Training for the unthinkable
Clackamas County law enforcement officers received specialized training at Canby High School.
Mass shootings. Such tragedies occur all too often in a Colorado movie theater, a Connecticut elementary school and as close to home as a Clackamas shopping mall.
Its something law officers hope never happens, but if it does, they must be prepared to deal with it.
And more officers are being trained for that situation through programs like the interagency Active Shooter Response Training conducted over 2 ½ weeks recently in Canby and Oregon City.
The program is the culmination of a vision by the local Clackamas County police chiefs and the sheriff to provide progressive and unified tactical training to all of law enforcement officers in our area, said Molalla Police Chief Rod Lucich.
The reality is that if an incident of significant magnitude happens in any area of Clackamas County, multiple agencies will respond and therefore it is necessary that all officers are operating with the same fundamentals, Lucich said. This was an outstanding block of training with instructors contributing from several of our local agencies.
All full-time officers from the Molalla Police Department participated in the training, including the chief.
In a department of our size, or even larger, the reality is that the chief may be a first responder to an incident and needs to be just as prepared as the officers and sergeants, Lucich said. I am very proud of this effort and want to personally thank all of our partner agencies and their dedicated staff in making this vision a reality.
About 165 area law enforcement officers went through the program initiated by Clackamas County Criminal Justice Training Council, comprised of community police chiefs.
Nine agencies were represented Oregon State Police, the Clackamas County Sheriffs Office and police departments from Molalla, Canby, Oregon City, Milwaukie, Gladstone, West Linn and Sandy.
Law enforcements response to an active shooter situation has changed greatly since the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, said Canby Police Sgt. Doug Kitzmiller, the training officer for his department and the interagency workshop.
Before Columbine, police would lock down the shooting site and call in special units, he said. But that gave the shooter more time to harm more people.
Now, small teams of officers go in as quickly as possible to hunt the shooter down and stop further violence. The new training quickly puts small teams of trained first responding officers into quick action, using adaptation of tested military tactics.
Police officers no longer clump together in the center of the hall, making easy targets. They hug the walls in a military manner, leapfrogging each other as they advance on the shooter. They move in fluid, crisp efficiency, working overlapping zones.
The interagency training allows officers from different agencies to all get on the same page as far as tactics, Kitzmiller said. Officers all follow the same procedures and use the same language.
Last summer, 30 officers went through a program to learn how to train fellow officers in the new methods. Twenty-seven of those officers were training instructors for this summers program, including three Canby Police officers: Kitzmiller, Sgt. Tim Green and Detective Sgt. Frank Schoenfeld.
The training is geared toward a worst-case scenario, not just what is likely to happen, Kitzmiller said.
Once on the scene, officers might find they are dealing with multiple shooters or well-armed adult shooters with advanced training, rather than a teenager with a stolen gun.
Perhaps the most dangerous time for officers in such a situation is the moment they enter a room where the shooter is attacking other people.
Weve got to go in there and stop them, Kitzmiller said. Time is not on our side, and it needs to be done.