Monday, October 15, 2001

Police drills stress focus, action

By Sheila McLaughlin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        SOUTH LEBANON — The four police officers, gripping their weapons tightly, crept cautiously down the smoke-filled hallway of the abandoned South Lebanon Elementary School in a diamond formation, advancing toward the sound of gunfire. Their mission: End the shooting at all costs.

        The scene was a training session, but one that is changing the way things are done in fast-growing Warren County.

        It's part of a movement — called rapid deployment — across the country and throughout the Tristate that teaches front-line patrol officers to react to acts of terrorism or to suspects with weapons.

        “This is for active violence,” said Capt. Mike Gardner, a trainer with the Warren County Sheriff's Office. “The (suspect's) ideology or mind-set makes no difference.”

        Since early September, his department has held 24 sessions to train officers from nine agencies from Warren County and neighboring communities, including state troopers and police from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

        Created after the 1999 massacre of 12 students and a teacher by two students at Columbine High School in Colorado, the approach is aimed at training any officer who could be the first at the scene.

        Officers are now taught to quickly form a team of four or five, enter a building where an active shooting is occurring and eliminate the threat.

        They are instructed to focus on their mission, to move on even if their fellow officer is shot, to step over the bleeding and the dead, to view anything that moves as a threat.

        “This is the dark side of law enforcement that you don't want to see or talk about,” said Roger Johnson, a Warren County deputy who took part in last week's training. “No matter how many casualties, you have to go in and stop this.”

        The Warren County Sheriff's Office learned the rapid deployment method from the Cincinnati Police Division, where Capt. Gardner worked in training and was the department's excessive force expert until early this year.


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