Eastern suburb officers participate in active-shooter training
Four patrol officers from east suburban police departments cautiously approach an open door in a vacant school classroom.
In tight formation, they move swiftly with weapons drawn. They hear six gunshots coming from the room.
Before entering, one of them spot movement inside. “Deep corner,” he tells his comrades.
“On me,” another says, and then “Go.” He leads the others as they storm the classroom. Gun fire is exchanged.
A few moments later, “Man down.”
The scenario described was one of several simulations officers faced last week during a two-day active shooter training event at the former St. Coleman Catholic School in Turtle Creek.
There were 25 patrol officers from seven police departments at the training seminar, which consisted of classroom and practical instruction. The seminar was sponsored by the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments.
Officers used “dummy weapons” made by Glock, a gun manufacturer, and wore protective face masks during the various scenarios.
In this clip, a police officer is acting as an active shooter at a training event involving East Suburban police depts. He uses a phone book to simulate gun shots before switching to a dummy weapon. Other officers train entering the room. pic.twitter.com/8U7SHxzhjs
— Dillon Garrett Carr (@dillonswriting) October 10, 2019
The seminar was the council’s first active shooter training event. A nonprofit organization, the council represents 20 communities in Allegheny County with about 177,000 residents. Amanda Settelmaier, the organization’s executive director, said the plan is to organize several additional training programs.
“Not only does this collaboration create efficiencies in costs – opening the door for participation by our more financially challenged towns – but it also ensures that responding departments and officers are communicating in the same way while responding to incidents,” Settelmaier said.
Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole said smaller police departments don’t have the resources for a full SWAT team. So in an active shooter situation, patrolmen are often the first on the scene, he said.
“This active shooter phenomenon is unique because they move so fast. They just go in and start shooting,” he said. “So we can’t wait an hour for a SWAT team to arrive. This gives our patrolmen what they need to respond.”
All instruction was given by COG-member police officers, said Penn Hills police Chief Howard Burton. He said that allowed the seminar to be affordable.
“For us small departments, it’s a task to get the money together for something like this,” he said, adding the equipment alone – dummy weapons, ammunition and protective gear – was around $20,000.
Burton said Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, worked to secure grants used to purchase the gear. The senator visited the officers during the seminar.
Costa said he heard about an incident recently where Allegheny County police, including officers from Turtle Creek and other agencies, responded.
“That’s exactly what this is about … it’s about consistency, it’s about uniformity, it’s about making certain we’re all working together to be able to provide a service to protect the people we all represent,” Costa said to the officers.
Penn Hills police Chief Howard Burton said his department sent two trainers. Four officers received the training. He said the seminar cost $25 per officer, the proceeds of which go back into the training program.
The tactics officers used in the scenario described above were derived from SWAT, Cole said. The training included areas of risk assessment, communication and delegation of authority in a “rapid response environment,” according to a TCVCOG news release.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .