Law enforcement focus on rapid response to active threats

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During rapid response training, Prairie du Chien Police Officer Gunner Pitzer practiced his safe approach to a building, which was under a simulated “active threat.”

Crawford County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Tony Berg (left) and Lieutenant Ryan Fradette move together through the hallways at the former St. John’s School during police officer rapid response training May 23. (Photos by Correne Martin)

By Correne Martin

Law enforcement officers were reminded to isolate, distract and neutralize active threats or assailants during Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) May 23 in Prairie du Chien. 

Fifty-seven officers from mainly Crawford, Grant, Richland and Vernon Counties participated in this two-day, level one introductory class led by Jay Darin, from the FBI in Milwaukee; Cpt. Chris Tarmann, of the UW-Oshkosh Police Department, Rod Krakow, of the Wisconsin Rapids PD; and Jeff Gonzalez, from the Germantown PD. 

“We teach police officers how to react to an active threat, whether it’s someone with guns, knives or other edge weapons, IEDs (improvised explosive devices), vehicle attacks, ISIS-inspired attacks,” Darin said. “These things happen anywhere and more often, for whatever reason: someone fired from a company, a kids at school, good and bad people everywhere. We train them about the correct mindset for approaching these types of scenes.”

The men and women—ranging from one year on the job to 40 years—role played as police officers, bad guys and victims. They learned about maximizing fire power, directing gunfire toward the target to keep the person down, moving as a team, safely approaching a building, getting locked doors open, and passing through barricades. Soap balls were even used as a means of force as necessary. Each scenario was set up realistically, as a method of stress inoculation training, essentially preparing the officers in advance to handle active threats in need of rapid response. 

“They get tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, their heart rate is up, adrenaline is pumping,” Darin explained. 

In such emergent situations, law enforcement officers’ duties are to 1) stop the killing, 2) stop the dying and 3) evacuation. 

“Someone needing aid rendered will be passed by initially because more people could die or become injured if they don’t stop the killing,” he said. “When we do render aid, it’s just triage until the paramedics arrive.”

The point of ALERRT is to mentally and physically prepare officers as best as possible for the worst, while hoping for the best. 

“It’s training we hope we never have to use, but if you’re ready for it, that’s gonna mean less loss of life,” Darin stated. “The final exam is out there waiting for them. If they do take it, I want them to pass with flying colors. If we save one life, it’s a better day than it could have been.”

Darin said he also encourages his trainees to use real calls as training opportunities, in order to continue practicing for active threat situations so they have the potential to rise to their level of training during a real-life call. 

“When they drive by schools, hospitals and public places, they should visualize how they would respond,” he said. “If they get an open door call at 2 a.m., they can use that as a moment to practice and prepare.”

Law enforcement attending were advised to take the training back to their departments and share the information. 

“Whether they’ve been through this or not, they need to be ready for that active shooter call,” Darin said, “and they can’t choose who they respond with. It might be federal, state, local, college or military officers. They might not even know each other, especially here in Prairie du Chien. They may get a sheriff’s deputy, a police officer and an Iowa officer.”

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