Benefits of Training

Ecole Polytechnique.  Columbine.  Red Lake Senior High.  The Amish School. Virginia Tech.

These are only some of the school shootings that have resulted in nationwide changes to how law enforcement trains for an ‘active shooter‘.

During training, officers are armed with simunition (little paint bullets fired through the officer’s own gun) and go into a building or an area to find and stop the ‘shooter’.   A loud audio recording of gunshots, screaming and chaos increases the intensity, and the best scenarios utilize actors to portray the injured and the dead.

The training is realistic and stressful.

It’s one thing to think you can hunt down a killer, but it’s an entirely different thing to go into an unfamiliar building, step over the widening pool of blood spreading around a dead student and continue past those crying and begging for help even as you hear more gunshots in the next hallway.

This is all done to condition officers to better respond when someone is actively shooting and killing people.  It’s not pretty, it’s not for the faint of heart, and it is so, so necessary.  This sort of training is some of the best, and is an extremely important component of an officer’s mental conditioning.

So when we responded to a stabbing at a Vancouver high school last week, where multiple suspects were supposedly still at large, we utilized this training.  The goal was to enter the school and ensure the safety of students and staff, to apprehend the suspects if they were located, and to clear the school of any other related hazards.

PSD Hondo and I were a part of the second team to enter the school, which was locked down in a Code Red (where staff and students lock their doors, draw the blinds and stay away from windows and doors…another action after Columbine).  It was eerie to be searching a completely silent building while knowing there were hundreds of students and dozens of staff locked within its walls.

There were no sounds from the classrooms, no machinery noise from the woodworking or metal shops, and, with the exception of the two police search pods, no movement.

It became clear how frightening the situation must have been for the students as we slowly made our way through the halls.  At first glance, several of the classrooms appeared vacant and it was not until we entered that we realized many classrooms were full of students huddled against walls and hiding behind desks, student who slowly raised raised their heads or their hands in response to our announcement that the police were there.

The auditorium was empty, but there were backpacks, books and binders scattered along a number of seats.  I wondered where the students were as our footfalls echoed across the wooden stage.  The sound was hollow, loud and sort of creepy.  I knew the students were somewhere close by, but they were so quiet.

Then, when we cleared the gym, it was obvious a vigorous class had been interrupted. Boys gym bags, runners and sweatpants lined one wall, while girls satchels, ballet flats and jeans lined another.  There had to be at least three dozen kids somewhere, but where were they?  

We eventually located them, safe and all together with the exception of four boys.  Somehow, the four boys had been separated from the main group and were huddled together in the complete darkness of a little nook.  It would have unnerved me, a police officer, to be stuck in the spot they found themselves.  I can only imagine how frightened they must have been with no locked door between them and whomever the police were searching for, and they were clearly relieved when we found them and reunited them with their class.

The impressive thing was how amazingly calm the teachers were, which is a testament to how much they care about their students.  They had a job to do and they did it.  Kudos to them.  I can only hope my kids teachers have the same strength (and I believe they do…)

Clearing a school takes time, especially when it is a very large one.  Two and half hours after we arrived, we finally called the school clear.

Our training payed forward with dividends and was proof we need to continue and constantly improve what we do to be ready for the inevitable situations we will face.

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“To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.”

– George Washington

******

“Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.”

– Miguel de Cervantes

 

 

 

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