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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The "Tabletop"

The Apple Valley Police Department (AVPD) asked if I wanted to observe their tabletop exercise for a “Check the Welfare” call. At a tabletop exercise, participants talk and think through how they would handle a problem while sitting around a table. It’s a safe and often synergistic process for planning a response.

It was part of their staff meeting, and all supervisors, sergeants, and up were at the table, including the chief. The process used a PowerPoint presentation that started with the initial information given to the officers and, over the course of the exercise, more information and complexity were presented. Captain Nick Francis facilitated the exercise and discussion. Here is the information from the first slide:

  • Officers are dispatched to a suicidal person call, information in the card reads: 
  • RP states she received a text from her husband who indicated he was suicidal. The male lives at 12345 Cedar Avenue. The text stated ‘It’s just not worth it anymore, goodbye.’ He also sent a picture with himself holding a knife. RP advises the male has numerous weapons in the residence and has a history of violence.”
  • Two AVPD squads are dispatched to the residence to check the welfare.

Some of the initial thoughts were: get a supervisor on the way, obtain more accurate information, and determine if anyone else is with the man. One supervisor said he would assign an officer to track down the original caller and not rely on the limited information that comes through the dispatcher. Another said he would bring in additional officers depending on who was working, such as officers who have had additional training in crisis intervention or negotiations. As the call got more complex, they discussed not wanting to push the call into a situation where they would have to use force. They also reviewed applicable state statutes.

The scenario continued:

  • The first officer arrives on scene and reports the male’s vehicle is in the driveway. There is fresh snowfall, and tracks indicate the vehicle arrived within the last couple of hours. 
  • One of the officers speaks to the complainant on the phone and learns she is on her way home and will be there in 5 minutes.
  • What immediate options do the officers have? Where should they be standing by?

As they concluded the exercise, they talked about ways they could improve their response and were looking to additional programs and training they could evaluate. They planned to replicate the exercise with all of their officers at upcoming training sessions. I thank Chief Jon Rechtzigel and Captain Nick Francis for allowing me to attend.

Up next: Minnesota Chiefs of Police Training for City Officials

Stay safe,

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