Police train for active shooter
Officer Abe Vega of the Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall police department holds down the rear as the group practices securing a stairway in the event of an active shooter

Personnel from several law enforcement agencies made their way to Bldg. 406 at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Dec. 11 to practice dealing with an active shooter. With so many high-profile shootings in recent years, law enforcement finds it necessary to make sure their officers are always kept up to date on the latest training in order to help save lives.

An active shooter is defined by law enforcement as, "an armed person who has used deadly physical force on other persons and continues to do so while having unrestricted access to additional victims." The JBM-HH Police Department, Pentagon Police and the U.S. Marshals were the groups that participated in the training, where they practiced moving down hallways and up and down stairs among other things. Since shootings often occur in office buildings, schools or other public places, the narrow hallways of Bldg. 406 were perfect for training.

"It's all about communicating what you see to everyone in the group," said Sgt. David Quinn of the Pentagon Police Emergency Response Team, who led the training. "What you see has to be seen by everybody, and even in a quiet practice space it's tough, imagine the real thing." Most of the time the officers worked as foursomes, practicing the diamond formation, where they would advance down the hall as a group, backs to each other and a "set of eyes and a gun" facing forward, backward, left and right, into any doors or crevices that were along the way.

"When you hear a gunshot, your natural instinct is to look towards it, but that leaves the group vulnerable in the place that you're supposed to be covering," Quinn said. "Even in a team environment, the instinct is to look out for yourself, and this training helps to overcome that." Stairways present another set of problems, because there are so many blind spots and angles where a shooter could get a bead on the officers. The groups went through multiple repetitions up and down the stairs, as Quinn showed them how to make sure no spot was left unwatched as they moved.

Overall, the officers involved took a lot from the training, from both the techniques learned as well as the rapport developed between the officers that can only be achieved with exercises like this. "It was a good refresher, but it's also the first time I've taken this training since I've gotten here," said Sgt. Tim Curtin of the JBM-HH Police Department. "It's a good opportunity to work with these guys, and get our movements down."

Page last updated Tue December 29th, 2009 at 11:11