County police departments eye training officers in active shooter scenarios

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Members of the Gloversville Police Department participate in a training exercise at McNab Elementary School, clearing rooms as part of an active shooter scenario on Tuesday.

GLOVERSVILLE — A group of Gloversville police officers in full gear moved cautiously through the hallways of McNab Elementary School Tuesday morning, practicing various scenarios for an active shooter.

Officers are making their way through each of the city schools this summer — learning building layouts and preparing for a day all schools hope will never come. The department will wrap up its training at middle and high school campus, once the summer school program is over, said Police Chief Anthony Clay. 

The training comes only a few months after the killing of 19 students and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas. 

“We thought this was important given the current trends,” the chief said. 

Education Week, which has been tracking school shootings since 2018, stated in an article updated Aug. 1 that there have been 27 school shootings this year and 199 since it been its tracking. 

Gloversville Superintendent David Halloran said that it’s comforting to know the officers will be familiar with the buildings in the district, but that “we’re hoping it’s a benefit we won’t need.” 

All department officers are being trained, Clay said. He added that they will try to train any new officers during school breaks. The training includes a number of different drills, reviewing school layouts and after-action reports from prior shooting, and debriefing on how the training went and what changes might be made. 

Four years ago, the district hired safety officer Mike Etherton, Halloran said. That person actively reviews the district’s safety plans. The police chief said school resource officer Chris Pescetti also works with the district to inform the department about any changes at the school, like any ongoing construction or student safety concerns. 

Halloran said the district has also added cameras with facial recognition throughout its buildings. 

Johnstown police Capt. Eric Johnson said the department is currently coordinating when its own can do active shooter training with the district. 

“We are waiting on some dates and feedback,” he said. 

It’s been a couple years since the department has done training with the district, according to Johnson. 

However, the 25 officers that make up the city’s department receive active shooter training through the state and then are provided a refresher course every year through the Johnstown Police Department, Johnson said. 

The village of St. Johnsville Police Department covers the Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville School District. Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said a couple years ago officers participated in active shooter training in the Fonda-Fultonville School District with other agencies. Having training at buildings in the OESJ district is something he said he’d be interested in working with the district on. He also said that he and the two school resource officers in the district are certified instructors for active shooter drills. 

The Fulton County undersheriff wrote the active shooter training that is taught at the police academy in Oriskany, said Sheriff Richard Giardino. 

“He has conducted both walkthroughs and in building training for active shooters in the last four years,” he said. 

Prior to COVID, the sheriff’s department did a training in the Mayfield Central School District. 

“We have started back up in-person training at schools, businesses and private facilities like the nursing homes and churches in the last three months,” Giardino said.

By Shenandoah Briere

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