EASTHAM — Police departments in the four towns of the Nauset Regional School District, along with the National Park Service rangers, spent the last several weeks of the summer undergoing special training in the vacant high school on how to respond to an active threat.
“Although we hope we never need to put this training to use, it is our duty to our community to be prepared,” said Eastham Police Chief Adam Bohannon in an email. Bohannon organized the program. Seventy-five officers and nine dispatchers attended the sessions.
“We have two active threat instructors on staff here at the Eastham Police Dept.,” Bohannon said. The instructors worked on developing the training with representatives from each participating department. “All were very supportive and eager to participate,” the chief said.
The program included eight hours of classroom instruction and several hours of live drills that were designed to create scenarios that were as realistic as possible. The drills were conducted at Nauset Regional High School, which had the added benefit of familiarizing the trainees with the school’s layout. That knowledge could be critical in case of an actual incident.
Local departments will now expand on their training individually.
“In Eastham, we are making plans to conduct additional active threat response training in conjunction with our fire department,” said Bohannon, who hopes to do those sessions sometime this winter.
Both Nauset High School and Nauset Middle School in Orleans have resource officers on site. The officers are involved throughout the school year in honing security measures.
“In Eastham, we also have an officer assigned as liaison to our elementary school,” said Bohannon, adding that the officer works closely with the school to schedule training and drills for staff and students.
Wellfleet police officers were among those participating in the summer training. “This type of training within our schools and businesses will better prepare our community in the event of a potential threat,” said Chief Michael Hurley in an email.
With the relaxation of Covid restrictions, both Hurley and Wellfleet Elementary School Principal Mary Beth Rodman “are committed to in-person lockdown drills moving forward,” said Hurley.
Lockdown procedures are evaluated and amended following each drill.
“Finally, to ensure schools are prepared to proactively handle the threat of an intruder or active shooter,” said Hurley, “all staff and students are and will continue to be trained in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) by members of the police department this fall.”
Earlier this summer, the Cape Cod Regional Law Enforcement Council, made up of the region’s police chiefs, met with the Assembly of Delegates Standing Committee on Public Services to discuss a possible request for $250,000 from county funds. The money would go toward training all 500 police officers on Cape Cod on how to respond to an active shooter.
That amount wouldn’t be enough to provide a comprehensive training program that incorporates incident command, tactics, and rescue response to get medics safely into the building, Yarmouth Police Chief Frank Frederickson said to the standing committee.
The aim would be to “look at the ground floor, that the average officer on the shift is able to respond as best he can,” said Frederickson.
For the request to be granted, both the Assembly of Delegates and the county commissioners would have to approve it.
Members of the standing committee told the Law Enforcement Council to put together a more detailed proposal with a formal business plan and budget.
The Law Enforcement Council has yet to discuss its proposal to the county commission.
Contacted earlier this week, Frederickson said the chiefs have refined the plans, “but there’s been no request to present it.”
The proposal was put on hold after two out of three county commissioners spoke against it at a recent meeting, Frederickson said. “They did not receive it positively,” he remarked.
At the county commission’s July 27 meeting, County Administrator Beth Albert brought up the Law Enforcement Council’s discussion with the Assembly of Delegates subcommittee. She told the commission she would ask Chief Frederickson to come and discuss the funding request for active shooter training if the commissioners were interested.
Pointing out that the region’s police academy was now going to be run and funded by the state rather than the county, and referencing the large deficit the county had to cover in last year’s budget for the academy, commission Chair Sheila Lyons and member Ron Bergstrom thought the active shooter training might also be something the state could pay for.
The active shooter threat is not something specific to Barnstable County, Bergstrom said. It is a state and even nationwide problem.
Commissioner Mark Forest spoke in favor of the county supporting police programs, but there would have to be a clear management structure in place. “The county sent the message to the police departments that it doesn’t want to do ongoing police training anymore,” Forest said. With the end of its financial support of the police academy, the county’s role is over, he said.
“At least, that’s been the message the county has sent to the police departments,” Forest said. “And I just think it’s a mistake.”
Chief Frederickson expressed optimism that there will be state money available for school security training, based on Gov. Charlie Baker’s Aug. 25 announcement that he will seek $40 million for school safety initiatives.
The Yarmouth chief said he believed considerable funding will go toward the Active Shooter/Hostile Event Response, known as ASHER, and money should be available for the region for training.
In the announcement of the school security initiative by the Baker-Polito administration, the ASHER program is described as “an internationally recognized standard adopted by the Commonwealth to promote a statewide model for an integrated active shooter and hostile response.”