Several days after deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Montana State University police officers ran through their annual active shooter training. It came almost a month after a shelter-in-place order on campus and a few weeks before thousands of students arrive for the fall semester.
In Roskie Hall dormitory, Federal Bureau of Investigation trainers and MSU police officers have just finished one of the active-shooter simulations. They circle up to pull off their helmets and debrief.
“Ok, so who were my first contact officers? What’d you have, and what’d you see?” asks an FBI trainer.
“Came out of the hallway, saw several people in a hostage situation with a gunman standing in front of them. He wouldn’t show me his hands, and then he fired rounds and we dove after him,” says an MSU police officer.
“So our posture went from a hostage situation to an active shooter,” says another officer.
The simulations during the two-day Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) are chaotic, and that’s on purpose. MSU’s 21 police officers need to be able to identify a potential shooter in a sea of panicking students, says an FBI trainer who asked not to be named.
“They’re dealing with a lot, right? If somebody pops out of a door, are they just immediately shooting that person, or are they taking the time to identify, 'Is this person is a threat or not?'” he says.
University Police Chief Frank Parrish says the recent mass shootings are on everyone’s minds during this year’s training.
“Every time we hear about one of these situations happening across the country, it gives us pause to make sure that our training is adequate, and we’re never going to rest on our laurels. We’re always going to be looking for ways to improve and learning from these situations so that we’re ready for should the unthinkable happen here in Bozeman,” says Parrish.
In addition to active-shooter training, police officers meet with counselors and residence hall staff weekly to discuss people who may pose a threat to themselves or others. The university this summer also added a new $300,000 firearms storage locker for students at the MSU PD station. It replaces the prior practice of each residence hall with its own firearm lock-up.
Over 130,000 officers and fire officials across the U.S. have gone through ALERRT training, which is free to any law enforcement agency. An FBI trainer says ALERRT will be updating its training after the recent mass shootings.