Prior to the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, school-based law enforcement personnel were not trained to deal with an active shooter on a school campus. Their role as first responders was to contain the scene until the SWAT team arrived. Today, officers must be prepared to engage instantly in a worst-case scenario, particularly as copycat incidences continue seven years after the Columbine tragedy.
In response, the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) will offer an innovative, two-day active shooter simulation training program to prepare officers for the possibility of such violence in their school or community. The program is being developed by the Riverside County (Calif.) Sheriff's Department, and it will debut during NASRO's 16th Annual School Resource Officer Conference and School Safety Exhibition at La Quinta Resort and Spa in Palm Springs, Calif., July 16-21, 2006.
"As we've seen, being in a school does not mean you're safe from violence," says Sgt. Philip Bailey, president and training director of NASRO. "I learned just how dangerous a situation can become. This program will train school resource officers (SROs) for a worst-case scenario."
"In the classroom we introduce the absolute worst-case scenarios," says Lt. Scott Madden, an SRO for the Riverside County Office of Education and president of the California School Resource Officers. "Though we hope SROs will never need to use these skills to protect students, teachers, and school staff, we need to ensure they are prepared to respond."
The first day's classroom session will highlight lessons learned from past incidents and teach best tactics to handle similar situations. Topics discussed will include rapid intervention techniques and equipment, first-on-scene responsibilities and pre-and post-incident planning and procedures. The training also emphasizes the importance of prevention, encouraging officers to be actively engaged in the school; know the students, staff, and parents; and educate the school community about recognizing warning signs and take appropriate action.
The second half of the training puts participants directly into a simulated worst-case scenario, allowing trainees to put into action the strategies they've learned.
"Half the scenarios we draw upon require 'don't shoot' responses so participants learn to incorporate the less lethal options when appropriate," says Madden. The all-day simulation will involve a variety of situations played out using firearms modified to discharge paint projectiles.
For more information about NASRO events, publications, educational products, member services or other activities, visit www.nasro.org.