Active shooter training is critical, experts say. But one local department hasn’t had it in years

Simulation of an active shooter situation
Simulation of an active shooter situation
Published: Jun. 22, 2022 at 12:56 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- It’s been one month since the horrible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. It was an unthinkable tragedy that police departments and school districts must think about every single day.

“In the real world, things happen in an instant, all we can do is try to prepare it,” said Deandre Davis, head of Safety and Security at St. Louis Public Schools. He trains his security and teaching staff with hands-on drills.

“Once the event happens, muscle memory tells you exactly what you need to be doing, training is pivotal to that,” he said.

But when it comes to St. Louis Metropolitan police, News 4 Investigates has learned St Louis police haven’t had a large-scale active shooter training as a department in six years. That’s a concern for Davis. It means any patrol officers—who would be the first respond—haven’t had hands-on training in the schools.

“You want them to be in here, know the layout, be familiar, have some of that muscle memory already?” asked Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “No doubt. I think that would be beneficial for them,” Davis answered.

St Louis police aren’t too happy about it either.

“I think it’s terrible actually,” one officer, who wanted to remain anonymous, told News 4.

Others said they couldn’t remember the last time they’d had active shooter training.

“I think it’s something we should look to do,” said Jay Schroeder, with the St. Louis police union.

“The problem is that since 2016 we have been in kind of protest mode since Michael Brown and Ferguson and so it was getting everyone geared up, so you have to try to pick what you’re training for,” said Schroeder.

He said staffing shortages make training, and everything else, more difficult. That’s the real worry is not having the people there when you do call.

News 4 has been along as other departments have done other large-scale hands-on-training scenarios.

Though the St. Louis Police Department initially declined to do an interview, News 4 caught up with the head of Public Safety, Dan Isom. He told News 4 he is confident his patrol officers know that the first ones on the scene should engage and go in. He said their policies are clear and reinforced to the officers.

“The first two or three officers that respond to the scene need to know they need to go in and engage that individual, we don’t have time for SWAT and 10 other groups to respond and that’s the message we’ve sent,” explained Isom.

Still, he said, they are looking to plan another large-scale training- often referred to by the acronym MAC-TAC. The last one, in 2016, trained 950 of their officers.

Recruits do active-shooting training in the academy and the department notes SWAT trains monthly.

A statement from the police said: “Although COVID-19 limited our ability to conduct live, in-person large scale exercises, we anticipate having these types of trainings continue again in the near future with most, if not all, of the restrictions put in place during the last few years being removed.”

Back at the St. Louis Public School District, Davis said they’re working on another training next month and practicing for every conceivable scenario. He said because kids’ lives depend on it.

“If there is an active shooter, in our building, actively assaulting people, we are not waiting for the police,” he said.

Davis said there is a good relationship with command staff and they do a lot of table-top exercises but again stated a large-scale training would be beneficial.

We checked with St. Louis County police. They said they just did one last year.