Local officials train to prevent shootings
JANESVILLE Local law enforcement and school personnel said Friday they would continue to emphasize training to be prepared for incidents such as the mass shooting Friday in a Connecticut school.
In addition, they will continue to study each shooting to try to learn how to prevent one from happening here.
For instance, after a recent mass shooting in a Colorado theater, Janesville Police Chief David Moore staged rapid response training in a movie theater here.
Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden said his squad cars contain powerful firearms to ensure patrol deputies—those likely to be first on the scene—would not be outgunned by a shooter.
Moore said such events present themselves quickly.
“Accordingly, Janesville police officers have extensive training in rapid response and active-shooter training,” Moore said.
Moore stages at least three training events each year.
Even before the recent mall shooting in Oregon, Moore had his SWAT team trained at a mall here and had about 25 actors pretending to be traumatized shoppers running toward them, he said. The SWAT team had to work through that distraction, he said.
“We do analyze these things that occur nationwide, and we look to see what we should do locally,” Moore said.
“I don’t know of any law enforcement agency in the state that does it more than we do,” he said.
His department trains in schools, clinics, hospital and other available buildings.
Moore invites participation by other area law enforcement agencies, such as the Wisconsin State Patrol and even the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
“You might have a Rock County sheriff’s deputy and a DNR warden side by side, building a team,” Moore said. “We all know how to work together because we train together. You never know who’s going to be the nearest person (to the shooting.)”
All officers in Moore’s department—from himself to newly hired officers—go to each training, he said.
The 1999 mass shooting in Columbine, Colo., changed how police respond to mass shootings, Moore said. Before Columbine, the model was to set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to go in.
Officers now are trained to isolate the shooter to minimize death, Moore said.
“We train our officers that the first two, three or four officers to arrive on scene form a team and go toward where the shots are,” he said. “You go to the shooter.
“The schools have been great at letting us use the facilities,” he said. “Our officers are very familiar with that type of training.”
The district has numbered school doors so officers can respond to specific areas quickly, and SWAT teams have blueprints of all the schools.
Moore’s department also works with school district personnel to recognize indications of a potential shooting before it occurs.
“Because, typically, there are clues,” Moore said. “The person said they were going to do this, they were telling friends they were thinking of doing something like this through social media,” he said.
“We always study this to see what the common threads are,” he said.
Spoden said his department also does rapid response training in locations such as movie theaters, the courthouse and schools.
Patrol deputies train as well as SWAT members because patrol deputies likely will be the first responders on site, Spoden said.
“We want them to have basic understanding of clearing a room and getting in there,” Spoden said.
The officers in Connecticut rushed the school, and that’s exactly what his officers are trained to do—“To get in there as fast as they can,” Spoden said.
Squad cars are equipped with shotguns, semi-automatic rifles and vests.
Some SWAT members on patrol keep their tactical gear in their trunks, as well, so they can respond more quickly.
“What has happened in the past, law enforcement was basically overwhelmed by superior firepower of the assailant,” he said. “We want to make sure we always have as much, if not more, than the bad guy so we can quickly and easily take him out of commission and remove the threat.
“We’re very confident that we have the equipment in every squad car, regardless of how well-armed the suspect is, (that) we can respond with appropriate force to remove the threat.
“At the end of the day, if a person has the means and they have the will, they can inflict damage on any situation,” Spoden said. “You train to get in there and basically eliminate the shooter as quickly as possible.”
Yolanda Cargile, director of student services, said the Janesville School District annually reviews its safety procedures.
Schools are kept locked, and visitors must be buzzed in and report to the office to sign in, Cargile said.
If a visitor wants to see a teacher, the teacher is contacted to see if he or she is expecting the visitor or if there is a better time to return. Volunteers also are scheduled.
Visitors are asked to wear stickers, and school personnel are trained to approach anyone who does not have a sticker or anyone they are not familiar with to ask the visitor if they need help.
Staff work closely with police during lockdown drills, Cargile said.
“Each building principal is required to practice and make sure that all staff are abreast of those procedures,” she said.
“It’s about safety,” Cargile said. ““We have a responsibility to make sure all students in our care are in a safe environment.”
Training is key, she said. Procedures and emergency responses are regularly reviewed to make sure they are not taken for granted.
District personnel were brainstorming ideas Friday and asking if there was anything Janesville could do to enhance procedures, she said.
Spoden said it is troubling that such events come one after another. Two happened in Wisconsin this year.
It reflects the serious social problems when some frustrated or upset people react with violence rather than reason, he said.
Spoden on Friday ordered the sheriff’s office flag to be flown at half-staff.
“Our hearts go out to these families,” Spoden said.
“Hopefully, as a nation, we will reflect upon what’s happening and what we can do and what our lawmakers can do to prevent this from happening.
“This is becoming an epidemic, and it has to stop. … It’s our society and our culture of violence, and it has to stop.”