Overall Springfield and Clark County law enforcement believe they’re prepared to respond to an active shooter situation, they said, but could use more cross-department training to make sure everyone is familiar working with each other.
The Springfield Police Division and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office are discussing how to implement more training with each other in case of an active shooter attacks, Springfield Police Division Chief Lee Graf said.
“I wish we did more cross-training, and myself and Sheriff (Deb) Burchett have talked about that and will get that together,” Graf said.
In the event of an active shooter, all agencies are likely to respond, Graf said, and that means communication and knowing what the other agencies plans are is important.
“We have done training with the sheriff’s office and other departments and we have gone out and trained with other departments,” Graf said. “Everyone needs to be on the same page and have the same concept,”
The Clark County Emergency Management Agency works with schools throughout the year to make a plan in case of an active shooter, Director Lisa D’Allessandris said.
“We have a countywide plan and each building has an individual plan,” D’Allessandris said.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida where 17 students and staff members were killed last month brought a new focus on school safety and law enforcement response to active shooters. In the Florida shooting, reports say some law enforcement officers waited outside while the gunman was inside.
Different agencies have different policies for how they deal with an active shooter, Clark County School Resource Officer Scott Cultice said. Both the sheriff’s office and the police division policies say that an officer on scene should go in and try to neutralize the threat as soon as possible, according to Cultice and Graf.
“We attack the threat immediately and try to mitigate that as quick as possible,” Cultice said. “Statistics show that a shooting event lasts less than 11 minutes and shots are every 15 seconds. So getting in there early is important.”
Deputies are typically spread out around Clark County, Cultice said, and it might take backup several minutes to get there. Studies also show an active shooter wounds an innocent person ever thirty seconds, Cultice said.
The sheriff’s office has two school resource officers that go around every day to different schools, Cultice said. The officers not only provide security against an active shooter but also are talking with kids to make sure they are OK at home and everyday life, he said.
The Springfield Police Division used to train its officers to wait until at least three or four officers were on scene to go into a building with an active shooter, Graf said, but that has since changed.
Now officers are expected to go in, Graf said.
“They are to make entry and they are to zone onto an active shooter,” Graf said. “They are supposed to go in and get started and then as backup comes, they will form a team.”
The action takes courage, Graf said, but officers are trained to deal with dangerous situations.
“It’s not uncommon for an officer to go into a situation where weapons are involved,” Graf said. “You never get used to it but you hope when you are bringing people on board, that is part of their fundamental character.”
By the numbers
2: Clark County Sheriff’s deputies dedicated to area schools
40: Number of school buildings in Clark County
20,000: Number of students enrolled in Clark County schools
The Springfield News-Sun provides complete coverage of you schools in Clark and Champaign counties, including recent stories about security upgrades and how schools deal with threats.