[Nameplate] Overcast ~ 50°F  
High: 62°F ~ Low: 46°F
Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Officers train for mass-casualty situation

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Responding to an "active shooter" during a recent rapid response training session, DePauw University Officer Matt Demmings (left), Greencastle Police Officer Darrel Bunten (center) and Reserve Sheriff's Deputy Mike Downing arrive at the fairgrounds with their weapons drawn ready to enter the Community Building.
Who will respond when the unthinkable happens?

Most likely, it will be an off-duty police officer.

That is the fact area law enforcement agencies are dealing with when they play out the scenario of an "active shooter" at a school, shopping center or other public place in Putnam County.

It's only a scenario for now, but authorities in Putnam County know that with planned acts of violence on the rise, protecting the public also takes planning, as well as anticipation of unpleasant scenarios.

Several area law enforcement agencies teamed up recently to play out a "rapid response" event. The exercise included a briefing, followed by activity at the fairgrounds, and then analysis of how the response could improve.

What they found surprised even some of the veteran officers.

"We learned the first person to respond will likely be an off-duty officer in street clothes," Indiana Excise Officer Jerrod Baugh said in discussing the drill. And that means that officers must carry not only their weapons at all times, but also identification they can wear to show they are a police officer, not one of the "bad guys."

Greencastle Police Chief Tom Sutherlin agreed that with the city's take-home police car program, officers who are off-duty may be the first ones arriving at an active crime scene.

"Each officer needs to have a firearm and a tac vest," Sutherlin said. "I know if I'm at Wal-Mart and there is a shooting, I will respond. But I need to be identified as a police officer."

Baugh and Sutherlin agree the training has proven that the response to an active shooter will likely be multi-jurisdictional, with officers from many agencies arriving on the scene.

"That is the way we train," Baugh said of the change in strategy for law enforcement. "We will almost not train alone, it is that important."

The Indiana Excise Police have mandated training that includes cooperation with other police agencies.

"We work with other agencies a lot," Baugh said, "and we are often in plain clothes. We now realize it is important to have something to identify us as officers. And other officers need to see us working too."

That fact became evident in the recent drill, as the excise officers on the scene rushed in to assist, but were misidentified as possible shooters due to their guns and lack of identification, such as badges or vests.

And while people generally think of excise officers as those looking for underage alcohol consumption violations, Baugh pointed out that excise officers often work on school campuses. Therefore, they may be the first responders to an active shooter at a university.

A group of "victims" made the rapid response training more realistic. Some of their wounds show the damage that officers will encounter when they arrive at the scene of a mass shooting.
"Anytime you have a college campus, there will be excise officers nearby," Baugh said.

Another known factor is that at all the active shooter or mass murder events in recent years -- going from as recently as Northern Illinois University to Virginia Tech, to the Utah shopping center, back to Columbine High School -- there will be people to be rescued.

Many times in the past, Baugh explained, police training has ended at the point of stopping the shooter.

But now they know they will be doing rescue, and some of that might have to occur while there is possibly another shooter hidden somewhere nearby, waiting to continue the attack.

That means that when the police are ready to bring in medical assistance, they have learned they will not be finished with their response, but will escort the medics into the crime scene in case the violence continues.

"A lot of it will be rescue, unfortunately. And incident command will not begin until after the scene calms down," Baugh said.

But one of the primary lessons the officers soaked up during the training is the necessity of quick response.

"We have found that active shooters are intent on causing as much damage as quickly as possible," Baugh said. "There is no time to sit outside and call for backup."

They also know that shooters often plan their attacks, so any uniformed officers near the scene will likely be among the first victims.

"Uniformed police officers on site can be the first target," Baugh said, "The shooters have already planned to take out the initial threat."

Among the important participants in the Putnam County training were representatives from area schools, who played hostage and bystanders during the active shooting event (played out with soft bullets) and the response by police.

"The school people have learned what information to take back to their schools," Baugh said. "It is up to the school systems to develop their own plans on how to handle things. The biggest thing the school people get to see out of something like this is experiencing it first hand."

In addition to the Indiana Excise and Greencastle police, participating agencies included DePauw University, Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Bainbridge and Roachdale Town Marshals, Indiana Conservation Officer, Gree-ncastle Fire Department, Operation Life ambulance personnel, and civilians from the North Putnam, Greencastle, South Putnam and Cloverdale school corporations.

Additional trainings will be conducted, Baugh said.

Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on bannergraphic.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

shopping center?

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 7:05 AM

I think this drill is a good idea, considering school shooting's can happen anywhere. But, I feel the take a car home policy is being abused. What good is an officer in his/her patrol car at the Metropolis in Plainfield, to an emergency in Greencastle? Everytime I'm there I see one there too. Aren't these officer's who use their patrol cars to take their children to sporting or school events putting their children in harms way, in the event of an emergency? You see them with family members in their patrol cars all the time.

We the taxpaying citizen's of Greencastle and Putnam County are paying for the fuel they use in the patrol cars for personal time and that is wrong. They receive a salary to pay for their own personal lives, just as we taxpayer's do.

-- Posted by WONDER on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 1:46 PM

shopping center? DUH! Wal-Mart. Yes training it is a good idea, I'm glad the police are training to save our children and citizens. I don't thank they abuse the take home cars at all. I am glad to see more cars out and about that keeps some of the crazy drivers in check and as for you complaining about an officer at Plainfield if someone was set out to mug you in the mall parking lot, seeing that police car will detour them from taking your belonging and if you was mugged you would expect the officer to do something would you not. It sounds so silly to hear people say they are TAXPAYERS... news flash police pay taxes also...if you want a take home car go be a police officer and quit complaining. Officers keep up the great job and be safe from those people who like to complain because they will be the first to call for help.

-- Posted by never101 on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 4:42 PM

Do you people realize Police Officers are always on duty? Just because they are at their kids sporting event does not mean they are off duty, they may be out of uniform, but everytime a Police Officer breathes he is on duty. I am glad they get a take home car, that way they are allowed some sort of "normal life" to be able to participate with their family, when they are called out (and usually they are) they are ready to go. Taxes, your kidding right? Police Officers pay taxes also, and make an unusually small salary. ...give me a break!

-- Posted by never101 on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 5:10 PM

Are you kidding me? Wal-mart as a shopping center. Wal-mart is Wal-mart. A shopping center is always located outside of Putnam County. I guess if you're satisfied with Wal-mart, so be it. However I like "REAL" shopping centers. The debate could go on and on regarding take home cars. When gas gets to be around $4.00 then we'll see who thinks it's a good idea to let officers drive there cars all over with family members inside. I do however agree with most of them making small salaries. (But check on this, some make very good salaries).But they did take this job knowing how much they would be making. There's no denying that a police office is a valuable asset to everyone and I would not want to do it. But let's think about the gas situation. They drive cars for personal use, therefore do not have to pay for the insurance, gas or upkeep on these vehicles. The more miles they put on these cars for personal use, costs us more when they need to be traded in earlier because of the wear and tear and the high mileage. Still....I think the world of the officers in this county.

-- Posted by cty-govt-a-muck on Wed, Feb 27, 2008, at 7:20 AM

I am so glad they take cars home. VISUAL-a no brainer! I really wish everyone would quit worrying so much about taxes and gas and have more concern about safety in our community. We have very dedicated and well trained officers and should feel blessed. Our law enforcement should feel more appreciated and supported by our community.

-- Posted by bam on Thu, Feb 28, 2008, at 8:31 PM

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: