NPD officer outlines defense training lessons to CPA alumni

Jamie Berry / The Transcript

Norman Police Officer Brandon Wansick uses a cane Wednesday to demonstrate how to use a baton during an advanced Citizens' Police Academy class over defense tactics.

Imagine for a moment you are a police officer responding to a call. When you arrive, a person on scene starts picking a violent fight and exhibiting symptoms of excited delirium. What do you do next?

Norman Police Officer Brandon Wansick highlighted these types of scenarios during an advanced Citizens' Police Academy class about defense tactics Wednesday at the Norman Investigations Center.

He said the goals of defense tactics are to dominate the attack, be prepared, expect and do the unexpected, and use good and safe practices, tactics and techniques.

Defense tactics and firearms are the highest liability aspects of a police department, he emphasized.

The 11-year Norman Police Department veteran usually works a traffic beat on a motorcycle, but he also trains cadets on defense tactics, as well as other topics.

His job, he said, is to take cadets who've never been in a fight and prepare them for the unexpected. He said he used to ask cadets in the training academy who had been in a fight before, but he stopped asking when one cadet asked if Xbox counted.

He said the department sometimes encounters people suffering from excited delirium during domestic fight, disturbance or odd calls.

Excited delirium, Wansick said, is a condition that causes visual hallucinations, disorientation, impaired thinking, violent and erratic behavior, increased strength, high pain tolerance and high body heat. Those suffering from it have no mental shutoff mechanism and can get metabolic acidosis, which can lead to dangerous heart rhythms and cardiac arrest.

He said guidelines for dealing with these individuals include recognizing the symptoms and ensuring EMSSTAT, the fire department and backup have been called. Next, officers try to circle and close in until the suspect can be safely tackled, using as little force as possible. Officers then ensure that medical assistance is nearby and take the suspect into custody, where the individual is placed upright and given a nasal atomizer containing Versed. Several minutes after the medication begins to work, the team takes a tactical pause, he said.

Versed is a drug commonly used in hospitals to calm patients during medical procedures.

According to Wansick, Dr. Patrick Cody with Norman Regional Hospital System developed the nasal atomizer after witnessing someone die from excited delirium mere feet away from the hospital. In 2010, a suspect died as they were coming out of an ambulance because their heart was beating too fast. Cody researched and developed a needle-less sedative for use in the emergency room and EMSSTAT for patients exhibiting excited delirium. Versed sedates the patient somewhat and gives them amnesia.

Wansick teaches the ask, tell and make method: You ask someone to do something, then tell them, and if they still refuse, you make them do it.

In most excited delirium cases, drug use is prevalent, he reported, and illegal drugs today contain double the percentage of THC than they did 30 to 40 years ago, making them much more potent and dangerous.

Part of the defense training cadets go through includes what has been dubbed a six-minute "fight test," Wansick said. Cadets go into a room and have to fight with others until time is up. They are encouraged not to give up. In four to five years, only three cadets have given up.

Several methods can be used to help subdue suspects and get officers home safely, Wansick said: Tasers, batons, firearms, hand to hand and a proper vascular neck restraint.

Not everyone uses a baton, he said, and there are three zone classifications: green, yellow and red. Green zones can be used any time and cause little injury, yellow zones require caution and offer high control and moderate injury to the suspect. Red zones shouldn't be struck unless lethal force is necessary in a situation.

Wansick said he usually aims for a leg because that will more likely stop the suspect from fighting back.

Vascular neck restraints are also good techniques because they occlude blood vessels from the brain and temporarily knock out the suspect. The more bony the officer, the greater the success.

Suspects must be taken to the hospital automatically if OC spray, Taser or a vascular neck restraint has been used.

"[Defense tactics] are not pretty; they're gruesome. If someone is willing to stand toe to toe with you, then there's going to be a fight," he said.

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