This past week’s mass shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino have shocked Americans and police agencies across the nation. Locally, law enforcement officials say they hope that a similar mass shooting never occurs in Delaware County but they are taking steps to prepare for the worst.
Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin said Thursday that a partnership with law enforcement and other emergency services is key to responding to crises like mass shootings.
“The best thing we have going for us is the already well-established partnerships between all of the law enforcement agencies, not only in the county but throughout the region,” Martin said. “Those relationships are key. When a crisis does happen, getting resources in a large-scale event happens quickly and efficiently.”
On Nov. 28, 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear shot and killed three people, including a police officer, at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. The Associated Press said five other police officers and four civilians were also shot and hospitalized. Dear surrendered to police after an hours-long standoff.
On Wednesday, a pair of shooters, Tashfeen Malik, 27, and Syed Farook, 28, killed 14 people and injured 17 others during a mass shooting at the Inland Regional Center, a social service center which helps people with developmental disabilities, in San Bernardino, California. Both Malik and Farook were killed during a gun battle with police Wednesday night.
“I couldn’t be more proud to be associated with this profession when I saw the sacrifice of the officer who gave his life in Colorado and the incredible courage I witnessed in San Bernardino,” Martin said. “I’m confident that law enforcement in this county would respond the same way. Those of us in this profession know that even though we’ve been beat up an awful lot this year, we are ready to run right into the line of fire to protect people. I’m very proud of what I’ve seen and not in the least bit surprised.”
Martin said officers in Delaware County have received extensive training on how to handle high-risk situations. Martin said that front-line officers are not the only ones who receive special training; so do administrative officers like those working at dispatch centers.
“[We] have done some large-scale organized tabletop exercises that dealt with ‘active-shooter’ events so there is training for mid-level management and above,” Martin said. “Over the last couple of years, we have begun to teach front-line officers how to respond to active shooters. I’m confident that if an active-shooter situation happened in this county, most law enforcement officers would know how to respond.”
Similarly, Delaware Police Captain Adam Moore said the city’s police department, in conjunction with local fire units and other emergency agencies, conduct “active-shooter” drills during the winter break at Delaware Hayes High School. Moore said police use special barrels for their guns that allow them to fire paint balls and practice entering the school in small groups.
During the simulation, emergency medical units are tasked with setting up a triage center and treating the “victims.” Local authorities also use a separate radio frequency and practice what protocols and dispatches they would need to make.
“We do a lot of situational training and we use current events to dictate training,” Moore said. Local police are training for every possible crisis while hoping such violence doesn’t come here.
Martin said the county and city have purchased equipment, like rifles and armored vehicles, to be used in high-risk situations.
In the event of an active-shooter situation, Moore said the Delaware County Tactical Unit would be the team to respond. Moore said the team is comprised of officers and units from many law enforcement agencies in the county and is used to respond to dangerous calls, like an armed citizen barricading himself in his home or taking hostages.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.