January 22, 2013

Ithaca Police Officers Train to Respond to Shootings

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In response to several recent massacres in the U.S. involving violent shooters, the Ithaca Police Department has trained its officers to respond to “active shooters” — changing the way it will face situations with gunmen in the future.

From November to December, police officers learned about effective shooting formations in hallways, breaching techniques, room and building entry methods and mental preparation for stopping an active shooter, according to IPD.

While previously, police officers were trained to “set upa  perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to handle things,” the IPD’s training program taught officers how to respond to a threat before SWAT teams arrive on the scene, according to IPD Officer Jamie Williamson.

“The old school of thought for police response to an active shooter scenario was to set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to handle things,” Williamson said. “The SWAT Team often takes valuable time to respond, formulate a plan, and then act on that plan; all the while, people inside are possibly being killed or harmed,” he said.

The new IPD protocol prepares each officer to respond to the scene, enter the building and locate and stop the threat as soon as possible, according to Williamson. Coincidentally, the last day of the Active Shooter training took place on the same day as the Sandy Hook massacre.

“Events such as Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook helped [the IPD] realize that there is a better approach to responding to an active shooter scenario than what was currently in place,” Williamson said.

While Active Shooter training pertained mostly to violent shooter scenarios, the second training session, called Reality Based Training, focused on everyday calls encountered by officers, Williamson said. Specific examples presented to officers in the training included aggressive behavior of a bystander at a traffic stop and a barricaded violent subject, which could also possibly occur in an violent shooter scenario.

Reality Based Training was held from January 15th to January 18th and almost every officer from the IPD, Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department and Cornell University Police Department attended, according to Williamson. The program ran for 24 hours a day for three consecutive days and required each participating officer to attend three hours of training.

Both Active Shooter training and Reality Based Training required officers to respond to roleplayed scenarios, with other officers acting as victims and suspects. After each scenario, the participating officer was given feedback on his or her performance in stopping the threat, according to a press release.

The IPD utilized a vacant building in Ithaca to hold its role play training, which involved “minimal” cost, Williamson said. Over six weeks, every IPD officer reported to the building for evaluation, required by the Active Shooter training program.

Though no gun-related massacres have plagued Ithaca, the IPD takes gun violence “very seriously” and is aware that the city is not immune to serious threats, according to Williamson.

“It is our opinion that even one crime involving a gun is a problem; to that end, we will exhaust all of our resources to keep our streets safe,” he said.

All IPD officers and several from the Ithaca College Police Department and Dryden Police Department attended the first training session called Law Enforcement Emergency Response to an Active Shooter, according to Williamson.

Original Author: Olivia Dang