E.P. Police Train to Protect Children
'Active shooter response' training drives the East Providence Police Department's ongoing effort to protect school children.
East Providence police officers are trained to react immediately to murderous onslaughts like the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., last Friday, said Police Chief Joseph Tavares.
It was that type of reaction by Newtown police that might have saved the lives of scores of other children, Tavares said. The shooter is believed to have shot himself when he heard police sirens outside the school.
“We’ve trained in the schools with ‘active shooter response’,” Tavares said, a tactic adopted by police departments after the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. “It requires officers to take immediate action and not wait for a SWAT team.”
East Providence officers also are trained in simulated situations “that are as realistic as possible,” the police chief said. “That is nothing new. And they know the best way to enter each school” in an emergency because they have trained there.
If there has been a change since last week’s shooting, Tavares said, it is that “we have increased patrols at the schools. We want to reassure people that we are there for them. It also prepares us for some small chance of a copycat shooter.”
Tavares said he and other officers met with school officials at the high school on Monday morning to assess security at the schools.
“And we will continue to have these discussions,” he said, “to make sure we are current in our strategies and flexible in our response.”
At the same time, Tavares said, police officers will be practicing more while “keeping our minds open to feedback from the Newtown shooting. What else can we think of to do?”
The police chief said the department looks at two principle aspects of any emergency situation: location and people. It’s not just a location, he said, it always involves people as well.
“Many more people with psychological problems walk the streets every day now,” he said.
“We take a holistic approach,” he said. “We always prepare for the next incident and location. Hypothetical situations are always in our heads. What’s the next place? We’re in constant preparation.”
The police chief said he feels secure that East Providence officers “are trained to act in the most reasonable way. We listen. We evaluate. We take action.”
It may be next to impossible to prevent a shooting like the one in Newtown, Tavares said, a case where the 20-year-old shooter first killed his mother before moving on to the elementary school.
But children in schools still need protection, he said. That is a situation the department will always train for in East Providence.