Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Police adopt terminator approach to school shootings

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Tristate police are practicing a radical approach to deal with school shootings — immediately send in a team of officers whose only goal is to stop the gunfire.

        The new Quick Action Deployment (QUAD) teams won't search the building or tend to victims. Instead, they're training to rush directly toward an ongoing shooting and end it.

        It's a new, more confrontational — and dangerous — concept for most officers, whose previous training would be to stay outside, contain the threat inside and call for a SWAT team.

        “Historically, we've been told, "Don't go rushing in and get yourself killed. Wait for SWAT,'” said Mike Ward, chief of the Crescent Springs Police Department and head of the Northern Kentucky Emergency Response Unit.

        “But society's changed, and we have to change too.”

        The idea comes from lessons learned last year from the shootings at Columbine High School in suburban Denver. Fourteen students and a teacher died at the hands of two seniors, who then killed themselves. Sheriff's deputies were criticized at the time for not stopping the shooting faster.

        With Columbine as

        hindsight, regional SWAT teams in Northern Kentucky and Hamilton County have recently started developing QUAD programs they hope will be copied throughout the region and elsewhere. The Cincinnati Police Division just started training all its 1,000 officers to use the QUAD plan. The motto: Be FAST — Focused, Aggressive and Stay Together.

        Educators welcome the help. Fred Bassett, superintendent of Beechwood schools in Fort Mitchell, has given blanket approval for law-enforcement officials to use his school for practice anytime.

        “It's a sad commentary on our society when it comes to having SWAT teams storm an elementary school,” he said. “But you just never know.”

        QUAD started last year in Columbus, where SWAT Lt. David Wood looked at the Columbine criticism and decided to develop a new method. Because it takes time for the specially trained SWAT officers to mobilize, his plan trains any officer who could end up being among the first on a school-shooting scene.

        Most of Columbus' more than 1,700 officers already have completed the training. Some of them used the plan recently when a shooter ran into a hotel. Columbus officers have taught the techniques in other states, including West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

        Any extra police training is good, said Roger Effron, a former Cincinnati Public Schools principal whose consulting company teaches school employees what to do in situations of school violence.

        “This is all new to school people,” he said. “We didn't have anything like it 30 years ago, even five years ago. So anything that saves lives is going to be the best course of action.”

        Locally, officials have modified the Columbus plan — they're planning to use five officers instead of four. Led by the officer with the most tactical experience and training, the group would enter the school and disregard victims and other issues.

        The plan calls for the leader and rear officer to carry shotguns, while the left- and right-side officers are armed with handguns. The fifth officer acts as a guide for the rear guard, who has to be able to walk backward and still keep his shotgun at the ready.

        The plan is geared toward school shootings, but could be used for any kind of similar workplace violence where gunfire continues throughout a building, Chief Ward said. But once a shooter barricades himself and stops firing, officers would scrap QUAD and switch to hostage negotiating.

        “If you have an active shooter, you have to get in there and stop that guy,” said Rick Patterson, chief of the Fairfax Police Department and leader of a regional SWAT team.

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