Posted 7/08/14 (Tue)
By Stephanie Allums
Farmer Staff Writer
As the smell of gunpowder seeped through the hallways of Watford City High School last week, the shrieking sound of guns popping off pumped up the adrenaline levels in the dozen law enforcement officers hunting for the shooter.
With their eyes peeled open, ears perked up, and a gun leading the way, each officer took a turn creeping up the staircase to practice Active Threat Response Training.
As they maneuvered around the high school lockers, peeking around each corner for a gunman, they proceeded down the echoing hallway - closer to a voice yelling, “help me.”
Their breathing became fierce and heavy as they realized they were standing right outside the classroom where a gunman had shot two individuals.
The responding officer would quickly assess the situation and take action - taking down the gunman.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers hosted this two-day training session in Watford City with six McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office deputies and five Watford City Police Department officers last week.
This training taught law enforcement officers how to effectively respond to incidents of active violence.
“If there is an active threat at any place in the community, the ‘old school’ way of handling it was to isolate the target and call in SWAT,” North Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Eric Pederson said. “But because most active events are quick, officers need to respond immediately. Most of the action will take place as soon as law enforcement shows up.”
Active Threat Response Training provides instruction for any acts of violence. The training gives information and teaches tactics to allow responding officers from all law enforcement agencies to work together to rapidly intervene in a crisis situation to minimize injuries and deaths.
According to Pederson, the Highway Patrol identified the need for consistent training across the state. For the first time, the department reached out to other agencies to offer training. McKenzie County and Watford City were first on the list.
“Trying to support the counties and local agencies is important to the North Dakota Highway Patrol,” Pederson said. “This is something we plan to offer statewide.”
During the hands-on training, officers were instructed on how to safely clear a room, use all their senses to determine where the threat was, and to take down the target.
When officers respond to a call, sometimes they are by themselves and sometimes they are in pairs. So they practiced responding to various situations in both ways.
The Highway Patrol officers walked them through it step by step, and then let each trainee try it on their own.
“How you train is how you respond,” Pederson said. “This training focuses on officer safety and rapid intervention, how to quickly assess a situation and intervene. It builds up your mind-set. Even though it might just be one person responding, sometimes that’s all it takes.”
Because the McKenzie County Sheriff’s Office and the Watford City Police Department respond to some of the same calls, Pederson says it only makes sense for them to train together and be on the same page when it comes to safety and handling business.
“This combination of people could be responding together,” Pederson said. “They should know how to work together. In the future, we plan to do the same training with the local Game & Fish Department employees.”
This course is based on national standards to train all troopers.
Pederson said Watford City High School Superintendent Steve Holen worked with the department to arrange for a place to hold this course.
“Holen was very supportive and was willing to help in any way,” Pederson said.