With eyes intensely fixed, ears acutely listening, and guns drawn and ready, police officers from all over the area crept through Crestwood High School Dec. 29 and 30, practicing the actions they’d take if a shooter were on campus.
The two-day session, called Active Shooter Training, was initiated by the Wright Township Police, as a way for officers to be prepared and ready for a shooter situation. The course was last given in 2008 and police decided it was time to train again.
“It’s very beneficial as a refresher-type course for veterans like me and we have a lot of new officers that it will help,” Wright Police Chief Royce Engler related. “It’ll be good for everyone. A lot was learned last time.”
Engler contacted the Lackawanna County SWAT team, whose members teach the course, after a new Wright Township officer attended a patrol-training course earlier this year and suggested the Active Shooter Training to the chief.
“I thought it was a good idea,” Engler stated. “We picked a day when the high school would be closed and set it up.”
Participating were at least 80 officers from 10 law-enforcement agencies, including police from Wright, Rice, and Fairview townships, the Nanticoke and White Haven Police departments, and the Luzerne County Sheriff’s Department.
The training began Dec. 29 with four hours of classroom training, followed by officers putting what they’ve learned into action by performing drills that included clearing classrooms and confronting perpetrators.
“Police cadets from Lackawanna Junior College will play the role models of the bad guys,” Engler explained before the event. “We’ll do different scenarios in search of the bad guy.”
On the first day of training, officers were separated into groups and placed in different sections of the high school. Chris Mazzucca, along with a few other members of the Lackawanna County SWAT team, led a handful of trainees through the hallway that passes the school’s library.
Armed with drawn paint-ball guns with knees slightly bent in an offensive position, the officers took turns approaching the open doors of the library and adjacent classrooms. Mazzucca advised the patrolmen on how to stop short of the open doorways, as to not expose themselves if a shooter were inside the room. Once the officers suspected each room was clear, they crept through, looking for a shooter or victims and then moved on.
“You did everything well,” Mazzucca told the group after their second try at the drill. “Everyone took that hard corner perfectly.”
He went on to demonstrate different ways for an officer to look for a shooter in front of him, while still watching the area behind him. The techniques included running backwards along the wall of lockers and focusing on the direction that a gunshot sound would emanate from.
Mazzucca then broke the officers into pairs and showed them how to practice the same room-sweeping drills together. One officer crept forward with his gun drawn while his partner held a hand on his shoulder and, with the other hand, pointed his gun in the opposite direction.
“It’s not about speed, it’s not how fast you’re moving,” Mazzucca told a pair of officers, who slowed a bit at his instruction. “It’s about how smoothly two people can go into a room.”