Sergeant Roger Roldan isn’t a magician – far from it – but if posed with a threat to his life, he’s trained to put a person safely to sleep in a matter of seconds.
“Don’t worry, you’ll quickly wake up,” he told a group of journalists.
Roldan, a sergeant with the Pasadena Police Department, was demonstrating the carotid hold on fellow officer Lieutenant William Grisafe during “Policing 101,” an interactive educational session with local media last week in Pasadena. The course was designed to show what law enforcement officers face daily when it comes to apprehending suspects.
Police in California are not allowed to use chokeholds, but many departments properly instruct officers how to subdue a person by applying pressure on either side of the windpipe, while allowing the subject to breathe.
It’s difficult to initially see the difference between a chokehold and a carotid restraint, but Roldan and Grisafe clearly pointed it out as part of the 4-hour morning session outside the Pasadena Police Range in Eaton Canyon. Roldan demonstrated a chokehold, which police in California are not allowed to use, involving an arm across a person’s windpipe, before showing the more commonly used carotid restraint of the arteries on either side of the neck, squeezing to restrict blood supply to the brain.
Roldan didn’t actually put Grisafe to sleep, but be assured; he knows the proper technique when faced with a potential harmful situation.
In a video, the Pasadena police officials showed a situation in which a suspect’s neck fit in the crook of the officer’s elbow, which they said was consistent with a carotid restraint. Seconds are critical in working the technique as once the person is asleep, it allows officers the necessary time to apply handcuffs and ease tensions between the police and suspect. The sergeant said the effect of the carotid hold can be felt in under a second.
Course instruction by police focused on laws they must follow along with a series of State Senate and Assembly Bills being closely monitored in the state Legislature when it comes to the use of force. De-escalation, or behavior intended to escape escalations of conflicts, was also addressed along with less lethal tactics like the carotid hold and use of batons. In addition, role-playing and simulators, showing actual scenarios where officers must make split second decisions, also came into play.
South Pasadena Police Chief John Perez explained that “Policing 101” was created for law enforcement personnel to “open up our department and processes in policing to the public, and the best way to do that is to bring the media inside,” he said. “They are the vehicle in which many people in the community understand world issues, local issues, social issues, challenges, and the best way, we believe, helping to understand policing and how difficult it is, is by providing training to the media. The media has to report on local issues. The trauma of violence continues in our country. Last year we had 317 active shooting events. These are very difficult situations, so one of the ways for us to come to grips with it all is to teach it, providing the law and processes and involving the media in actual scenarios so that people know the human dynamic of decision-making.”
Police officers are trained extensively in federal and state law, in the use of firearms, defensive tactics, driving skills, customer service, transporting prisoners, evidence handling, handcuffing, and a wide variety of law enforcement.
“At the end of the day, putting the media through it, is the best way to find balance, because they will ask the right questions,” he continued. “We may learn from these experiences, but most of all when we put everything on the table the media has the ability to provide the proper facts to the community when it comes to violent encounters.”
The Pasadena police chief hoped that members of the media walked away with “the emotional feelings of actually being involved when an active shooter is not listening to your commands,” he explained. “We hear a lot about de-escalation, which is just a fancy word for communication. Persuasion is what we’re looking at, trying to get the suspect to drop the knife. How many times are we supposed to ask the person to drop it – 100, 200 times? So, we talk a lot about de-escalation. There are so many dynamics. Every situation is different.”
Perez said journalists walked away reflecting on the emotions and decision-making police face daily and the dynamics of having to make key decisions.
New South Pasadena Police Chief Joe Ortiz, a 30-plus year veteran of law enforcement, invited reporters to the event, noting: “It was a platform for better communication. The idea of transparency is real when you’re talking about events, how they unfold. To be close to part of the experience is important. How do we know what it’s like unless we’re experiencing it in a training scenario? It kind of opens your eyes a little bit. Public safety is here for all of us.”
Ortiz wanted the media to see and further understand why police take certain actions. “Our job isn’t necessarily to change someone’s mind,” he said. “Our job is to provide factual information, and I think understanding the guidelines and the laws on how we’re expected to play and operate within are extremely important because the message is digestible. It’s now understood when agencies operate within the law.”