Active shooter training held

Gloversville Police Department Officers Christopher Pescetti, left, and Nicole Buckley simulate searching a hallway for an active shooting suspect at Meco Elementary School on Aug. 28 under the instruction of Officer Christopher Zink, right. City police platoons and members of the Gloversville Fire Department participated in two days of active shooter training at the school with instruction from members of the state Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services and Zink, who is certified in police instruction, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training and as a state SWAT operator. (The Leader-Herald/Ashley Onyon)

GLOVERSVILLE — City police and fire personnel used the last week before classes resumed to train in the previously closed Meco Elementary School that is reopening as the new home of the Foothills Pathways in Technology Early College High School.

“We want to make sure that the training is fresh in anticipation of the new school year and we wanted to get into this school again, because this will be back in service. Even though it’s technically outside the city limits it’s still part of the Gloversville Enlarged School District,” Police Chief Marc Porter said during training at the school on Aug. 28.

Members of the Gloversville Police Department and Gloversville Fire Department took part in an active shooter training at the school on Aug. 28 and 29 with instruction from GPD Officer Christopher Zink and members of the state Division of Homeland Security & Emergency Services, and assistance from Fulton County Undersheriff Daniel Izzo.

Porter said each day individual police platoons participated in one of the two eight-hour training sessions on an off day to build communication and develop the skills necessary to respond to a critical situation.

“Providing your officers with the training instills the confidence in the skill set that they can perform in critical incidents. When they’re subjected to critical stress, a lot of times we find that training takes over,” Porter said. “That’s what we’re emphasizing, providing a setting where it’s relatively calm and peaceful to help with their skills so if they’re ever called into service they can perform and hopefully bring the situation to a peaceful resolution.”

Training included classroom instruction in the morning, followed by group equipment and casualty care demonstrations and finally strategic deployment drills in which officers practiced responding to an active shooter in the building with a “suspect” firing blank rounds.

“They’re simulating moving in a hallway where they’re searching for a possible suspect and then they’re going to change the dynamic of their response based on where they hear shots fired, so now they’re moving more towards where the known threat is as opposed to slow and methodical. We’re trying to stress the urgency of stopping the killing first and then stop the dying from there,” Porter said.

Porter noted that the protocol for responding officers has changed over time, with the first officers who arrive on the scene expected to meet and neutralize the threat as quickly as possible rather than waiting for tactical groups to respond. The training was geared towards refamiliarizing the platoons with response measures as opposed to the city’s tactical units who receive more frequent training.

While the officers focused on response formations, city firefighters were on hand to observe the training and to learn how their department can best assist police and civilians during a critical situation.

“We’re learning the environment that we’re going to have to work in, what to expect and how to function helping with the development of policing response,” Fire Chief Thomas Groff said during the training session. “We’re just here to support the police department.”

Groff said in the event of an active shooter situation, city fire personnel and paramedics would likely provide incident command assistance by setting up a staging area away from the threat to help people evacuate and receive emergency care.

“One of the things that we wanted to improve is our integration with agencies we know we have to rely on in any kind of critical incident,” Porter said.

Porter said the department may include other local agencies in future training sessions. He added that hosting the sessions inside of the school gave city police the chance to discuss GESD’s school safety and response plans ahead of the new school year for the benefit of both the district and the department.

“The school district has allowed us to work in their buildings for the purpose of becoming familiar with their buildings,” Porter said thanking the district. “The benefit of being in the school is if we want to train moving in a hallway or clearing classrooms, we don’t have to try to replicate that somewhere else we can come right to the building.”

While the training was taking place inside of a school building, Porter pointed out that it would be applicable to incidents that may occur in any location.

“We happen to be training in a venue that’s a school, but the tactics can be applied to any other settings,” Porter said. “You have to start somewhere, I think the safety and security of our youth is at the top of the priority list so that’s why we start with the schools.”

To those who feel uneasy about the possibility of an active shooter incident taking place, Porter reminded locals to contact police when they observe unusual activity that causes them concern.

“I think that it’s incumbent upon all of us to remain diligent and if there is suspicious behavior to report it, whether you’re a parent or whether you’re just a community member or whether you’re a member of law enforcement, we’re all in this together as a community,” Porter said. “We’re doing our part to ensure that we are as prepared as we reasonably can be to respond to possible threats to our community.”