Because of the recent shootings at a school in Newtown, Connecticut and a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, South Carolina state troopers are getting new training in how to stop active shooters.
Between 700 and 800 state troopers, State Transport Police and Bureau of Protective Service officers are going through active-shooter training at an old state mental hospital in Columbia. Because of the hallways and rooms, it's a perfect setting to re-create scenarios where a shooter may be in a school or an office building.
Trainers wearing protective gear pretend to be the bad guys and hide in the classrooms. The officers, also wearing protective gear, move down the hallways as a unit, as other trainers pretend to be hostages. The officers and "bad guys" fire ammunition that's similar to what's used in paintball guns, leaving obvious marks where the paint "bullets" hit.
Capt. Art Felder, training officer for the Department of Public Safety, says the training is being added because troopers are always patrolling the state, so it's likely they'll be among the first officers on the scene of an active-shooter situation.
"In the old mindset, before Columbine, was to secure the area and call in a SWAT team, or a special tactics team. What we've seen through the active shooter situations is that shooter is not going to stop until he's confronted or stopped by law enforcement. And the average response time for a SWAT team is 50 minutes, so you can't wait to form a team because they're constantly shooting. You've got to go in as soon as officers get on the scene."
He says state troopers get some active-shooter training in basic training, just like all city and county law enforcement officers do, but not the hands-on experience they're getting now, where they go through several different scenarios that are as realistic as possible.
The troopers learn to work in teams, each with a different responsibility as they go through the building.
"At any time, you've got troopers statewide, in every county working. We have 24 hour coverage so we're always out there," Capt. Felder says. "In a likely situation, an active-shooter situation, we could respond along with a city officer and a county officer and another state officer, either DNR (Department of Natural Resources), Probation and Parole. So we want to give them the tactics and skills to be able to do that."
He says a committee is working on a statewide active-shooter curriculum that will be added to basic training for all officers at the Criminal Justice Academy.
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