WENATCHEE — Armed with bright blue training pistols, Wenatchee Police practiced active shooter scenarios Wednesday at Wenatchee High School.
State Corrections officers played the roles of victims and suspects while police officers secured the training scene in the school, which was empty for the summer.
“Responding to one of these active scenes of violence calls, we want our officers already to have experienced some of that response so that it’s not the first time,” said Wenatchee Capt. Edgar Reinfeld. “They get there, they are prepared to deal with the situation and take some of those actions that we want to do.”
The training also familiarizes officers with current policies, he said. Officers are taught that they may enter the scene alone, and then other officers can enter as they arrive.
“Establishing how we may communicate with each other and how we may get along through that is other stuff that’s accomplished,” Reinfeld said of the training.
About a half-dozen officers trained in several scenarios in teams of three to five. They were armed with blue training pistols loaded with simulated ammunition.
“If we’re hearing gunfire, that’s one (stimulus) that’s going to drive us to that specific location, so that’s our biggest thing is having something telling us where the bad guy is so we can go deal with it,” said Officer Cory Bernaiche, who helped lead the active shooter training. “And then if it’s quiet and we don’t know where he’s at, we kind of slow things down a little bit and we go into more of a search mode.”
Exposure to high-stress scenarios in training can help prepare them for the worst, Reinfeld said.
“It increases officer survivability, it reduces our response time, and it gives officers some of the physical and mental pictures that they need to actually take care of the problem when it happens live,” Reinfeld said.
Prior to active shooter training, officers practiced takedowns and handcuffing techniques.
“So if we train in certain techniques for nice fluid takedowns, there’s a lot less risk to just an officer just outright striking somebody and knocking them out and putting them in cuffs,” said Detective Erik Bakke. “We try and pick techniques that cause the least amount of damage to both the officer and the suspect.”
Defensive tactics instructors like Bakke take yearly courses at the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Center in Burien. They pass on what they learned to WPD officers at bi-monthly training sessions.
“The hand-to-hand stuff, that’s the most common use of force,” Bakke said. “I mean, every day you have to handcuff someone to take them to jail or even just for security reasons, place them in handcuffs and sit them down.”