The law enforcement officers are trained to deal with close quarters and the adrenaline rush.
By LAUREN POLINSKY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
LESSONS LEARNED AFTER TRAGIC
shootings in other states are being taught to local police and state troopers by the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Special Response Team.
Local police and troopers participated in an active shooter training class Monday at Poland Seminary High School. This training has been offered by the Special Response Team since 1999.
The idea is to teach local officers how to take immediate action and alleviate any threats created by an active shooter in a place such as a school or a mall. The training included a classroom lecture, step-by-step re-enactment of a possible situation and a mock re-enactment with props and actors.
The training classes were created shortly after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo.
Sgt. Michael Paris, of the patrol’s Special Response Team, has been an instructor since the beginning of the classes. He said law enforcement realized during the analysis of Columbine that things were not handled the best way and that a change in philosophy had to happen.
“Before Columbine, police officers would show up and contain the situation until a SWAT team came. But now with this training, officers can go into the building or school right away and mitigate the threat,” Paris said.
Paris and his team have been traveling all over the state offering the class. He said the turnout has been incredibly high. In the Youngstown area, participants have included Salem, Austintown, Beaver and Lisbon police and the state patrol.
He explained that even a city that has its own SWAT team should have officers who can immediately react to an active shooter — because it typically takes a team 30 to 40 minutes to get to a scene.
The class teaches everything from how to deal with the initial call, right up to the very end of the situation.
Officers were lectured on the history of shootings and shown a presentation that explained, step by step, what to do inside a building.
Then, they formed groups of four and practiced entering multiple classrooms inside Poland high school. Paris said there’s a certain technique on how to walk, and how to hold a gun, to keep the core group of officers as strong and safe as possible.
The last stage is called force-on-force training. Members of the Special Task Force act as victims or shooters armed with guns loaded with paint-filled bullets and are scattered throughout the classrooms. The training officers, again in groups of four and also with guns, move through the halls and enter each classroom with the hope of getting more paint on the shooters than the shooters get on them.
Paris said the idea is to get the officers’ heart rates going and teach them how to handle the adrenaline rush that situations like these produce.
Trooper Eric Brown of the patrol in Canfield was one of the trainees. He said the last part of the training was as close to the real thing as possible, and was a mental challenge.
“You just have to stay focused and rely on your training and trust your partners. That is what this is all about, working in teams,” Brown said.
Brown said it is important for all agencies to learn these strategies so that the first responders to a scene can confidently rely on the backup responders.
Lt. Ron Deamicis from the Austintown Police Department has been through similar training multiple times and believes it is important for all agencies to participate in them. “Say we have a school shooting and we only have five officers on the road that day. Since the state patrol is in our jurisdiction, they can come help us,” he noted.
Another Austintown officer, Sgt. Tom Collins, is glad this training is offered so frequently. He said although he will never be comfortable in a shooter situation, he can be confident in his response abilities because of all the sessions he can attend.
Paris agrees the mental aspect of the training is important.
“Police officers have to understand that this will be the worst day of their lives, especially if there are kids involved. It is traumatic. We can’t help everyone, but we have to get in there and get the shooter as quickly as possible,” he said.