Originally Published: April 19, 2007 4 a.m.
PRESCOTT In the wake of the Virginia Tech shooting that left the shooter and 32 people dead, local police say they practice such scenarios regularly to be prepared if it happens here.
Prescott Police Deputy Chief Dave Benner said the department has policies and procedures that cover shootings regardless of where they happen, whether on a college campus, a high school campus or at a business.
"Our officers are trained on active shooter scenarios," he said. "For something that large scale it takes more resources than a single department of our size would have. You would call upon all law enforcement agencies in the area to help."
Benner said because Yavapai College has its police department, his agency would be working with it and with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's security.
"We would form a partnership rather than an oversight," Benner said. "Prescott College has a little bit different situation because it doesn't have the large dormitory issues and the classrooms are smaller and spread out."
He said the department had worked with the Prescott Unified School District on emergency plans.
"They are responsible for the safety of their schools and for the systems that are used to keep their students and staff safe there," Benner said.
The goal is for the department to familiarize itself with the schools' policies and procedures and for the schools to know what the police response would entail.
Benner said that all the local agencies train in the National Incident Management System. The Incident Command System operates under it. Fire departments use it when they respond to an emergency to establish command and control, Benner said.
"We do that with any large scale incident now," Benner said. "Under that we can keep adding agencies in Š to meet the needs of the situation at hand."
Police do not dictate whether a campus wants to lock down or evacuate its students during the initial response. That is a matter of the school's policy, he said.
"Once we are on scene and we take command from the law enforcement perspective, then we may start to give orders based on what we see is the safest thing to do under the circumstances," Benner said.
Yavapai County Sheriff Cmdr. Scott Mascher said the most effective reaction is going to be the initial patrolman's response and what they do when they get there.
"The first people there are going to be the most effective people in dealing with these situations," rather than waiting for a SWAT team to respond, Mascher said. "We've trained our patrol people to respond to an active shooter."
The training became common among law enforcement agencies shortly after the Columbine High School massacre, Mascher said.
"Last year we put on a week-long school for our patrol folks," Mascher said, adding that the Sheriff's Office SWAT team played host in the past to an active shooter course for SWAT teams, Mascher said.
"You have to be prepared for the worst," Mascher said.
He said the Sheriff's Office has obtained maps from most of the schools to get familiar with their layouts.
While the police are searching for a shooter, it is critical that people comply with the police orders, Mascher said.
Prescott Valley Police Chief Dan Schatz said it is also critical that local police practice together because large-scale incidents will require a multi-agency response in this area.
"You have to rely on the help of another agency," Schatz said. "The coordination is required to go on to a campus where you have an active shooter."
Because April 20 is the anniversary of Columbine, PVPD usually increases the number of officers on shifts and adds security to schools. Having school resource officers on campuses helps detect any suspicious behavior or notes, he said.
"Our awareness is much more than it was before Columbine," Schatz said.
However, Schatz agreed that students easily could sneak in firearms on campuses because the schools have no metal detectors.
"We have to be vigilant about something like that happening," he said.
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