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What happens in Vegas: Tales from a ridealong

Late last year I headed to Las Vegas to attend the Force Science Analyst Certification course at the Las Vegas Police Department. The class attracted 77 officers from 45 agencies from the United States and Canada.

The intensive five-day class is headed by Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Institute. He was joined by a cadre of experts in the field of human performance and the physiological effects of stress.

The main focus of the Force Science Analyst course was to train investigators of Officer Involved Shootings (OIS) in the science of human performance under the extreme stress of a shooting situation.

The class consisted of a number of homicide and OIS investigators from a number of agencies on the local, state and federal levels. While I am not an investigator, I went to the class to better understand the science behind human performance under stress to help improve my own training.

Each day we would receive instruction in a variety of topics from a leading expert in that area. Each night we would have readings to do and the final test and presentation to prepare for.

Along with the daily lessons we were assigned an actual Officer Involved Shooting that we had to apply the concepts we had learned to demonstrate our understanding of the lessons we had learned.

On the Friday, I was privileged to be allowed to do a ridealong with the Las Vegas Metro Police. Since they are swamped with requests for ridealongs by visiting police officers from around the world, they have had to cut back on the numbers they can accept.

I considered myself very lucky to be allowed to join the officers on patrol and would like to extend my thanks to the department and officers who made it possible. Arrangements were made for me to ride along from 2000 to 2400 hours since I had to be up early the next morning to catch a plane.

I met Officer Chad Shevlin outside the hotel. The first thing I asked him was if he had volunteered or had been assigned, and he assured me that he had volunteered.

I know for some cops ridealongs aren’t their favorite activity. I would learn later that we had a mutual connection to PoliceOne. Chad had been featured in a PoliceOne “Will to Win” video several years before.

The Curse of the Ridealong
We went over his expectations of me during the night and headed off responding to a couple of domestic situations and a traffic stop that were resolved without arrests. Chad said he was afraid the “curse of the ridealong” was in effect and was concerned that it would be a boring night.

The curse was quickly lifted when he did a traffic stop on a vehicle for running a red light. The driver didn’t have a valid driver’s license and had several children in the back without seatbelts.

During the stop, the adult male front seat passenger started to become verbally and physically aggressive, indicating a desire to fight or flee. A records check indicated the suspect had just gotten out of prison and had failed to keep in touch with his parole officer. A pending order to take him into custody was on file.

Backup was called and the downtown police surveillance cameras were turned in our direction. The stop took place on Freemont Street, just a few blocks from my hotel so not only did Chad need to watch the occupants of the vehicle but also the large volume of passing vehicle and pedestrian traffic and a rooftop bar across the street.

With sufficient backup on scene to quell any thoughts of fleeing or fighting, the suspect was taken into custody without any problem. Chad then gave me the option of continuing to patrol with another officer or going to the jail with him. I’m glad I chose to go watch the intake process.

After the suspect was turned over to the jail staff, I watched Chad do the usual required paperwork and then we returned to the intake area. As I stood there I heard from behind me, “Hey, Mr. Wolfe.”

I was surprised to see a former student of mine, standing behind me. He had graduated from the college that I teach at, worked for several years in his hometown, a few miles away from my department and then left for the bright lights and big city.

He told me that he had just read my latest article and was, needless to say, surprised to see me in jail.

We got caught up quickly before he had to go back out on patrol with a specialized unit that targets the most high crime areas of the city.

Chad and I continued on patrol talking about the similarities and differences of working in our very different jurisdictions — kind of a Sin City versus Mayberry comparison.

He assured me that no matter the size of the city, police work is police work. We also had some things in common in that we are both use-of-force instructors and trainers.

I left Las Vegas with a much deeper appreciation for what my big city brothers and sisters do on a daily basis.

If you watched Chad’s video, you will understand that I also left with a deeper appreciation for our veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It isn’t every day that I get to sit beside someone of his experience and talents and I would like to thank him and the rest of LVMPD for taking the time to show me the big city.

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