Elkins Police Department to host active shooter training
ELKINS — Over the next several months, the Elkins Police Department will host a series of five Solo Officer Emergency Response training sessions for officers from area law enforcement agencies.
The series of two-day training sessions, which presents the latest best practices for officers responding to active shooter and similar violent incidents, will be delivered by Omega Tactical Concepts, a West Virginia-based firm specializing in scenario-based training for individuals, private companies, and law enforcement.
The term “active shooter” describes incidents in which one or more perpetrators are actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill other people. The tactics for responding to these attacks have evolved over the years.
“The original tactic for these situations was that responding officers would establish a perimeter and wait for SWAT,” said EPD Chief Travis Bennett. “The problem with that approach is that it takes time to deploy a tactical team. An active shooter is trying to kill as many people as possible, and the thinking now is that even waiting a few minutes for a second or third patrol officer, much less waiting for SWAT, is probably going to increase fatalities.”
Because experience has shown that these incidents often end upon first contact between the shooter and law enforcement, it is now widely accepted that the best tactic is for the first officer on the scene to enter and move toward the sound of shooting as quickly as possible, a press release from the City of Elkins said.
“Active shooters are not courageous individuals,” said Bennett. “They’re launching a surprise attack against people they think are defenseless, and they usually either give up or kill themselves as soon as they encounter trained responders. The thinking behind Solo Officer Emergency Response is to push the incident as fast as possible to the point where the shooter knows he doesn’t have much longer and the attack comes to an end–one way or another.”
However, solo response in such situations involves considerable risks for law enforcement officers. For example, there is an increased risk of “blue on blue” accidents, in which one officer mistakenly shoots another.
“One danger with this approach is that you’re going to have officers from multiple agencies and jurisdictions arriving, one by one,” said Bennett. “As they make entry and move toward the sound of gunfire, they may be hearing a fellow officer rather than the shooter. There may be crowds of frightened civilians, smoke, power outages–it’s going to be a confusing situation, to say the least.”
That’s why EPD has invited participation by the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office, the West Virginia State Police, and other area law enforcement agencies.
“We want to really blanket the area with this training so that, no matter who the first responding officers are, they’ve all been trained the same way and are operating under the same protocols,” says Bennett. “Communication is going to be key. The second, third, and fourth officer arriving on scene really need to know where that first officer is and what they’re seeing.”
Bennett explained why he selected Omega to deliver this training.
“Omega is one of the leading companies offering this specific training, and I also have a lot of direct experience working with the lead instructor,” says Bennett, who also serves as the commander of the EPD Tactical Response Unit. “We’ve worked together a good bit over the years.”
A great deal of preparation went into this training, which will use both range time and simulated scenarios to deliver instruction on tactical firearms, small unit tactics, room and building management, emergency medical techniques, and managing law enforcement and EMS response.
“We’ve been planning this for about a year and a half,” says Bennett. “A few weeks before the first training session, Omega sent a team up here for a day to take a look at the facility we’ll be using for the scenarios and to talk to us about what we want to get out of this training.”
Bennett said this training exemplifies his philosophy where professional development for his officers is concerned.
“The state requires a certain amount of continuing education for officers each year, and everyone’s been in the situation where time is running out so you just squeeze something in,” said Bennett. “I’m not a fan of putting my people through training just to satisfy requirements. We all want good quality training that benefits us directly, so we’re really looking forward to this. Obviously, we hope we never need this training, but it’s a good feeling knowing we’ll be ready if we do.”