A tactical way of thinking

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By Brian Garner

Active shooter.

It’s a phrase that sends cold chills down the spine of school principals, emergency personnel and law enforcement officers alike, but it’s a phrase that has worked its way into the national lexicon. It’s also an event that schools and law enforcement officials now have to train for.

Members of the City of Chester Police Department took advantage of a teaching break at the Academy for Teaching and Learning this week to take part in some active shooter training and some other tactical entry training that police departments who now have to deal with potential active shooter threats need to go through.

Chester Police Chief Eric Williams has been involved in active shooter training for several years. He said he likes to expose his officers in the department to this type of training and he likes to let the citizens in the community know “the lengths that we go to, to make sure our kids are protected,” he said.

It’s an unfortunate reality of the world that we live in today that this is not the first time ATL has participated in active shooter training; they have actually been an active shooter training site three times before.

Having to have his officers train and get into the mindset of ‘what if an active shooter was in a school in Chester?’ is an unfortunate fact of the current climate in the world, Chief Williams said.

“Jut think: in the past two years we’ve had attacks in movie theaters, churches and schools. No place is really out of bounds, so what we like to do is take a proactive approach and we like to be prepared. If you fail to prepare, you’re preparing to fail,” he said.

It was good training for the agencies, Chief Williams added, and said they all have one common goal: protect our kids.

Mike Willis, national training director for the United States Deputy Sheriff’s Association and association Executive Director David Hinners conducted the training along with an assist by Brian Boland with the York County Sheriff’s Office.

“What we’re going to talk about today is active shooter response/tactical entry. This is a tactical class, not a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) class. The difference is we’re not using any special weapons or equipment, we’re going in with whatever we can get out of the car,” Willis said, adding, “but these are tactical operations that require that mindset. Everything we’re talking about, whether it’s an active shooter or a kicked door or a drug raid, whatever it may be, is a tactical situation that calls for teamwork and a team concept.

“What we’re trying to do today is not only develop confidence in your own skills, but confidence in who you’re going to be working with. You have to be able to trust the people you’re working with.

“Everything we do today, to be efficient and effective, relies on being able to trust your partner,” Willis said.

Using plastic training firearms, as a team Willis and Hinners then demonstrated some dos and don’ts for teams of police officers to safely and securely enter a room where there may be an active shooter inside or there is some other situation that requires a tactical approach. They talked about such subjects as how to approach an open doorway, how to scan the room to determine if there were any threats, and emphasized concepts of firearm discipline – such as keeping the trigger finger off of the trigger unless and until they intend to shoot and making sure as they entered the room in a tactical manner, that the muzzle of the pistol was not pointed at their partner. They also demonstrated some methods that the partners could use to communicate with each other in the crucial moments before they entered a room where there could be a potential threat.

Tactical training and watching demonstrations from instructors such as Willis and Hinners  was important, but nothing as important as experiencing the maneuvers for themselves. Conducting the real-world training in the halls of an actual school brought only home to the officers more the importance of what they were training for.