The massacre last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School continues to consume the minds of many across the nation, especially the moms and dads of school-aged kids whose protection has shot to the top of the priority list.
Questions about added security at schools have overwhelmed the White House and the law enforcement community, and many parents locally have wondered what the plan of action is if ever a mass murderer found his or her way into schools in West Point.
Over a decade ago, before the awful massacre in Columbine, Colorado, the national standard for police officers when responding to mass shooting incidents centered around waiting for SWAT teams to arrive on scene before officers could further intervene. But after Columbine and other mass school shootings, such as the one in Pearl, Miss. years ago, the national standard changed, said West Point Chief of Police Tim Brinkley.
“The law enforcement community found out that while officers were waiting on the SWAT team to arrive the shooter was inside the place stacking up the bodies,” Brinkley said. “The longer you take the more harm he does.”
Now, thanks to Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), officers who respond first to the scene of a mass shooting can immediately go in and take action on finding the shooter and preventing him or her from shooting anyone else instead of waiting on a specialized team.
Every single West Point Police Department officer has been trained in the ALERRT program, commonly known as the active shooter program, which is part of their curriculum at the law enforcement training academy. In fact, Brinkley said, most have been trained twice, and in light of the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. the Police Department expects federal and state government to make enhancements to the program after which time officers will go back to receive the latest training.
Brinkley said often times shooters of massacres are armed with multiple weapons, have on protective gear and can hide out in any corner, behind a desk or any place that conceals them until they’re ready to strike.
“It’s a very, very dangerous situation,” Brinkley said. “It takes a great deal of discipline because when you go in, if this active shooter has wounded 15 people the officers are trained to walk past those injured for the time being to stop the killing. The priority is not for the injured but to keep a killer from causing further harm. The same potential for violence in our schools that is present in other communities is present here as well. We are living in a day where we have to be prepared.”