Are police in your town ready to respond to an active shooter? What changes to police training have taken place in Connecticut communities post-Newtown?
A look around the state finds there are a variety of ways police departments are working in cooperation with school boards and town leaders to strengthen security and emergency response times to violent situations.
Just before Christmas, with the state still numb from the December 14th tragedy, the police chiefs from four Naugatuck Valley towns discussed combining resources, ideas and manpower.
Police and School Administrators from the bordering towns of Derby, Ansonia, Seymour and Shelton developed a plan to train together for active shooter scenarios. The goal is to familiarize themselves with the people they would respond to alongside and places they could be rushing towards.
“It combined everybody,” says Ansonia Police Chief Kevin Hale. “Because if it happened right now, there would be officers coming from all over going into a faculty at the same time.
With training costing roughly $300 per officer per day, Hale says it’s saved money for the cash strapped towns and also allowed the towns to pool ideas for no-cost changes that could aide in a future response.
“If they're writing a report, rather than doing it in a home depot parking lot, they’ll do it in a school parking lot,” says Derby Police Chief Gerald Narowski, who Hale credits for bringing the group together. “We wanna be omnipresent and we don’t want people to know when we’re showing up and when we’re not.
Regionalized active shooter training is not new to Connecticut. The 24 police departments that make up the Law Enforcement Council of Southeastern Connecticut first trained together for active shooter response in 2007. In small groups, officers from the different towns have been training monthly for the majority of the last 6 years.
Every police officer in the state take part in active shooter drills during re-certification, which happens every three years. Other officers work within regionalized SWAT teams.
Prior to the shootings at Columbine High School, it was those SWAT teams that would get called in to respond to a shooting incident. Now, the protocol calls for engaging the shooter as quickly as possible.
“Columbine changed everything,” says Kenneth Gray, a former Emergency Response Coordinator for the FBI.
“Active shooter training is important to develop those tactics because it is really a mindset.”
Gray says the best practices are tweaked following every mass shooting incident. He credits a federally funded program developed by Texas State University and the San Marco, Texas Police Department with creating the best practices guidelines for how to respond to an active shooter incident.
“Officers from different departments are being trained in how to respond to active shooters,” says Gray, who has worked as a lecturer at the University of New Haven since retiring from the FBI after 24 years. “They take that training back to their offices so their departments can learn best practices.
Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy believes there needs to be more statewide training for active shooter scenarios. His department responded to the Hartford Distributors warehouse in August 2010, where eight people were killed before the shooter turned the gun on himself.
“I’d like to see more training with entities that we don’t normally train with,” says Montminy. “When Manchester holds an active shooter training we should be inviting everyone in the region and vice versa. Because you never know when the next Newtown is gonna be.”