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SOU hosts 'Locked-In' demonstration

There are plenty of reasons why corrections officers must occasionally remove an inmate from his or her cell — and as Jackson County Deputy Tim Higgins explained during a “cell extractions” workshop Friday at Southern Oregon University most of those reasons begin with the word ... “stop.”

As in, “stop or control disruptive behavior,” or “stop or control self-injurious behavior,” or “stop or prevent destruction of property.” But while it’s clear that the beefy Higgins would likely be favored in a wrestling match against most of the inmates he oversees, he was quick to stress that the muscle that often gets the best results is the one inside his mouth.

“I look like a meathead,” he said, “but I have a blackbelt in verbal Judo.”

Higgins was one of about 40 law enforcement officers who descended upon the north end of the SOU campus Friday for the 19th annual Locked-In event, a series of lectures and demonstrations that gave 120 local college and high school students a sneak peak at what their workday would look like if they decided to pursue a career as a patrol officer, SWAT team officer, crime scene investigator, explosives unit officer, probation officer and well, the list goes on and on.

Most of the students were SOU criminology and criminal justice majors, but also on hand were 40 students from South Medford High School’s military science program and a handful of visitors from Rogue Community College and Klamath Community College.

As for the law enforcement officers, SOU criminology professor Tiffany Morey, who organized Locked-In, said they came from 15 different agencies. And the majority of those officers, Morey added, were there on a volunteer basis.

“Most of them, I would bet over 75 percent, are doing this on their own time and just like to show that hey, we are not just the bad guys that the media portrays,” said Morey, who holds a CSI Forensic Academy Crime Scene Investigator license in forensic science. “There’s another side of us that’s human. I want to give students a time to ask those questions and see that, hey, we’re normal. We have families, we’re just like you, and really just spread the word about positive law enforcement.

“Most of us out there are doing it for the right reasons and trying to also, obviously, recruit. That’s more at your chief and sheriff level. I think the officers that actually come here just love what they’re doing, just love saying, ‘Look at what I do, look how cool it is.’”

Locked-In was divided into two separate 2 1/2-hour sessions, each of which included several lectures and/or demonstrations.

While Higgins laid out the fundamentals of a cell extraction in the Rogue River Room — that’s the giant conference room in the Stevenson Union building — another officer was in a classroom across the patio in Taylor Hall showing a much smaller batch of students what it’s like to strap yourself into a bomb suit (hot and constricting, mostly).

Meanwhile, in another room on the lower level of Stevenson Union, Grants Pass traffic officer Scott Williams went over the dos and don’ts of a traffic stop. His presentation included several videos — in one an officer was shot dead, in another an officer survived a bullet to the face — which viscerally drove home one of his main points: any traffic stop has the potential for violence.

“How many want to be cops?” Williams asked his class of about 30 students before queuing up the first video, which showed a man turning a routine traffic stop into a firefight.

Then, after roughly half raise their hands: “Oh wow. So this is real life. This is what you’ve got to mentally prepare yourself for and be ready for.”

Later, after explaining the purpose of a tactical pause and how it was used in a stop that nearly turned deadly, Williams paused to make a point.

“What did the trooper pull him over for?” he asks.

“Speeding,” they say, correctly.

“Mindset, we don’t know,” Williams says. “Like I said, he just took the kids. He’s thinking, ‘Oh crap, they got me, they’re going to pull me over, I’m going to have to fight my way out of this.’”

One of the best-attended presentations of the day was the K-9 demonstration, led by Jackson County Sheriff Deputy Tom Hohl and featuring his K-9, Remco, who made quick work of an officer dressed in a protective suit playing the role of suspect.

“They gotta be super obedient, they gotta be under control — they’re not wild animals,” Hohl said moments before giving Remco the green light.

Hohl and Remco were part of a team that was honored in December with the 2019 Lifesaving Award by the Oregon State Sheriffs Association. A man armed with a handgun had murdered his father-in-law, shot and beaten his wife and stabbed and bludgeoned his 16-year-old stepdaughter, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Hohl and Remco hunted down the suspect and took him into custody.

Remco’s ferocity and speed drew oohs and ahs from the students who formed a semicircle around Friday’s catch-and-release demonstration. Even with the suit, going up against Remco is a risky proposition. According to Hohl, Remco — the best K-9 in the state, according to Hohl — three people were injured during the training process. One nearly lost a nipple.

Alyssa Snyder, a senior criminal justice student at SOU who works at the Jackson County Transition Center, was attending Locked-In for the fourth year in a row, though this year she was there as a volunteer. Students can gain one credit for the half-day class. To Snyder, it’s well worth it.

“We watch a lot of crime television where we maybe start to see through the eyes of a police officer, but it’s not really realistic,” she said. “So being able to get normal community members out here and to be able to talk to law enforcement officers, ask questions, realize that they’re people, too, and they just are out there to save lives and help them I think is super helpful. Plus, it gives a lot of high school students a lot of direction if they’re not exactly sure what they want to do.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneJackson County Sherriff Deputy Bartlett instructs SOU students Blake Snyder and Alejandra Lopez procedures of entering a residence during the Locked-In event at SOU campus in Ashland.