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Ref: Vermont police practice response to school shooting

Times Argus

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Police agencies hold school terror training

February 22, 2007
By Alan J. Keays Rutland Herald

The students were on vacation and the police went to school.

About 50 law enforcement officers from around Rutland County came together Tuesday at Rutland High School to take part in a drill aimed at coordinating a police response to a school shooting.

The exercise centered on police responding to a report of a person with a firearm inside the school.

The drill stressed the importance of members of various law enforcement agencies working together in the midst of an emergency, said State Police Lt. Donald Patch, head of the State Police barracks in Rutland.

"We know if we have this kind of incident at any of the schools, it's not going to be just state police, Castleton police or Fair Haven police, or anybody else," Patch said. "It's going to be a combination of everybody who shows up. It's important that we're all on the same page. It's about being prepared."

The timing of the exercise Tuesday coincided with school vacation week so students would not be in the hallways and classrooms. Similar drills are taking part across Vermont.

In addition to State Police troopers, law enforcement officers from every department in the county took part in the exercise.

Members of the State Police tactical team served as trainers for the officers once they broke down into smaller groups.

Police worked in groups of various sizes as part of the drill, from teams of two to five.

"That's part of the training. You work with what you have …They're learning room clearance and movements down a hallway in an area where you have an active shooter," Patch said. "It's a way of moving through not only a school, but any building, to try to clear it out and find the perpetrator."

The officers taking part in the drill all carried unloaded firearms. The teams of officers spent part of the training session Tuesday practicing entering open and closed classrooms.

Officers, watching each other's back, had their weapons drawn as they peered into and eventually made entry into classrooms.

"All clear," one officer shouted; the team then continued down the hallway.

"Open door," the point member of the team barked out to his fellow teammates.

They then broke their tight formation and took positions around the door before entering with weapons drawn.

The point person of the team served as the "narrator," explaining to those officers close by his side, or "flankers," of any dangers ahead.

"Closed door right, open door left," one point person yelled to his fellow officers working their way down the hallway.

Hands-on training in the hallways was followed up with officers seated as desks, learning inside the classroom.

"We do this combined training because it really is going to be a combined response to something like this when it happens, when you have an active shooter in a school or in any building," said State Police Lt. Robert Evans, head of the State Police tactical team.

Evans said the drill involved training officers to work in small teams in trying to find an active shooter or a gunman barricaded in a school.

"Officers have to learn to adapt to the situation," Evans said. "If something like this were to happen, it's the local officers and the troopers assigned to the Rutland barracks who are going to deal with it as the first responders."

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