PC Police prepare for unthinkable
By Fran Odyniec
- Plain City Police Officer Gary Segrist demonstrates the range of field in responding to an active shooter who would be at the top of a stairway.
Some serious police business took place in Plain City recently.
Plain City Police Chief Jim Hill and five of his officers arrived at the Plain City Elementary School and took up positions in a second floor classroom. Armed with empty weapons, they settled in for special training in dealing with an active shooter situation.
Plain City officers Philip Greenbaum and Gary Segrist, both certified firearms instructors, came right to the point of the training.
“We’re here to train officers in how to respond to an active shooting situation in the village,” Segrist said.
“It can happen anywhere,” Greenbaum said of grim scenes such as the Chardron High School shooting outside of Cleveland or Monday’s fatal shooting at Oikos University in Oakland Califronia. “We owe it to the community to be prepared.”
The officers had removed live ammunition from their weapons as a safety precaution in preparation for some practical applications after the classroom session.
Greenbaum and Segrist pulled no punches with the student-officers.
“The goal is to engage an active shooter until he is taken into custody or is shot dead,” Segrist told the officers.
Three immediate objectives were identified:
• Stop the active shooter
• Provide medical assistance
• Preserve the crime scene
An officer’s modus operandi in an active shooter situation is evident.
“Do not stop to assist anyone,” said Segrist. “Go after the active shooter before he can harm anyone else.”
Referring to research done by law enforcement agencies such as the federal Department of Homeland Security, the officers were apprised that historically an active shooter is a male, carries out his plan alone, and uses primarily hand guns. An exception to that profile was the 1999 shooting in Columbine, Colo., where two high school seniors shot and killed 12 students and one teacher.
“The profile is usually someone who is disgruntled, brittle, angry, and believe he is being picked on by other people,” Greenbaum said.
“The active shooter has gone from taking hostages to killing because he wants the notoriety,” Segrist said.
As part of being prepared, the officers were instructed that alertness, decisiveness and determination play big roles in apprehending an active shooter.
Alertness means that an officer must be aware of anything that is out-of-place and any abnormal patterns unfolding at a site.
“Never hesitate,” said Segrist of the need for decisiveness. In addition to wearing a protective vest, Segrist advised that the officers carry “go bags” that contain first aid items, additional ammunition, and other support material.
“That’s why we’re taking everything with us,” he said of the need to keep constantly on the move in pursuit of the active shooter.
Self-control also becomes a critical factor.
“This kind of situation will give you the most severe adrenaline dump you’ll ever experience,” Greenbaum said.
An officer must go in with a tactical mindset and be psychologically prepared for the sounds, sights, and smells of the encounter.
“Focus on what you’re doing,” said Segrist, “and speak in clear terms.”
Above all, determination is the driving factor to stop the active shooter as quickly as possible and to attack with strength.
But Rambo doesn’t play in this situation.
“Make sure you verbalize with each other,” Segrist continued. “Know what you’re doing because once you’re engaged with an active shooter, there is no pulling back.”
While responding officers may or may not know the exact location of an active shooter in a building, they must be familiar with the layout of the building, in this case, the Plain City Elementary School.
“You must be armed with a map of the school,” Segrist said. “Know the routes in the school and know the condition of the scene before and on arrival.”
Methods and techniques of moving down halls, room entry and weapons handling were also discussed and would later be put into practice scenarios around the school.
“Talk to each other,” Segrist emphasized of the paramount need for communication between officers so that both know how they will proceed to seek out and engage the active shooter while providing each other with defensive cover and support.
At one time, officers moved in a group of four or quad.
According to Segrist, with the formation of the Department of Homeland Security, two-officer teams have proven to be more efficient and more aggressive in engaging an active shooter.
The practical part of the training session focused on actual hall movement and room entry. Greenbaum and Segrist supervised every officer’s movement and weapon positioning in each of the scenarios that also included stairwell encounters and dealing with oddly shaped spaces.
Attack or offensive strategies have changed from traditional law enforcement-based to military-based procedures, said Segrist.
Armed with maps of the layout of Plain City Elementary School, scenarios as well as assessments of the building were carried out by the officers throughout the building during the practical portion of the session.
“That’s part of what we need to know to approach an active shooter in an attempt to neutralize him,” said Segrist.