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Training bill gets support
'Active shooter' prep is focus

Friday, February 7, 2014

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

Local law enforcement agency heads are tracking the progress of a bill that could provide grants to help pay for overtime for officers being trained to handle active shooter situations.

Currently, Henry County Sheriff’s officers are not paid when they take such training. Instead, they accrue compensatory (comp) time that they must take off later.

Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry said he would prefer to be able to pay for the officers’ training time, so he said he supports House Bill 337. It would provide grants of up to $50,000 to help smaller law enforcement agencies fund the training.

Del. Mike Webert, R-Marshall, introduced the bill when he learned there were no funds earmarked in the budget to integrate an active shooter training program in the Fauquier County Sheriff’s Department. Webert proposed a $500,000 training grant — up to $50,000 per locality — to provide overtime pay to law enforcement officers training on response to an active shooter situation.

The bill now is assigned to a public safety subcommittee.

“Unfortunately in this day and age, active shooter training is necessary,” Perry said of incidents which involve a shooter in a public place, such as a mall, school or workplace.

Both the county and Martinsville Police Department have SWAT (tactical) teams, with officers specially and regularly trained to respond to any number of emergency situations.

“Our SWAT team trains once a month, but that (training) is not enough” for active shooter situations, Interim Martinsville Police Chief Eddie Cassady said. “Every officer needs to be trained on active shooter because you never know when or where it could happen.”

Also, “these situations happen so quick and so fast that a lone officer may have to respond” by himself, Perry said. That is because active shooter incidents generally happen in public areas, he said.

“There is no pattern or method to the selection” of victims, and the situations are unpredictable and quick to evolve, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

“It is better if at least two officers can respond, but we will do everything to stop the violence. If one officer has to act alone until other officers can get to the scene, then so be it,” Perry said.

That is all the more reason for officers to have the training, according to Perry and Cassady, who began the active shooter training years ago.

The most recent training course that they took — LASER (Law Enforcement Active Shooter Emergency Response), was provided by the Louisiana State University National Center for Bio Medical Research and Training, Perry said.

“Several of us went through the course. I took the training myself,” Perry said. Officers who successfully completed the three-day course were certified as instructors, he added.

“At this point, there is no cost to us to participate” in the LASER training. aside from minimal supplies, travel and related costs, Perry said. However, officers who participate are not paid, but rather accrue compensatory (comp) time that they must take off at a later date.

The long-term costs are worth it though, Perry said.

Active shooter training will be held later this month in Henry County, Perry added.

“We are going to start what we call roll call training,” which means that every officer — including court security, corrections and School Resource Officers (SROs) — participates, he said.

“It is that important,” Perry said. Officers may be put in a situation where they “don’t have time to wait” for backup. “We are trying to be proactive. Giving them that extra training edge and that extra mental edge is necessary.”


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