Samford is hosting a series of law enforcement training events focused on effective prevention of, and response to, "active shooter" emergencies.
In law enforcement terminology, an active shooter is a person who is actively trying to kill or injure others with a firearm, often in a crowded area such as school, church or shopping mall. Active shooter events at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech are representative catastrophes that have radically changed public expectations of police and institutional safety officers.
The on-campus training, which began July 21 and will continue periodically into the fall, brings together Homewood Police Department and safety personnel from Samford and other local colleges.
Samford's Director of Campus Safety Bobby Breed said the training is part of Samford's ongoing assessment of its safety plans. Breed said the university has to plan for the almost unthinkable and hope it never has to use its active shooter plan. "But if we do," he added, "then certainly the Homewood Police Department will be a huge part of that plan."
Homewood Chief of Police Phillip Dodd echoed Breed in comments to personnel from other Birmingham-Area colleges. "The most important thing is to open a line of communication with your local police department and get them involved in your training and planning," Dodd said, "because without that you're going to be overwhelmed in the first few seconds" of a typical, chaotic active shooter event. Careful planning and coordination can make the difference between swift elimination of the threat and a Columbine-style massacre.
Each morning this week a different group of 20-25 trainees began the day with classroom review of the recent history of active shooter attacks, new tactical theory and special equipment.
The morning sessions emphasized that active shooter training isn't only for the most gung-ho Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team members. After Columbine, in particular, citizens expect every police officer to become a SWAT team member when a shooter is active, not cordon-off the site and wait for specialized units to arrive. That expectation demands the new standard procedures and tactics that were the focus of the training at Samford this week.
After their classroom work, trainees divided into small formations to practice safe maneuvering through hallways. Next, they donned protective headgear and chose Simunition firearms-realistic training tools that use painful but non-lethal marking ammunition.
Armed and armored, the trainees moved to the sound of a simulated active shooter in a campus building, finding simulated victims along the way and sometimes getting shot when they made mistakes. What hurts, teaches, and better to learn those lessons here, where the active shooters are colleagues and the bullets only sting.