Active Shooter Training Emphasizes Officer Safety

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Ohio University Police Lt. Tim Ryan drove down Piggery Lane on Friday afternoon, approaching a subject who had been giving parking enforcement personnel some issues.

He’d learned from dispatch what the situation was, and responded quickly to the scene. When he got out of the vehicle, the suspect would not respond to Ryan’s directives. Ryan’s voice became louder and more stern as the suspect continued failing to comply to his commands.

The suspect had a gun — but thankfully, this time, it was filled with simulated ammunition, similar to a paintball gun.

“Once I got to the point where I was safe, I realized I could really have used some backup,” Ryan said after the “suspect” was apprehended.

This was one of the scenarios presented to officers of the Ohio University Police Department during their annual active-shooter training to help officers learn what to do and what not to do in dangerous situations.

All of the officers in the department worked through the two-day training. On Friday, officers were corralled at the Convocation Center awaiting word of a fictional situation to which they would respond. Police Chief Andrew Powers wrote the situations and kept watch to give tips and make sure the scenarios were followed.

“It gives the officers the opportunity to work through the entire scenario, from receiving the radio traffic and communicating with dispatchers through to the end,” Powers said.

The officers hone their basic police skills that Powers called “perishable skills” that deteriorate if they aren’t exercised.

With police response being criticized in the wake of incidents in Missouri and Los Angeles most recently, Powers said it is important that these trainings take place and that the public knows that the training is there for a reason.

“At that moment (during the incident), the officer is focused on wanting to go home safely that night,” Powers said, noting that while a suspect knows his or her own intentions, the officers do not. “So that’s why we are assertive and have to have strict control.”

The training included not only practical exercises, but also tabletop discussions about proper procedures in certain situations. Though the public doesn’t know all the procedures and might not know why police are responding a certain way, Powers said the safety of everyone involved is the focus.

“The most important thing (for the public) to understand is … the time to debate what you’ve done or what you’ve been accused of is not on the street,” Powers said. “That’s why we have a system that addresses all of that. On the streets, we just want to make sure the situation doesn’t end badly.”