Defenders prep domestic violence response

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
"Taser, Taser, Taser!" shouts a security forces member as a subject drops to the ground. While under the effect of the stun gun, the belligerent subject is handcuffed and separated from the scene where he threatened to harm his frightened wife.

This was one of the scenes created during annual domestic violence training which is held in multiple sessions during March.

In order to sharpen security forces members' skills, they received annual domestic violence training in the classroom and hands-on running scenarios in the Domestic House. The Domestic House is located in base housing and presents security forces with real scenarios, ranging from verbal altercations to brawls that they may encounter when responding to a domestic violence call.

"This training shows them what to look for and what to listen for," said Paul Burgess, training instructor of 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron. "The training they get from the Department of Children and Families and Family Advocacy is very important information too because one of the most intimidating things is going to a domestic that involves a child. That's hard for me and I know it's hard for some of our cops too."

Security forces members also learned the importance of preparation in order to be able to best respond when those calls come in. Burgess suggests all patrolmen make binders with information on base housing locations and home layouts; these details can speed response time and make entry into a home safer. Proper communication procedures for those Airmen who work in the base defense operations center emphasize the teamwork in relaying what's occurring at the scene, which is critical to creating a smooth response.

"The key thing I have to teach these guys is that in the law enforcement world no two situations will ever present themselves the same to you," Burgess said. "No cop can ever tell how they're going to react to a situation until the situation is presented to them."

In addition to increasing the safety of the base population, the training was essential to ensure that security forces members know how to safely address a domestic violence incident.

"Besides traffic stops, [domestic violence] is the top cop killer - because domestics can go from just a verbal dispute to someone pulling out a gun, a knife or another type of weapon," said Airman 1st Class Lorenzo Garcia, an installation entry controller of 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron. "It's good to have experience so you know how to verbally control the situation to talk them down. But if they have a weapon, you know how to use your less than lethal forces like the asp and the Taser."

While the morning was spent in the classroom learning about signs of child abuse and how to best conduct interviews to garner accurate information, the afternoon was dedicated to getting security forces to put their knowledge into action by responding to challenging domestic violence scenarios.

"Different people learn in different ways," said Tech. Sgt. Adrian Bray, a flight sergeant of 1st Special Operations Security Forces Squadron. "For [me] I'm a real hands-on type of person. The classroom portion is fine, but once you add in the additional learning environment out here with the hands-on portions it increases learning."

While the Air Force Security Forces Center mandates the core lesson plans of what must be taught in security forces training, the domestic violence training at Hurlburt went a step beyond it by placing cops in real life scenarios so they can practice their responses.

"Since I've been teaching this class, we've had [to respond to] domestics and not one cop has been hurt," Burgess said. "I take pride in that."

To guarantee that the lessons learned don't fade from memory, all of the scenarios were filmed so security forces members may review them and learn from their mistakes. Though some of the scenes did result in physical scuffles, the teamwork required at the scene to manage such physical altercations was also an important lesson for security forces.

"I've not yet had to respond to a domestic, but personally, with this training, I feel like I would be able to help out a lot more than without it," Garcia said. "I know I can trust all the other guys on the flight to watch my back and they can trust me to watch theirs."