Officers of the Columbia Police Department Special Weapons and Tactics team conducted active shooter training at the Columbia Mall last week. According to the Columbia Police Department’s news release, the training took place inside the mall after closing hours.
Captain Brad Nelson, Patrol Bureau Commander at CPD, said the goal was to train officers how to act and respond to an active shooter incident. Nelson said officer training is important because CPD does not have a full-time SWAT team like bigger police departments in Kansas City and St. Louis.
“Our (SWAT team) is not full-time because of the size of the city and the police department,” Nelson said. “It’s a part-time SWAT team that consists of officers from the department. The majority of officers that were (at training) are actually patrol officers.”
Despite having a part-time SWAT team, Nelson said training patrol officers is beneficial because they are likely to respond to the scene before a SWAT team.
“Generally speaking, the patrol officers are going to be the first responders,” Nelson said. “It usually takes between 45 minutes to an hour for the SWAT team to assemble and get there before they can actually do anything. That’s why the officers themselves are being trained, because they’re going to be there first.”
The operation included 15 CPD officers and approximately 10 volunteer civilian role-players.
CPD training coordinator Jeff Forck said the training consisted of scenarios created to model real-life situations.
“One of (the scenarios) was a lone gunman with numerous civilians in the mall, and officers had to respond,” Forck said. “Another scenario we did was multiple gunmen in the mall with civilians, and (the officers) had to respond and solve that problem as well.”
The officers are trained to approach each situation with the goal of disarming the shooter.
“The mentality has to be that you’re going to end the problem,” Nelson said. “Find that person and have him cease his actions.”
In addition to disarming the perpetrator, the officers follow a set of safety priorities.
“We keep four things in mind,” Forck said. “The number one safety priority being the hostages and victims, the second would be innocent or uninvolved citizens, third police officers or first responders and fourth the suspect or subject of the investigations.”
Forck said the team of instructors, officers and role-players debriefed after the training session to reflect on whether learning objectives were met and ways to improve for the future.
“To make training better and more realistic, we’ll debrief at the end of every training,” Forck said. “We want to get everybody’s point of view so we can train better and more realistically every time.”
CPD has performed similar training at the Columbia Mall in past years, and it also trains in conjunction with Columbia public schools.
Nelson said the entire police department, which includes 160 officers, will be trained in active shooter tactics this summer.