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Campus Police Train for Active Shooter Scenario

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Written by: Communicator StaffDecember 11, 2015

Written by Bernadette Becker

IPFW’s Police Department performed active shooter training from Nov. 16 to Nov. 20 at the Verizon building on Trier Rd. and Coliseum Blvd.

The training served as a way to equip officers for any shooter scenario, whether it be with or without nearby hostages and civilians. It also served as a part of a larger effort to teach officers how to operate in the new reality of civilian massacres.

Officer Grant Cowan, one of three instructors for IPFW’s police force, has been in active service for seven years and spearheaded the active shooter training initiative.

Officers Jody Cartwright and Rick Wiegmann II, the other two instructors, have been in law enforcement for nine years and sixyears, respectively.

Cowan was quick to thank the owners of the Verizon building, The Tippmann Group, for allowing the officers to use the building for training. There was some risk involved for the owners since the officers were shooting actual projectiles at each other.

As the three instructors explained, the IPFW police force has used some airsoft guns in the past but for this training they borrowed the equipment from the Purdue police department.

The “guns” the officers trained with do not take actual bullets, just training ammunition colloquially called “soap bullets.” The soap bullets, however, are a launched projectile and do cause pain when an officer is hit.

That is part of the reason this training is occurring: the instructors aim to condition the officers to fight through the pain.
Cartwright said that police officers stay up to date on court cases and what is the proper procedure for different situations. Court cases set precedents and can issue changes in how the police should act under different circumstances.

During the training, the officers were tested having to practice clearing room (the official process of searching for the shooter by systematically searching rooms). Within the rooms, there were targets depicting both innocent civilians and malicious threats and the officers had to quickly determine if one was a threat and take proper action.

It was made more difficult since some of the targets were rigged to rush at the officer when they entered the room: the goal was to make safe habits so that officers do not shoot as soon as they see movement. This was intended to curb any accidental shots at innocents which a high stress scenario could otherwise provoke.

In another scenario, two instructors enacted a situation where the shooter has been incapacitated by a civilian – this means that the civilian has the gun. The trainee coming upon that scenario only knows that there has been a report of the shooter wearing an orange jacket, however, he comes upon someone else holding the gun. This is when training is crucial.

As Cartwright explained, “show me your hands” is a crucial phrase in all police interactions since “the hands are gonna hurt us, [they’re] where the attack is coming from.”
As the scenario progressed, the trainee had to order the two suspects to show their hands, tell the civilian to drop the gun (that he had taken from the shooter), and then handcuff both the civilian and the shooter until questioning could verify the identity of each person.

In a final activity, the trainee had to enter a large, dark area and clear the multiple interconnected rooms amidst sounds of gunfire and explosions (fireworks) and crossfire with an active shooter. This area of the building had many splatters of where the soap bullets had ricocheted off the walls and doors. This drill dramatized the situation where officers would have to confront a shooter alone, which is unfortunately the most likely scenario.

“We don’t have the luxury of time,” said Cartwright, explaining the fundamental shift in tactics and protocol for shooters as mass shootings became more normative.

Cartwright remembers learning in police training school that an officer was just to secure the perimeter until backup came, then the rule was to wait and confront the shooter with teams of four, but now every officer is expected to enter the building and stop the shooter as soon as they can arrive on site.

Although the officers all cite that the IPFW police department has an excellent working relationship with the Fort Wayne police department, there is a special benefit from having a police force solely dedicated to the IPFW community.

“Unlike the city, we’re always close,” said Wiegmann, who actually was inspired to join the police force after doing a ‘ride along’ with his wife, a Fort Wayne police officer.
Cartwright mentioned that IPFW has grown into its own community, especially with student housing to patrol and protect. Chief Yunker, the police chief for the IPFW department, wants to ensure the police are a positive part of that community.

The IPFW police force consists of 15 sworn officers and unlike most metropolitan police jobs, there are fewer strict law enforcement duties warranted of the IPFW officers, leaving them with time to spend making healthy interactions with students and citizens.

This is what Yunker had in mind when she enacted the “Building Liaisons Program” which matched each officer with three or four buildings that he or she must walk through on a weekly basis and then write up a monthly report of the interactions. Yunker wants to see students who are comfortable going up to an officer and asking them questions and students sharing their concerns with officers.