A total of 50 to 60 officers will be trained for school crisis situations by June.
By TIM YOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
GIRARD -- Four area police departments are nearly prepared to respond in the event of a Columbine-type shooting.
About 20 officers from the Girard, Niles, McDonald and Weathersfield Township police departments learned Wednesday how to assemble at a school, locate an assailant and arrest or eliminate the threat.
Weathersfield Capt. Joseph Consiglio said the four departments will be fully prepared to respond to a school emergency after June training at McDonald High School.
By then, 50 to 60 officers will have been trained in rapid action deployment.
What was learned: Girard Capt. Frank Bigowsky and Consiglio explained that during the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., police had been trained to respond, stand back and wait for the SWAT team to enter the schools.
"Unfortunately, that allowed a lot of people to die," Bigowsky noted.
As it turned out, two Columbine students had time to kill 12 other students and a teacher.
"Columbine and a number of school shootings changed the philosophy of dealing with crisis situations," Consiglio said.
He explained that officers who initially respond to such situations are now being trained to immediately assemble and enter the building.
Waiting for the SWAT team, Bigowsky explained, could result in the deaths of two or three people.
Wednesday, police went through one hour of classroom training and three hours of tactical practice at Girard High School.
Practice: Similar sessions have been conducted in Niles and Weathersfield so police can become familiar with the layout of the school buildings.
School resource police officers assigned to each school district developed the plans. They are Michael Naples, Girard; Todd Stitt, Weathersfield; Ed Stonestreet, McDonald; and Mike Wilson, Niles.
The plans developed by the resource officers are complex and include notifying neighbors in a one-block radius of the school that there is a crisis.
Also, the plans designate areas for functions such as traffic control, staging manpower and medical treatment.
Consiglio said this is the first time the area departments have trained together, although each department has asked the others for assistance in some situation.
"You plan for the worst and hope you never have it do it," Bigowsky added.