RCMP constables Jason Patovirta

RCMP constables Jason Patovirta

Police train to take on school shooters

NANAIMO – Police train to respond fast and save lives when schools come under fire.

When a gunman enters a school, casualties can mount quickly if police don’t respond immediately to remove the threat.

RCMP officers from across the Island and Lower Mainland were at the former Dufferin Elementary School last week conducting immediate action rapid deployment training.

The course runs police officers through scenarios in which they must respond as quickly as possible in two- and four- member teams to locate and apprehend a suspect or “active shooter” who has entered the school and begun harming students and staff. In such situations the first police on scene can’t wait for backup, but must move in as fast as possible to save innocent lives.

Prior to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting, when two students killed 12 fellow students and staff members and injured 23 others before committing suicide, standard police strategy called for deployment of an emergency response team that would start gathering intelligence once on scene – an ineffective strategy when someone is intent on rapidly killing as many victims as possible. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., that claimed the lives of 20 children, six adult staff and their assailant happened in about nine minutes.

“We’ve realized that you have to get in there quickly,” said Const. Gary O’Brien, Nanaimo RCMP spokesman.  “So we’re training first responders. These are the general duty members, so they have the skills if the call comes in that they can get to the scene as quickly as possible and go in as teams of two, three or four, if necessary, and engage and deal with the threat.”

Active Shooter training will continue at Dufferin Elementary School until Friday (March 13).