Sunday’s massacre at a Las Vegas music festival heightened the importance of something the Lawrence Police Department had already planned this week: active shooter training.
“In the environment we live in, we are aware that this violence could happen anywhere,” Capt. Troy Squire said. “We take it very serious.”
Squire leads the active shooter training program for the Lawrence Police Department’s Basic Recruit Academy. This happened to be the week recruits were scheduled for the active shooter portion of their 26-week academy training.
They spent Tuesday acting out scenarios at a school building in De Soto and Wednesday practicing scenarios in a downtown Lawrence building adjacent to the Journal-World, previously home to the newspaper’s printing presses.
The recruits played the role of police officers, and volunteers — community members, officers’ relatives and off-duty officers or sheriff’s deputies who enjoy that type of thing, Squire said — played shooters and bystanders.
In an active shooter event, Squire said, priority No. 1 is “neutralizing” the shooter.
In one practice scenario, here’s what that looked like:
A small group of “office workers” runs, screaming with their hands up from a hallway into the room. They’re being chased by a gunman, actively firing. An office worker is struck and hits the floor.
From the other side of the room, police officers enter with guns drawn.
They’re taught to cut through distractions and run past the screaming and wounded people directly toward the shooter.
Officers fire at him. He falls to the ground.
Once the shooter is neutralized, the officers split up.
Some run to bystanders, questioning them to confirm there are no more shooters, and begin rendering aid to the victim who was shot.
Others descend on the shooter, radio for medics, render aid — and place him in handcuffs.
In these scenarios, no one carries a real gun, and there are no real bullets.
Instead, modified guns that cannot accept real bullets are used, and they're loaded with soap bullets.
Squire said they more closely simulate the handling and firing of a real gun, unlike say a paintball or pellet gun. As for the soap bullets, they don’t injure beyond leaving a welt.
Squire added that the active shooter training module also includes practicing less severe scenarios, like how to handle a call for a worker brandishing a gun in the office.
The current class of recruits will graduate Nov. 10, then spend four months in field training with senior officers before hitting the streets on their own.
Every class of recruits completes active shooter training as part of the academy, which is held once a year, Squire said.
The department organizes larger-scale but less frequent active shooter training scenarios for current officers, in collaboration with other area law enforcement jurisdictions, Squire said. The last one of those took place about a year ago, he said, and there will probably be another one sometime in 2018.
Squire said he believes Lawrence police are prepared to handle an active shooter event.
“We are trained for that, we continue to train for that,” he said.
“This type of scenario-based training is some of the best type of training that they can do. It gives our officers, young and old, the confidence that they can survive a scenario like this.”
The Lawrence Police Department offers a free, active shooter training class for members of the community. The class is called C.R.A.S.E. — Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events — and runs about two hours. For more information, interested organizations should contact Capt. Troy Squire at email@example.com.