Walpole Police Practice Emergency Situations in WHS

Caroline Cohn

paintsplatter

On a Sunday in late October, armed Walpole Police Department officers scoured Walpole High School’s halls, searching systematically in diamond-formation for an intruder. The intruder, however, was a training officer, and the arms were paint-ball gun replicas of the Walpole police officers’ traditional semi-automatics.

These sessions were designed to teach the Walpole officers how to handle what are called “critical incidents,” such as a shooter entering the school.  School officials and the Walpole Police Department both felt it was important that the Walpole officers receive this training and become better acquainted with the layout of the high school in case of an emergency.

Training was done by the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council (Metro-LEC), a non-profit organization led by the chief executive officers of 41 law enforcement agencies whose purpose is to train municipal police departments in dealing with school violence and other emergency situations.

“Members of the Metro-LEC Team acted as the intruder, and the Walpole trainees would try to isolate them as quickly as possible and disarm the situation,” said Officer Songin, “using force if necessary.” The training was completed over the course of four consecutive Sundays spanning from the end of October into the beginning of November. Ten Walpole officers were trained each day by the Metro-LEC force until each of the 43 officers in the Walpole police department had received training.

To secure the school during the drills, Officer Songin locked all of the doors, posting signs on them indicating “police training in progress,” and he informed all sports programs and others who might be using the school during the training.

Most students, however, were unaware that any training had taken place, as the only clues left of the training were empty cartridges left in the trash and some remnants of pink paint on the walls from the paintballs. In addition to these small indications of their presence, the Metro-LEC team left something more valuable behind: a specially trained police force better equipped to handle emergencies at the high school. “It’s important for our officers to have this training,” Officer Songin said, though adding, “hopefully we’ll never need it.”