Thursday marked one year since a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. A former student, Nikolas Cruz, killed 17 people and injured 17 more.
An after-action report showed policy was ignored by police and school officials. We checked in on how law enforcement in our area learns from these events and trains for them in the future.
“We all hope it never happens, but it’s better to prepare,” Carlisle police sergeant and Special Response Team commander Dave Miller said. The group of local police officers has active shooter training multiple times a year.
“We’re trying to learn from all of the different things that have happened over the years and throughout the nation so that we can provide better care whenever we get here,” Miller said.
Police officers analyze the tragic mass shooting events and make changes to their own protocol.
Following the school shooting in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999, police no longer wait for SWAT or back up to enter a building. Officers are trained and instructed to now look for the killer or killers immediately.
“While they are doing that, they may be passing by some of the injured because the goal again is to get to the person who is causing the injuries,” Miller said.
After the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, police have been focused on getting care to victims faster.
The Cumberland County Special Response Team is made up of police officers, firefighters, and EMS employees. Once officers have the shooter or threat stabilized, first responders then focus on saving lives. Small teams of police officers, firefighters and paramedics attend to the victims.
“The idea is if you bring all three of these together, it’s a very effective unit. It’s a very effective tool to be able to save lives,” Miller said.
The Cumberland County Special Response Team is just one of many local law enforcement agencies preparing for mass shootings. Pennsylvania State Police focus on a community approach by involving the community.
“Last year, throughout the state, our community service officers conducted 683 active shooter presentations. What those do is start a conversation with a school, with a public place of worship, and it gets them on the track to start thinking about and preparing for if an active shooter situation were to come to their school or their university or their place of worship or even their business,” said Tpr. Brent Miller, a state police spokesman.
Troopers are trained on how to handle active shooter situations at the academy, and they get mandatory training once a year. The department also created a new team to handle security at schools and universities. It is called the RVAT team, which stands for risk and vulnerability assessment team. State police also visit schools in their coverage area on a daily basis.
“What that does is build a community relationship with the school, with the community, and also it gives the public a sense of calmness if an active shooter situation were to occur,” Miller said.
Law enforcement agencies across the Midstate also want to remind citizens to be aware of their surroundings and report things that feel out of place.
For more information on active shooter presentations, contact Pennsylvania State Police.