Are you capable of pulling the trigger and actually making the kill shot?

 

For more information about sniper training, click on the links below:

 

http://navyseals.com

 

http://www.fbiagentedu.org/careers/tactical-operations/become-sniper-in-fbi/

 

http://www.military.com/military-fitness/army-fitness-requirements

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/10740415/What-does-it-take-to-be-a-military-sniper.html

 

http://army.com/new-fitness-and-combat-readiness-tests

 

http://usmilitary.about.com/od/marines/a/cft.htm

 

*Photos of Police and Secret Service snipers courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

 

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