Police train for active threats, work on school security

by Laura Bednar

Amid current events, the Independence Police Department participated in the Single Officer Response to Active Threat training in October at Independence Local Schools.

SORAT training prepares each officer in the department to neutralize a potential shooter. In the training, an officer experiences what it’s like to arrive on scene by him or herself and eliminate a threat.

“Every minute makes a difference,” said Police Chief Robert Butler. “We are trained to go in and mitigate the loss of life.”

The regional SWAT team provides the training, and Lt. Jim Martin, of the Independence force, is a commander within the team. SORAT training is scenario-based and uses simunition guns, which are non-lethal weapons and shoot a substance similar to paintballs, according to Butler.
“Scenarios and first-hand experience is the best way to teach,” Butler said, adding that he plans to have SORAT training annually for all officers in the department.

In addition to threat response training, police are collaborating with Independence Local School officials to ensure school security. Butler, along with Assistant Superintendent Tom Dreiling, Lt. Martin and a former U.S. Secret Service member, formed a school safety committee. The group, which brings in school principals, school resource officers or other personnel when necessary, evaluates the schools to see what updates can be made to improve school safety.

“There’s always room to grow,” said Butler. “The best thing we can do is listen. A lot of people have insights which could be the key to the future.”

All Independence Local schools as well as St. Michael School on Brecksville Road went through ALICE, or Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate, training for principals and teachers to handle the threat of an intruder or active shooter.

Butler said students recently practiced an evacuation drill, in which students must leave the school building and parents or guardians must pick them up at a separate location.

“We want to make sure people are trained to limit panic as much as possible,” he said.

During his time with the Cleveland Heights Police Department, Butler worked with the school district’s security forces. He also worked with four Jewish schools in Cleveland Heights, providing protection, creating security plans and working with the Jewish Federation to organize off-duty officers.

In Independence, all police officers are required to perform frequent foot patrols through the schools. The school safety committee is also discussing the possibility of adding security cameras in strategic locations that show a potential intruder before they get inside the building. “It’s terrible we have to worry about it, but it’s necessary,” Butler said. “I feel we are proactive and ahead of where other departments are.”