Athens Police Officers Trained For School Shooting Incidents

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While the nation's attention is turned to Friday's shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, many may wonder about the safety of their own schools.

Athens City Police Chief Tom Pyle said he is confident that his officers are ready if a similar incident should occur.

"That doesn't necessarily take a special team to respond to these things. Often times what you see is that the special teams will go in some considerable time later, and we prefer a much more rapid response, as does the sheriff's office, where we just simply respond to an active shooter situation with the officers in the field at the moment," he said.
Pyle said the Athens Police Department does a lot of what he calls "active shooter training" so individual officers can respond and not have to wait for a special response team.

"An active shooter situation, whether it be at a school, shopping mall or anything, is a police response and a emergent response is required," he said.  "We train our officers on how to respond to that. Basically it's a solo response. It's quite possible that a single police officer could respond to an active shooter situation, and even has the potential to stop it or end it."

If a shooting were to take place at an Athens school, Pyle said the city police department and other police agencies would all send officers.

"We would take the on duty patrol division officers, all the investigators, the chief, the captain, the D.A.R.E. officer, any reserve officers that happen to be working administrative detail. We would call Ohio University and their on-duty officers would respond," he said. "We would contact the sheriff's office, and their on duty officers would respond."

He said the Athens officers would take immediate action as they arrive on scene.

"I hate to describe it like this because it strikes fear in their hearts, but it becomes very much like a military field operation where basically you patch together a working unit and you respond," he said. "It's possible that we could have one officer run into that school. We could have five run into that school. It's possible that we could have one officer followed by two officers, followed by three, just as they arrive running in and responding to that incident." 

Pyle said the Athens police officers are trained to respond to the sound of gunfire and rushing crowds. 

"These are all hectic situations so we train them to run through the threat and respond to it," he said.

The Connecticut shooting may be the second-deadliest school shooting in U.S. history, second only to the Virginia Tech massacre that occurred in 2007.