If a school shooting like the one in Connecticut were to ever unfold here in Somerset, local police are ready.
In fact, Somerset officers were already going to make sure they were better prepared even before Friday’s saddening news event broke.
“I was at the police station today when I saw the alert on my phone (about the shootings),” said Lt. Shannon Smith of the Somerset Police Department (SPD). “I thought, ‘How ironic,’ because here we are planning our active shooter refresher training, and something like this happens.”
Training on what to do in situations where a rogue gunman poses a threat to civilians is a regular thing for Somerset law enforcement, particularly since the 1999 Columbine case which really brought the issue of in-school violence into the national spotlight.
Since that time, SPD has maintained a comprehensive plan with emphasis on the school system, that starts with the SRO program — School Resources Officers, trained law enforcement personnel in every school.
“We were the first in the county to launch the program full-time, and all of our officers have received not just training from the Department of Criminal Justice, but also in-house training on active shooter response,” said Smith. “Coincidentally, we are in the planning stages over the last couple of weeks on what we call the ‘refresher course’ for all our officers. We’re not required to maintain active shooter training for certification, but it’s one of those things we’ve always taken seriously.”
Just Thursday, police went through a preparedness drill, in which 93 percent of personnel were reached within 18 minutes. This is done to gauge how officers respond to a critical event and how many off-duty officers could reasonably be reached.
Officers conduct training with firearms, self-defense, and pressure-point control tactics with the goal to help disarm a shooter and diffuse a potentially fatal situation. They also maintain a “High Risk Warrant Service Team,” essentially the same as a SWAT Team, that goes into intense situations with equipment needed to withstand whatever threat might be posed.