Critical Response

With mass shootings like those at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook Elementary School jolting the nation’s conscience in more ways than one, local law enforcement agencies are ensuring that personnel are effectively trained to confront violent, gun-related outbreaks if necessary.

On Wednesday and Thursday, members of the Jamestown Police Department and the New York State Police brought together members of the Dunkirk, Fredonia, Ellicott and Lakewood-Busti police departments to participate in a two-day rapid response training course at the now-abandoned Rogers School in Jamestown.

The course, which involves team movement exercises, scenario drills and written exams, was based on the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, or ALERRT, program that was created in 2002 through a partnership with Texas State University, the San Marcos Police Department and the Hay County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the program’s mission statement, it was developed after the Columbine (Colo.) shootings to enhance the response toward active shooters, and since become the national standard in active shooter response training.

“Before Columbine, law enforcement – in general – had responded kind of poorly because we would just set up a perimeter and wait,” said Lieutenant Gred Wozneak of the Jamestown Police Department. “Now we’ve realized that that’s not the way we can do business … we have to try to save as many lives as we can, and that’s the reason why we’re having this program.”

Wozneak, who along with three other officers instructed the course after completing a weeklong “train-the-trainer” program in Erie County, hopes the increased focus on rapid-response tactics will give patrol officers a greater confidence in skills that are traditionally taught to SWAT team members.

“We start with the basics and try to get them in the mindset that they’re going to be moving under gunfire,” Wozneak said. “We test them and put them through live scenarios (with Airsoft guns) where they have to think through the event as it unfolds. This will prepare them for a lot of things from mass shootings or even a terrorist attack.”

Wozneak praised the Jamestown Public Schools District for offering the Rogers School building as a training ground. The open spaces, hallways and corners made for an effective and realistic environment, he said. “Hopefully (mass shootings) never happen in Chautauqua County, but (if they do) we’re hoping that we’re prepared to take care of it.”