Nisha Henderson Proves Herself In Provo

[su_heading size=”27″ margin=”0″]First Female SWAT Cop In Salt Lake City Area[/su_heading]

Story by Troy Taysom • Photographs by Nisha Henderson


[su_dropcap style=”light”]A[/su_dropcap] mariner sailing in uncharted waters runs the risk of hitting a reef, running aground, or becoming lost and suffering an immense hardship. The mariner takes these risks because the reward of discovery and achievement far surpass the hardship required to be the trailblazer. Being a trailblazer and navigating uncharted waters is what officer Nisha Henderson lives for. Henderson is the very first female member of the Utah County, Utah, Metro SWAT Team and is blazing a trail not only for herself, but for other female officers.

Nisha Henderson (4)Reared in the shadow of the Beehive State’s Wasatch Mountains, Henderson grew up shooting, hunting and spending time in the outdoors with her parents and siblings. Henderson loved girlie things, but always had an affinity for guns and shooting. She was given her first gun, a Browning .243 bolt-action rifle, by her father when she was just 10 years old. From that day forward Henderson has loved shooting, hunting, hiking, camping and fishing in the canyons of Provo, Utah. 

In the 1980s, Provo experienced devastating floods. These disastrous times had a lasting impact on Henderson, who as a young girl saw the police in action helping citizens deal with the overflowing banks of the Provo River. These acts of service inspired her to pursue a career in law enforcement. After high school, she earned a bachelor’s degree of science in sociology from the University of Utah, and upon graduation, worked with juvenile offenders before moving to Killeen, Texas, with her-then husband, a soldier in the US Army. While in Texas, Henderson met a recruiting sergeant from the Killeen PD at a career fair who strongly encouraged Henderson to apply and test for a patrol position. She did and was hired.

Nisha Henderson (1)Working her patrol beat provided experiences that would drastically alter the way Henderson saw the world. She was assigned one of the more dangerous beats in the city and learned firsthand what drugs, alcohol and bad choices can do to people’s lives. She spent much of her time dealing with prostitutes, drug dealers, drug users and the homeless. This required her to be a quick study when it came to enforcing the law.

Her time in Killeen allowed her to meet people who needed her help. She told me of an old couple who would go for a walk in the wee hours of the morning. Nothing she said would keep them from this tradition, so she made sure they would inform her if their schedule ever changed. While patrolling, she always made sure to check on them.

Her patrol time was not without sad moments. Henderson was dispatched to an address where she recognized the complainant as the girlfriend of one of her fellow officers. The woman was too distraught to speak; she simply pointed at the garage. Inside, Henderson found the body of a coworker who had committed suicide days earlier. Scenes like these leave an indelible memory.

Hello Kitty Mat
The inside of Henderson’s patrol car sports Hello Kitty floor mats and flower-shaped air-freshener vent clips. She also rocks pink handcuffs. On the gear shifter, she carries hair scrunchies and her perfectly manicured nails and makeup added to her already very feminine appearance. Maintaining her femininity means a lot to her. 

Not all her experiences were so personally traumatic. She told me about an active-duty soldier who picked up a prostitute right in front of Henderson. She performed a traffic stop and informed the soldier that the female prostitute was really a male prostitute, and that it was best if the soldier never came back.

After going through a divorce, Henderson was looking for a way to return to Utah with her growing boys. With nothing in Killeen holding her back she began searching for a job in Utah County. An opening with the Provo PD provided her with the perfect opportunity. She worked her final shift in Killeen on a Thursday and reported for duty in Provo the following Monday.

The Provo PD has proven to be a great fit for Henderson, and she is excelling as a senior patrol officer, but when she started, she was only the third female officer in a department of 107.

I spent a Friday night riding with Henderson and she is not like any other police officer I have ever met. When she exited her patrol car to greet me, I was struck by her presence. Henderson exuded confidence, but not cockiness. I immediately felt at ease with her and never thought that she was pretending to be someone that she wasn’t.

Nisha Henderson (2)
Henderson takes pride in knowing the people on her beat and treats everyone with respect. She’s solved several cases thanks to her ability to appeal to either the suspect or victim on a personal level.

Once in Provo, Henderson set her sights on becoming a member of their SWAT team which is comprised of officers from Provo PD, Orem PD, Brigham Young University PD and Utah Valley University PD. The two universities have a combined enrollment of close to 80,000 students. Wanting to be a member of the team and actually becoming one are two very different things, especially since the team had never had a female before. In order for this to happen Henderson would have to be as good as the male officers, and maybe even a little bit better. “I began preparing for the team as soon as I was hired on. I intended to try out in the spring of 2013, but was injured in January of that year, so I couldn’t do it,” she said. “My recovery took five months, but as soon as my doctor gave me the OK, I began training rigorously. Ten months before tryouts, I started exercising at least twice a day and sometimes three. I would run in the morning, do Crossfit in the afternoon and would dedicate three days a week to weight training,” she continued. “I spent many hours not only on the range, but also working on speed reloading and dry firing at home during pizza and movie nights with
my boys.”

If you don’t know what Crossfit is, I can only explain it as some medieval form of torture that has been resurrected and used to get people into extremely good physical condition. I can also tell you that Henderson, who stands an athletic 6 feet tall, is in as good if not better shape than officers 10 years her junior. She runs a 9:08-minute mile and a half, can do 50 push-ups in a minute, deadlift 295 pounds and bench press her bodyweight. No, I didn’t ask her how much that was; I didn’t want to get my butt kicked. How many 12-year-old boys can tell their friends that their mom practices speed reloads and dry fires her Glock while watching movies? I’m sorry, but that is just straight-up cool and bad to the bone.

Nisha Henderson (5)
Nisha Henderson is able to be sympathetic without being emotional, empathetic while remaining professional and human while still enforcing the law and making unpopular decisions when required.

When it came time for SWAT tryouts, Henderson was prepared. She had prepared physically and attended SWAT monthly training sessions to get familiar with what she would be doing. More importantly, she prepared mentally. While the training is physically demanding, the majority of candidates wash out because they aren’t mentally tough enough to endure the physical pain, criticism and sleep deprivation. Mental toughness is taking that next step when your body says, “I can’t do it.”

SWAT training was brutal. On the second day the team was performing spider-man drops. This consists of a team member on top of a shipping container and another below to help the team member coming down. The member on top lays flat and then hangs off of the box with one leg dangling and the other still on top. When the member is ready, he or she swings the last leg off and drops. The team member below is supposed to catch the other officer. The teammate on the ground got blood in his eye as Henderson dropped. She fell to the ground, landing on her M4, and suffered multiple micro fractures to her right arm. The doctor told her that her training and tryout was over. She said no and made him print up a waiver. She finished the course shooting left-handed, her weak hand – and made the team.

Henderson is the first person to tell you that her team rallied around her; otherwise, she would not have made it. They had to help draw her handgun and reholster it, but in the real world this is exactly what would happen if a team member was injured during an operation. You do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission.

Henderson made it and is now assigned to the entry team. As part of her kit she uses a Glock 17 Gen 4 as her sidearm and an M4 with a 10-inch barrel as her primary weapon.

It would appear that all of Henderson’s time is taken up between SWAT and being a patrol officer, but she has found time to become certified as an instructor in a women’s self-defense program called Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) that helps empower women to fight against would-be attackers as well. She is also a mother of twin sons, whom she helps with their newfound love of the Boy Scouts. The night that I rode along with her, our shift ended at 7 a.m., the same time that a “merit badge pow wow” started for her sons. She left the station, changed out her uniform, and spent the day teaching the law merit badge course.

Provo PD’s new chief, John King, told me, “In addition to being a member of our SWAT team, Officer Henderson has distinguished herself by her work as a patrol officer. She takes pride in knowing the people on her beat and treats everyone with respect. She has solved several cases because of her ability to appeal to either the suspect or victim on a personal level. She is obviously one of the most physically fit individuals on the department and makes excellent use of combining her physical strengthen, her femininity and her professional skills to proudly represent our department. As she advances in her career, she’ll undoubtedly set more firsts for women here, and those selections will be based on the merits of her work.”

Henderson is a trailblazer, and not just because she is a female, although that is part of it. She represents what we want all of our police officers to be. She is concerned about the people who she refers to as “her” citizens. She is able to be sympathetic without being emotional, empathetic while remaining professional and human while still enforcing the law and making unpopular decisions when required. ASJ

Nisha Henderson (3)
Nisha Henderson, who stands an athletic 6 feet tall, is in as good if not better shape than officers 10 years her junior. She runs a 9:08-minute mile and a half, can do 50 push-ups in a minute, deadlift 295 pounds and bench press her bodyweight. (No, we didn’t ask.) 







AWARD for School Resource Officer Dan Smith


[su_heading size=”30″ margin=”0″]AWARD: School Resource Officer Dan Smith[/su_heading]

Story by Troy Taysom


[su_dropcap style=”light”]O[/su_dropcap]fficer Dan Smith of the Provo Police Department was recently awarded the 2015 National School Safety Award in Las Vegas, Nev. The award recognizes those organizations and individuals who have created safe learning environments for our nation’s youth.

Smith was the only individual officer recognized this year; the other awards went to organizations and school districts. I was curious to know what Smith was doing that made such a difference, so I met him at Dixon Middle School where he is the school resource officer.
There was a time when Dixon Middle School had less than a stellar reputation among local parents. I know this first hand as all of my sons have attended this school. Whether the reputation was deserved or not, I can’t really say, but there did seem to be an inordinate number of fights and a high number of disciplinary issues.
All that changed four years ago when Smith was assigned to Dixon along with Principal Jarrod Sites. Both Smith and Sites were determined to change the attitude and restore a safe environment conducive to learning.
Smith made it abundantly clear that there’s no way he could be effective without the help and support of Sites, and the two of them, in conjunction with the other staff and faculty members are in constant communication about issues and ideas and how these relate to their goals of a safer school environment for all the kids.

Jarrod Sites & Dan Smith
Principal Jarrod Sites with Officer Dan Smith of the Provo police department. Building hearts and minds, one student at a time.

When it comes to disciplining a student the principal rarely makes a decision without speaking with Smith first because he values his input and knowledge of the students and their backgrounds. Smith said that sometimes suspension is the worst thing for a student because it keeps them away from school and potentially subjects them to poor exterior influences. There are some things they all have a zero tolerance for: guns, drugs and physical violence are just a few of the things that will get the student a pair of silver friendship bracelets courtesy of Dan Smith.

More than anything, Smith emphasized the need to keep the kids in school and keep them engaged. The most at-risk youths are the ones who go home to empty houses and don’t stay engaged. After-school programs are paramount to help save kids from a life on the streets.
During the summer months when the kids are out of school, Smith conducts home visits and follows up with at-risk students. Constant contact with the kids helps them see Smith as a resource and not an adversary. These close relationships has helped Smith prevent crimes before they happen as opposed to investigating the aftermath. Proactive rather than reactive is the motto here.

Officer Dan Smith
SRO Dan Smith stays in touch with his school kids during off season summer months.

Smith and Sites have an open-door policy. This isn’t a lip-service open-door policy; this is real. Dan told me about a student that had an anger-management problem and was prone to screaming and cussing in the classroom if something upset him. By the book—the student could have been suspended, but Smith felt that this would actually be detrimental so, Smith encouraged the student to come to his office when he felt like screaming and cussing. The student did and Smith allowed him to scream and cuss to his heart’s content. Neither actions bothered Smith, a 10 year veteran of law enforcement, and soon the student found different coping mechanisms.
Smith loves his job, but heartbreak and tragedy are also part of the deal. He has had to deliver more than one death notice to families of students at his school. It is especially hard when the death occurs because of a suicide. Smith has spent  four years in this job and would love to stay forever, but department policy doesn’t allow it, so he expects to be reassigned in the near future. Since his arrival, crime at the school has plummeted, serious fights, which at one time were a weekly occurrence, now, rarely happen. Students love Smith and families now come to have picnics on school grounds, but as nice as he is, students are quick to warn each other that Smith doesn’t play games and will make an arrest if it is necessary — so behave!
After Smith received the award I spoke with Sites about Smith and his contributions to Dixon Middle School. Sites said, “Four years ago, Dan and I were assigned to a struggling middle school. Perception issues, crime rates and community morale associated with the school were low. Students were performing below expectations and parents were opting to send their students to other schools in the area. From the beginning, Officer Smith worked with the community to develop a plan that changes these perceptions, and raised the expectations of kids behavior at the school. Dan met with parent groups, teachers and the administration to address concerns, seek input and to gather support.” Sites continued, “After four years of hard work, Dixon Middle School is now perceived in a positive light. Our school is rivaling the academic performance of other schools in the community, crime is down, prevention is up and students are learning at higher levels.

Under Smith’s leadership and collaboration, Dixon Middle School has transformed. His efforts are noteworthy. The relationship he maintains with the administration is more productive and successful than I have experienced in 18+ years as an educator. I believe that others need to learn from his experience and use his work model to enhance the school resource officer relationships in their own schools.”
Congratulations to Officer Dan Smith for his dedication to making a difference.ASJ

Principal Jarod Sites, Officer Dan Smith, Chief John King and Sgt. Shane Sorensen during the 2015 National School Safety Awards in Las Vegas, Nev. 



Heart Of Bronze – Deputy Nick Worthy

[su_heading size=”27″ margin=”0″]Bronze Medal Deputy – Nick Worthy[/su_heading]

Interview by Troy Taysom • Photographs provided by Nick Worthy

Nick Worthy (3)
Meet Nick Worthy, currently a road patrol deputy for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Department in Florida and also an Army Ranger. Worthy is a Bronze Medal of Valor recipient for his bravery and actions while on patrol in Afghanistan (above) in 2010. The American Shooting Journal is honored to have this exclusive interview.

[su_dropcap style=”light”]N[/su_dropcap]ick Worthy grew up in a child’s paradise; his hometown of Satellite Beach is located on Florida’s eastern shore on a strip of land a mile wide, bordered by the Banana River to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Worthy’s high school is literally across the street from the beach, making attendance difficult, especially when the waves were big. I know from personal experience, as I too lived in Satellite Beach during my formative years. Satellite Beach has the feel of a very small town and is a peaceful and fun place to grow up. Watersports abound, from surfing to scuba diving, water skiing to sailing and, of course, excellent fishing. The beach is never more than a 10-minute walk or five-minute drive.

Worthy, now a deputy sheriff in Brevard County (where Satellite Beach is located), grew up doing what kids in small beach towns do – surf. When Worthy wasn’t surfing, he was wrestling for his high school.

Immediately after graduation, Worthy enlisted in the United States Army on a Ranger track and was assigned to Charlie Company 1/75th Rangers. He attended Ranger School a year later. Ranger School consists of 60 days of sleep deprivation and stress-induced missions. Each mission forces the Ranger candidate to think critically under less-than-ideal situations. The school has three phases, each more difficult than the last. The beginning phase takes place at Camp Darby, Fort Benning, Ga., followed by mountain training at Camp Merrill in Dahlonega, Ga., and culminates in the Florida Phase at Camp Rudder and Eglin Air Force Base. The graduation rate hovers around 50 percent or lower, and most have to start over at least once during the course. Worthy completed the course the first time through.

After earning his Ranger tab, Worthy went back to Charlie Company and began working his way through the ranks. He started out as a rifleman and advanced to grenadier, M249 Gunner, M240 Gunner and finished his enlistment as an E-5 sergeant team leader. Worthy found that his favorite weapon system was the MK 48, a light belt-fed machine gun chambered in the hard hitting 7.62x51mm. Worthy told me, “[The MK 48] is an amazingly lethal weapon that saved the lives of many fellow Rangers and prevented the enemy from advancing on us almost instantly.”

Nick Worthy (4)During his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan Worthy was involved in an operation that placed he and 30 fellow Rangers in harm’s way. Although the details remain classified it’s easy to surmise that Worthy and his fellow Rangers were doing what they do best – looking for and eliminating bad guys. As is usually the case with special ops units, they were deep in Taliban territory and undoubtedly being watched by the enemy as they made their way through the rugged countryside. Soon they found themselves surrounded by 100-plus Taliban fighters. Their squad leader dead, Worthy and his fellow Rangers fought their way out. Worthy told me that he didn’t do anything differently than any of the other Rangers, but his superiors didn’t see it that way and rewarded him with the Bronze Star Medal with a V for valor in combat. It’s a classification for heroism.

As Worthy’s enlistment came to an end he followed his father’s example and also became a road patrol deputy for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office where his dad has been a deputy for some 30-odd years. The transition from service to his country to service to his community was a natural one for him.

As I spoke with Worthy it was apparent to me that he is a humble, quiet man who didn’t want to talk about himself more than he had to. When I asked him if there was a seminal moment when he knew he had made the correct choice in becoming an officer, he told me he couldn’t think of one, but promised to think on it and email me later. He did as he promised and emailed me a story. That he would rather email the story than say it out loud demonstrates his humility. Here’s the story in his own words:

Nick Worthy (1)“I responded to a trespass call at a local gas station. The clerks advised that a homeless male was loitering on the property and they wanted him to leave. When I arrived the man began to pack his things and said ‘You must be here for me. I didn’t mean to bother anyone; I was just trying to stay warm.’ I decided to stay there and talk to him about his situation. It turns out the man wasn’t asking for money. He only wanted to get into one of the local shelters; however, his ID card was stolen, and he stated that the shelter will not accept anyone without an ID. As the male looked down and proceeded to walk towards his bicycle I told him I had to go back to the precinct right quick but wanted him to meet me at the Subway [sandwich shop]. When I met back up with him I gave him an unofficial record of his ID card that was on record from a previous consensual encounter with another deputy. The man began to cry and told me that nobody has ever gone out of their way like that to help him, especially the police. Since he was too proud to accept any cash for a sandwich I gave the money to the cashier to make him one when he came inside. I wished him luck and told him the cashier wanted to ask him a question as I left in my patrol car.”

Singer Don Henley released a song in the 1980s entitled “Dirty Laundry.” The song is about how much the news media loves tragedy, pain and suffering. One line in the song says, “I make my living off the evening news, just give me something, something I can use. People love it when you lose … ”

Nick Worthy (1)
Most cops are humble protectors of our communities who perform daily acts of kindness, never expecting or wanting thanks or recognition. Here, Worthy (right) is on bike patrol by John Decossaux and Corey Bertini.

The song’s lyrics are almost prophetic in describing today’s news reporting. Stories of murder and mayhem abound, and the volume is cranked to 11 if the story involves a cop. There is no shortage of news stories casting cops in a bad light, but what you rarely see are stories like the one Worthy shared with me. My bet is that he hasn’t shared that story with anyone besides maybe his fiancee.

Worthy could have just as easily sent the homeless man on his way without trying to help him out. My experience has been that people who witness war and all its tragic occurrences like Worthy has usually end up one of two ways: 1) callous and uncaring about other people and their problems; or 2) they vow to alleviate as much suffering in the world as they can. It is obvious which path Worthy has taken.

Regrettably, not all calls end in a positive way. Monday, March 9, 2015, was a defining date in the young life of Deputy Worthy. At 9:08 p.m. a 911 call was fielded describing a man standing in the street firing a handgun at random cars and houses. The house from where the 911 call originated was occupied not only by adults but by children as well. The City of Cocoa was the primary agency responding to the call, with Deputy Worthy responding as back-up. It turned out that he was the closest officer and arrived first.

When he got within two blocks of where the shooter had last been seen he stopped to retrieve his Colt AR-15 patrol rifle and approached on foot. His time as a Ranger had taught him that the element of surprise was worth its weight in gold, but like all well thought-out plans his was subjected to Murphy’s Law. The original plan went by the wayside within seconds of his arrival.

Worthy’s car was blacked out,  meaning no lights of any kind were on, when he saw a man standing in the street. Worthy turned on his headlights to get a better look at the man. The man, who turned out to be the active shooter, acted as if he was going to run, so Worthy activated his blue lights announcing that he was a deputy sheriff. As soon as the lights came on the suspect reached into his pocket, pulled out a handgun and began firing at him.

One of the first shots came through the patrol car’s windshield and embedded in the headrest, narrowly missing Worthy’s head. Worthy exited and sought better cover behind his car. The shooter, in a highly agitated state, pursued Worthy to the rear of the car, shooting the entire time. At one point the suspect, later identified as 30-year-old Cedrick Bishop, was running towards Worthy and it was at this time that Worthy confronted the suspect and killed him. Worthy’s experiences in Southwest Asia saved his life that night.

Worthy was fighting for more than the lives of the residents in that small Florida town; he was fighting for his future. His fiancée, who was nine months pregnant with their daughter, and her young son were at home. If it were not for his quick response you may very well have been reading his obituary and that of several citizens of Cocoa instead of this article.

As Worthy and I were talking about the shooting he told me that taking a life is never a good thing. I agree, but the decision to take a life that night had already been made and not by him. The active shooter had decided that someone was going to die and ultimately made the decision that it would be him.

Nick Worthy (5)
When Worthy isn’t on duty, he spends time with his stepson, newborn daughter and fiancée (left) Rachel Trexler. He takes his family camping and passes on some of his Ranger skills, such as knot tying, making a good shelter and finding food and water to his little buddy. He also likes to snowboarding in the mountains of North Carolina.

It was a privilege for me to interview Worthy. Something that struck me while speaking with him was his desire to deflect credit away from himself and give it to others. He did this when I asked him about his heroic efforts in Afghanistan, and on March 9, 2015. But isn’t this what real heroes do? This modesty is what confirmed it for me. As a father of three boys I can imagine how proud Worthy’s parents are of him. As a citizen I know how proud we are of him. As a son I know how proud his kids will be of him when they are old enough to know what their dad has done in the name of service.

In this age of overpaid, overindulged athletes, entertainers, and other public figures, it is refreshing to know that people of character are out there. These quiet men and women go about their jobs every day never seeking the limelight or fame. They go to work with the singular goal of protecting the citizens in their jurisdiction no matter the cost. These officers deserve our gratitude and support for their willingness to sacrifice all so that we can be safe.

Worthy said it best: “I did what any other law enforcement officer would have done; I just happened to get there first.” What Worthy doesn’t say is that when the shots first ring out, he and his fellow officers (and soldiers) run towards the danger, not away from it, all to protect their citizens. ASJ


Nick Worthy (2)
After completing basic training, AIT and jump school, Worthy attended Ranger Indoctrination. This is a tough course designed to weed out soldiers from the ranks of potential Rangers. Worthy passed the course and was assigned to Charlie Company 1/75th Rangers. A year later Worthy attended Ranger School. 


Do You Need Police, Fire Or Medical?

[su_heading size=”35″]Supporting The Boys In Blue[/su_heading]

Story and photographs by Troy Taysom

[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”5″]A[/su_dropcap]t some point in our lives we have all probably called 911. We may have needed help or heard disconcerting noises in the night, or worse, witness a tragedy or an accident where someone’s life was in peril, possibly already lost. Whatever the case, we call 911 when we have reached a point where we are stressed, scared and in need of immediate help. We take for granted that when our call is answered we will hear a friendly, calm, professional voice, no matter the time of day or night. This voice belongs to a 911 dispatcher, perhaps the single most important support person during an emergency. The 911 dispatcher is the disseminator of information to the police and a life line to the public.

PHOTO 2 Dispatchers-min
The dispatchers in this facility work in sync like a machine. Each knowing what the other is doing without the need to verbalize and acting on the collective work of the others. These ladies are impressive!

I recently sat in a meeting with John King, Chief of the City of Provo, Utah, police department, and a recorded 911 call was played for us. The caller was sobbing uncontrollably and it was impossible to understand what they were saying. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it took me 30 to 45 seconds before I really even knew what was happening. It was stressful; I knew the caller needed help, but I didn’t know what kind and I was stunned that the 911 operator could figure it out. The dispatcher was calm and deliberate with her questions and her statements.

“Hon, you need to take a deep breath and tell me what is happening?” I heard the dispatcher say. “Sweetie, I can’t understand you. Can you tell me if the person is still there?” She went on, “It’s going to be OK. The officers are almost there, don’t hang up no matter what, even if you have to stop talking, don’t hang up.” The call lasted a short eight minutes; it felt like it went on for hours.

I can’t dwell on a past emergency, that would interfere with the next call.

After hearing this I decided that I needed to meet the people who choose a job where they constantly speak to people in crisis. No one calls 911 to give good news. The dispatchers answer the phone having no idea what they are about to hear. I’ve lived a long time and seen some bad things, but what I have experienced in 47 years is what a 911 dispatcher hears in a month.

PHOTO 3-min
Provo City, Utah has operated its dispatch command center for over 20 years. In that time only one dispatcher officially retired. It very rare that someone will retire from a dispatch center — the turnover rate is astronomical. The emotional stress that comes from working as a dispatcher cannot be quantified, but plays a significant part in the turnover rate. (Far right) Chief John King.

I sat down with the training supervisor for Provo City PD’s dispatch center, Gen Pratt and Lieutenant Brandon Post, the lieutenant in charge of dispatch, to find out what makes these support personnel tick, and how they handle such a stressful job.The dispatch center has a staff of 21 people, with a budget for 24. According to Pratt and Post, the dispatch center is rarely staffed to the allotted 24 people. They have a very difficult time hiring people, and when they do, chances are that they will not make it through training. The turnover rate is higher than that of the people that they support – police, fire and paramedics.

Provo City has had its own dispatch center for 20 years now, and in that time only one dispatcher officially retired. Lt. Post said that less than one percent of hires will retire from the dispatch center – the turnover rate is astronomical. The emotional distress that comes from working with the city’s crisises cannot be quantified, but plays a significant part in the turnover rate.

These quiet and dedicated support warriors pay a high price for their desire to make a difference.

The center in Provo fields 150,000 calls per year. With a staff of 21 people that means that each person takes approximately 7,143 calls per year. That is close to 27 calls per day, per person. That is an amazing number, especially when one considers that these aren’t your Sunday afternoon calls to grandma.

After the interview, I listened to the dispatchers, whom were all women, take calls. At one point everyone was on a call or dispatching. They worked in sync as if they were one person. I had no idea what was happening; everyone was speaking, radio traffic was crackling and the clacking of keyboards was coming from what seemed to be every direction. No one, besides me, got flustered or stressed. These five women just kept talking and somehow communicating with each other. When it finally slowed down, the ladies went back to talking to each other about their plans for the weekend or what their kids were doing. I was in shock; my head was still swimming, trying to figure out what had just happened.

PHOTO 1 Dispatchers-min
Law enforcement and emergency medical dispatchers have an uncanny ability to multitask. Handling emergency calls, while simultaneously activating emergency services, tracking their officers’ locations and entering information into their computers, is done swiftly and efficiently without thinking twice.

I asked Pratt if calls ever disturbed her. She said, “Not really.” She had learned to treat each call as an in-the-moment experience, and when the call ends, she moves on. I asked her about closure, or wanting to know the disposition of calls that she receives. Pratt said that she can’t dwell on calls and wonder about what has or hasn’t happened. That would interfere with the next call. She did say that there have been calls which have created lasting memories; her first fatality call and her first baby-not-breathing call after returning to work from maternity leave. Both of these calls have stuck with her during for her 11 years at dispatch. This tenure makes her one of the veterans.

When all is said and done, these quiet and dedicated support warriors pay a high price for their desire to make a difference. Burnout is common; retirement is not. Stress is customary and emotional punishment the norm. Recognition is almost unheard of; not because they haven’t earned it, but because so many of us simply don’t think about them – until we need them! ASJ



Investing In Cops K9 Partners

[su_heading size=”37″]Investing In Cops K9 Partners[/su_heading]

Massachusetts Non Profit Helps Provide Ballistic Vests, Training, Even Dogs To Police Agencies

By Kathy Hinds – President of Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog Program

PHOTO 3 LOGO MAVAD decal 15th Anniv FINAL[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]A[/su_dropcap]ll too often, police dog K9 programs manage to operate on fragile, slim or wholly donated budgets. You could be the one who makes the difference by implementing a K9 program in your community, or providing essential equipment that helps ensure a K9’s safety!

Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog has had the honor and privilege to support some of the Bay State’s police-dog K9 programs with an incredible team of volunteers and tremendously generous donors for over 15 years. Originally, we provided ballistic K9 vests and have since expanded our mission to include K9 equipment and funding for training and purchasing of police dogs. How did we go from providing the first K9 vest to 420 now, plus over $200,000 in equipment, training and dogs? Read on.

Tuco, nine-week-old puppy of patrol officer and head trainer Troy Caisey of the Boston Police Department’s K9 unit, will easily fit into this harness when full grown. (JONATHAN KOZOWYK)

[su_frame]The inspiration[/su_frame]

In 2000, an 11-year-old girl named Stephanie Taylor was featured in The American Girl magazine as the founder of the national Vest-A-Dog program. My daughter, after reading the article, was compelled to vest a dog, as well and rallied her classmates.


[su_frame]Moved to action[/su_frame]

The defining moment which inspired the actual creation of Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog was the tragic death of K9 Cero, killed in the line of duty on March 25, 2000. He was the devoted partner of Deputy William R. Niemi of the Ashtabula County Sheriff’s Office in Jefferson, Ohio.


[su_frame]Getting Started[/su_frame]

PHOTO 2 DSC_0149 close up blitz w camera
A vest saved K9 Blitz’s life. He and his handler Major Kenneth Ballinger are now retired from the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department in Massachusetts.

We met and chose a K9 team, learned what they did, what equipment they needed and why they needed it. Our enthusiastic nucleus of middle-school students grew to include volunteers of all ages who were passionate about ensuring the safety of their public-safety K9s. They sold dog and cat jewelry, asked for donations, held a coin drive, attended events such as group dog walks, pet events and expos; they even invited press coverage and networked with other humane nonprofit organizations.



We created a website, established a board of directors, implemented bylaws, became incorporated and successfully earned the 501(c)3 nonprofit status, which is recognized by the IRS allowing for tax-deductable donations. Once established, we held a multimedia campaign that included social media as well as radio and television public service announcements.



In order to sustain momentum, we participate in about 50 events a year, hold an annual fundraiser, and now that we have just celebrated our 15th anniversary with a new line of merchandise, Massachusetts Vest-A-Dog continues to extend sincere gratitude to all donors and volunteers who give year and after year.

Beny down vestedWe know our efforts are helping to make a difference; a vest saved K9 Blitz’s life during a SWAT response; cruiser kennels and heat-alarm-door popper systems have been activated; bite suits and sleeves have replaced dangerously old and over-used equipment; and departments that were faced with ending their K9 program due to lack of funds, have now purchased a K9 and have a patrol dog on duty.

Our efforts are drawn from a strong desire to protect the dogs that help protect us and our tremendous gratitude to the K9 teams who lead the way. I hope you will consider reaching out to support your local K9 team(s). ASJ


Behind The Badge: K9 Heros

[su_heading size=”30″]K9 Officers And Their Well-trained Humans[/su_heading]

Story and photographs by Troy Taysom

[su_dropcap style=”simple” size=”4″]W[/su_dropcap]hen Odysseus returned from his 20-year absence, as told in Homer’s The Odyssey, he went unrecognized by his fellow Ithacans.
Odysseus gazed upon his faithful dog Argos, the only one in the city to recognize him. The dog
had waited faithfully for the return of his master. Old and sick, Argos laid listless, and upon seeing his master, was finally able to die in peace, having fulfilled his commitment to remain faithful.

Dogs have been part of the human experience since the beginning of time. At one time, wolves and humans even hunted in partnership – the wolf as the tracker, the human as the killer – and both shared the spoils. Domestication followed, and with that came the realization that a dog can be a loyal friend. Today, dogs are employed in various roles, including protectors and fellow officers in our law enforcement agencies.

PHOTO 2 Trigger watches suspect-min


Police dogs

PHOTO 4 Brough and Trigger-min
Each human officer is outfitted with an emergency-release button which “pops” the backdoor of their patrol vehicle. When this button is activated, the dog exits the vehicle and immediately runs to the officer and attacks whomever the officer is engaged with. Officer Steven Brough of the Provo, Utah, PD walks with Trigger.

Police use multiple breeds of dogs in their work. They choose them based on the animals’
ability to accomplish specific missions. Beagles, for example, are often used in airports as agriculture or bomb dogs; Labrador retrievers are great as bomb and cadaver dogs; bloodhounds are renowned as human trackers and German shepherds and Belgian Malinois (mal-in-nwah) are most often used as narcotics, patrol and bomb dogs.

Attributes such as high energy, aggressiveness and a willingness to do anything for a reward are essential for traits in these dogs. They all love to play, but when it comes time to apprehend a suspect or protect an officer, playtime is over. The loyalty they have for their human partners knows no limits, and many have given their lives protecting them.

Tagging along with several K9 officers from different departments around Utah, I was fortunate enough to watch Trigger and Loki in action. Trigger is a pure-bred, American Kennel Club-papered Malinois, and Loki is a German shepherd-Malinois mix. Both dogs came from the Czech Republic, where they received their initial bite training. Interestingly, all of the commands the K9 officers used were in Czech. I asked Officer Scott Nielsen, Loki’s partner, if this was done so that suspects couldn’t confuse the dog with contradictory commands. Scott said, “That’s a benefit, but we mostly do it because that is the language the dogs were originally taught, so we try to keep it consistent.”

Both Trigger and Loki are dual-purpose dogs, having been trained in narcotics and patrol. Each discipline requires hundreds of hours of initial training and hundreds of hours each year in reinforcement training. Their work does not leave room for error, and these partnerships train accordingly.


K9 disciplines and training

PHOTO 3 Trigger Attacks_Dutson-min
In a training scenario, Officer Steven Brough frisked a “suspect”- Officer Mike Dutson of the Orem, Utah, PD- while his Malinois K9 partner Trigger stood by watching. When the suspect made an aggressive move towards Brough, Trigger charged, biting the suspect on the arm, and didn’t release until told to do so.

Each discipline, or area of expertise, requires unique and demanding training. Narcotics, agriculture, patrol and bomb specialties are the most common disciplines found within security or law enforcement agencies. Other disciplines include tracking, search, rescue and recovery to name a few.

A dog must be able to repeatedly find and hit on six different narcotics: marijuana, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine, cocaine and psilocybin mushrooms, magic mushrooms. The dogs must be able to find these drugs anywhere they are hidden, including areas where they can’t reach, such as a high shelf or deeply buried. These dogs are also trained to differentiate and ignore prescription drugs, as well as find money that has the scent of narcotics, but ignore money that doesn’t.

When the dog performs the task correctly, they are rewarded with a bite toy. This toy means everything to them, so much so that dogs that are not “toy motivated” may not make the cut as a police dog. The toy is the reward and is only given if and when they signal correctly. If the officer conducts a search and no drugs are found, the dog does not get the toy. Even if the dog hits on the scent of drugs no longer there, no toy is given.

I asked Officer Nielsen if this was demoralizing for the dog or if it could hurt the dog’s effectiveness. “If we have a particularly bad day and Loki keeps striking out, then I’ll get out my scent-training kit and we’ll train to keep him excited and focused,” he replied.


Bomb and patrol training

PHOTO 6 Nielsen and Loki-min
K9 handlers undergo hundreds of hours of training with their dog each year. They work a regular shift like most cops, but are also on call in case a dog is needed for a job. Officer Scott Nielsen of the Provo PD poses with Loki.

Explosive devices have become a real threat, especially since the Boston marathon bombings a few years ago. Bomb dogs are trained to detect 24 base chemicals and over 2,400 combinations of chemicals used to make bombs. For security reasons I will not list the base chemicals, but suffice it to say that many are common items found in most homes. Agencies look for high-drive dogs to be bomb specialists, and they don’t do nearly as much obedience training as patrol dogs do. They want a dog that will be independent and aggressive about searching for items without human restrictions.

These dogs also search for firearms because gunpowder, in all of its forms, is one of the scents a bomb dog is trained to recognize. While finding bombs is their main job, they most often find firearms.

The patrol discipline includes building searches, tracking people, suspect apprehension, obedience, searching for articles, and handler protection. This is a completely separate form of training and requires its own certification and criteria.


Substantial investment

The initial cost of getting a dog is steep. Each dog costs between $8,000 and $12,000, plus every K9-patrol vehicle must be equipped with a kennel, door poppers and a “hot-pop.” The hot-pop kit protects the dogs; once the interior of the vehicle reaches 98 degrees Fahrenheit, the lights and sirens are activated, the windows roll down and a big fan turns on.

The training for these law enforcement agencies – at least the ones I interviewed – is free through the Utah POST (Peace Officer Standards and Training) program, and it is a rigorous, eight-week-long course for each discipline, with a tough final exam. Just making it through the course is not enough.


What it takes to be a handler

Officer Nielsen said it best: “We’re the firemen of the police department.” Everybody loves firemen and everybody loves K9s. In fact, the community donates much of the money required to operate a K9 unit.

PHOTO 5 Lopez and Zippy-min
Bomb-dog jobs include preforming area sweeps for visiting dignitaries, sporting events, parades and other public events. The paradox of the bomb dog is that you hope he never has to find out what he is trained to find, while with a narcotics or patrol dog your hope is that he finds something every time he searches. Bomb dog Zippy sits beside Officer Art Lopez of the Orem, Utah, PD.

Being a police officer is a commitment; being a K9 handler is life changer. As a K9 handler you take your partner home with you, and the dog becomes part of your family. All of the officers I met shared how much they and their families loved their dogs.

K9 officers also spend time off the clock conducting demonstrations for schools, churches and other civic groups. When used correctly, these units are a wonderful community-outreach tool. Who doesn’t love a dog? When I was a kid, police dogs were unapproachable and officers wouldn’t allow people to pet them. Times have changed. Not only can you pet a police dog now, but the officers encourage it. The dogs are socialized from a young age and are excellent with people, especially children-. All of the K9 handlers I met – Officers Brough, Nielsen, Lopez, Dutson and Arnoldsen – were kind and exemplary representatives of their respective departments, and were happy to share some great stories of when their partners made the day:

Can I check your bags for you? Officer Nielsen was doing a good deed and driving two young ladies down on their luck to the bus station. Once they arrived, the girls asked if they could see and pet the K9. Nielsen let Loki out of his kennel and the ladies petted and played with him while Nielsen unloaded the luggage. Loki was enjoying the extra attention until one of the suitcases was placed on the ground. Loki immediately sat down and starred at the case. Nielsen gave him the command to search and Loki went to the suitcase, bit it and then sat down again.

Officer Nielsen told the ladies that Loki was a narcotics dog and that he had indicated that there were drugs inside the suitcase. Sure enough, one of the girls had a pound of marijuana, along with all the necessary paraphernalia. If the girls had never asked to pet the dog, they would never have been caught. These dogs are always working, even when they appear to be playing.

Hide and seek: Bomb dog Zippy, Officer Art Lopez’s Belgian shepherd, has found firearms when patrol officers couldn’t.

PHOTO 1 Loki awaits the command to exit-min
Loki, a German shepherd-Malinois mix K9 that was trained in the Czech Republic, sits in his kennel waiting for the command to exit.

“Zippy and I were called to search a car suspected in a drive-by shooting,” he recalled. “The officers had been searching the car for more than an hour, to no avail. Zippy found the gun in less than 2 minutes. It was a .38 Special revolver and had been hidden at the bottom of the car’s engine compartment. There’s no way the patrol guys would have found that gun, and without it they couldn’t have made an arrest.” Good dog!

You must have met my dog before …: “We had a series of burglaries where firearms had been stolen,” Nielsen recollected. “The suspect was a known felon, with a distinctive tattoo on his neck. A few days later I made a traffic stop and immediately recognized the passenger as the suspect we were looking for, and who also happened to have a parole warrant. The suspect kept reaching down between the seat and the door. After telling him three times to stop reaching down and to keep his hands where I could see them, I drew my gun and ordered him out of the car. He exited and immediately started fighting with me, then took off running. I warned him that I was going to release my dog, but he kept running anyway. I released Loki who, within a matter of seconds, apprehended the suspect by the ribs and then the calf. Nine months later, Loki and I ran into the same guy at a different call. This time, remembering who I was, he immediately surrendered.”

The next time you see a K9 officer and their partner, thank them for their service and ask about their dog. I promise that they will be happy to tell you all about them, and may let you and your kids pet them and take pictures. It will be an experience you’ll never forget. ASJ

End of Watch – Detective Kerrie Orozco

Kerrie Orozco with her team (COURTESY OF AAJA.ORG)

Remembrance by Troy Taysom

Author’s note: The purpose of this new section of American Shooting Journal is to honor the lives of those law enforcement officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. These kinds of articles are tough to write simply because of the amount of respect that I have for cops, and I loathe the pain and heartache that these officer’s families are now forced to endure.
END OF WATCH is a term used by law enforcement officers to signify the day on which one of their fellow cops gave their life while on the job.

Officer kerri-orozco
Detective Kerrie Orozco (NBC NEWS)

Detective Kerrie Orozco, of the Omaha, Nebraska, police department was killed in the line of duty while serving a felony warrant. In her young life, Kerrie, accomplished much, not only as a police officer, but as a mother, friend, coach, mentor, sister, daughter and wife.

Kerrie started her career with OPD some 7 and one half years ago. At the time of her death she was serving as a detective in the gang suppression unit. In addition to being a gang cop, she was also bi-lingual and served as a Spanish interpreter.
But, Kerrie was more than just a uniform. She coached baseball at the local Boys and Girls Club and she used this opportunity to help these at risk youth with more than just playing a sport. She used this as a chance to show kids how rewarding it is to have purpose, which Kerrie explained in an interview, is what many gang members are lacking. Team work, hard work, goal setting and integrity are the attributes that Kerrie looked to and instill in these kids’ lives.
Officer Orozco also volunteered at the Special Olympics, threw pizza parties at the Boys and Girls Club and was a Girl Scout leader. During the holiday season, Kerrie loved participating in “Shop with a Cop,” a program that pairs disadvantaged kids with a cop for a shopping excursion to a local retailer, where the kids get to buy clothes and toys. She also volunteered her time with the Latino Police Officers’ Easter Egg Hunt.

The most heart breaking part of this story is that Kerrie was also a wife and mother. She was married to Hector Orozco and was the stepmother to Santiago and Natalie. Kerrie gave birth to a baby girl, Olivia Ruth, on February 17, 2015. Olivia was born prematurely and was required to stay in the hospital. Olivia was due to be released from the hospital on May 21, 2015—the day after  Kerrie was killed. Kerrie was also set to start her maternity leave so she could be at home with her daughter for the next few months.

Every day in this country men and women just like Kerrie put on a badge and gun to patrol our streets. They don’t do it for praise, or riches, or fame; they do it out of a sense of duty. They walk the streets dealing with the most dangerous among us so that we don’t have to.
My deepest gratitude goes out to Officer Kerrie Orozco; I didn’t know you, but I would be a better person if I had. Hector, Santiago, Natalie and Oliva, our most heartfelt sympathies go out to you. Thank you for sharing your wife and mom with us—she will never be forgotten. – ASJ

Officer Kerrie Orozco—End of Watch—May 20, 2015.

Tactical Virtual Sim for First Responders – FBI

VirtSim is a motion capture technology that is a three-dimensional technical simulator uses wireless and motion-capture technology. Many first person shooting games use similar technology to capture a character movement as seen in games like Halo, First Strike and Battle Field.

Creator of VirtSim – Motion Reality, Inc. has applied this technology to the military and law enforcement first responders. This program provides tactical environment with infinite of scenarios based on actual incident data.

Currently, the FBI has added this curriculum to their handgun and tactics training. The training places agents into a virtual world that is mod with any type of background or settings. Teams can interact in simple residential area to urban torn Iraq. Scenarios can be to clear a house, building or shipyard. Trainees can go through a scenario in solo or up to 12. Take it one step further you can enter buildings to maneuver through hallways, stairwells, rooms and basements.

Each participant wears the following markers over devices so data can be captured and rendered onto a screen from cameras located throughout the training area.
Gear Kit are markers that go over the head shoulder arms and legs.
Replica Rifle – provides realism, weight, dimensions, recoil and limit rounds available.
Replica Handgun – replicates actual weight, recoil and rounds capacity.

Debriefing from a training session is a great way to review and assess which parts needs more training. With VirtSim technology, debriefing goes one step further into video recording the entire sessions including individual trainee’s movement. At the team level you can monitor trainees line of sight area or responsibilities, assess use of cover or lack of and down to the number of rounds fired. This type of training allows officers or operators to utilize sound tactics based on situation.

FBI Painful Experiences
The FBI decision to incorporate this type of training is the result of mishaps the FBI experienced involving shootouts with the bad guys. Through numerous reports all shooting incidents occurred at close quarter within 10 feet and 65% of the agents missed their target.

These statistics confirms a need to change their handgun shooting tactics and the perspective on training for real fighting at close quarter. Throwing out the old belief of, if you can hit a target at 25 yards you can hit anything at less than 10 feet. This implementation is instated at every level from local to regional on up to even the HRT (Hostage Rescue Team) level.

VirtSim helps the FBI in getting their agents to be more tactically sound and proficient in any type of environment that they may encounter.

NYPD Officer Involved Shooting Incidents

1994 – 2000

0-2 Yards = 1,188 or 69%
3-7 Yards = 332 or 19%
8-15 Yards = 109 or 6%
16-25 Yards = 24 or %
25+ Yards = 31 or 2%
TOTALS = 1,719 or 99%

*Excerpt From: “Officer-Involved Shootings: What We Didn’t Know Has Hurt Us ©”
By Thomas J. Aveni, M.S., The Police Policy Studies Council

NYPD Accepts Reality that Sight Shooting is not Used in CQB

The 2011 NYPD Annual Firearms Discharge Report drives a stake through the mantra of “true believer” sight shooters that shots must be aimed using the sights.

The NYPD now gauges officers success in firearm discharge incidents by the simple measure of whether he or she ultimately hits and stops the subject. And regardless of the number of shots fired at the subject, or whether or not the sights were used.


There were 36 incidents in 2011, in which officers hit at least one subject per incident 28 times, for a success rate of 78%.

When officers were being fired upon, they struck subjects two thirds of the time for a success rate of 66.6% (six out of nine such incidents).


311 shots were fired by officers in the 36 incidents.

The hit rate was 12% (36/311).

That means that 9 out of ten shots fired, missed and went somewhere else.

In two of the incidents a high volume of shots were fired. Eliminating them, gives a hit rate of 19% (36/193).

That means that 8 out of ten shots fired, missed and went somewhere else.

And in 2011, 1 bystander was killed.


The hit rate validates the reality that sight shooting just can not be used or is not used in CQB situations.

That fact is supported by the officers themselves.

Thirty-four officers (44%) reported that they had used their sights. As such, 56 percent of the officers shot without use of the sights.

Per the NYPD, “utilizing a two-handed grip, standing, and lining up a target using the firearm’s sights is the preferred method of discharging a firearm, but it is not always practical during an adversarial conflict.”

Basically, achieving marksmanship mechanics in close quarters combat, is just “a bridge to far.”

The use of the new gauge for success, supports the thought that teaching the use of the sights for aiming in real life threat close quarters defensive situations, is just a game played on citizens who bought a gun for self defense with the thought in mind that they would be able to use it effectively in their self defense. And the same is true in regard to teaching distance shooting to citizens for self defense use, or the inclusion of combat reloading in drills and training courses.

Now, there are alternative methods of shooting at close quarters distances that do not rely on the use of the sights. They are simple, effective, and easier and quicker to learn than sight shooting.

And they do not rely on the mechanics of pistol shooting in a controlled environment which include: a “proper grip, sight alignment, sight picture, trigger control, and breath control. All of these require a degree of concentration and fine motor skills. Unfortunately, in a combat situation, concentration and fine motor skills are sometimes among the first casualties.”

The 20% or less hit rate in CQB situations, has been around for years and years. And though it has shouted out the need for training in alternative shooting methods, institutionalized dogma and established training programs have squelched and stomped out such heretical thoughts and measures.

Hopefully, the official recognition by the NYPD of the reality of adversarial conflicts, will result in adjustments or modifications to existing firearms training programs.

That would be good, as one has the greatest chance of being shot and/or killed in CQB instances.

Continuing to train only in sight shooting which results in 8 out of 10 shots missing the target and going somewhere else, is just crazy.

Here is a link to the 2011 NYPD Annual Firearms Discharge Report in PDF form:

This is a link to an article on NYPD training that is based upon a Rand Corporation study which was paid for by the NYPD:

Source:John Veitt