BY MAIRE O’NEILL
There were 61 active shooter events across the nation in 2021, according to the FBI, up 96.8 percent from 2017 and 52.5 percent from 2020. These incidents have left communities throughout the world stunned, horrified and sad. No end is in sight for the deaths and injuries and there is no way to predict when or where the next incident will occur.
Law enforcement training for active shooter incidents has evolved during these years and the Los Alamos Police Department under the direction of Cmdr. Daniel Roberts and Sgt. Chris Ross has been keeping up with the changes. Roberts and Ross along with other LAPD officers over the years have conducted training for LAPD, Los Alamos Public Schools, UNM-LA and Los Alamos National Laboratory as well as numerous local businesses.
The Los Alamos Reporter reached out to LAPD Chief Dino Sgambellone this week about the Department’s program and asked him some of the questions she has heard since the tragic May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Asked if active shooter training is held at LAPD annually for all officers, Sgambellone responded that there’s not a full-scale training on site but that in many ways the answer is yes.
“Active shooter training is supported by our Firearms Unit, De-escalation and Use of Force training, Hostage Negotiation and Tactical Dispatcher training, virtual reality training, CPR and other training such as the use of tourniquets, TACT Team and Bomb Team training, and emergency management exercises,” he said. “COVID derailed some of the on-site training.”
Sgambellone said LAPD has had several on-site trainings that lasted a full day, including active shooter response at the Middle School, incorporating Los Alamos Fire Department personnel into an active scene at UNM-LA, training with LANL security and re-unification training in partnership with LAPS.
LAPD’s training is based on the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT), which the FBI adopted in March 2013 as a national standard for active shooter response that would ensure officers arriving on the scene would understand how others are trained to.
School Resource Officers (SROs) have become a familiar and welcome addition to Los Alamos schools throughout the years. Sgambellone said the Community Liaison Unit under Sgt. Ross has an authorized strength of five with a supervisor, an SRO at Los Alamos High School and Los Alamos Middle School as well as one for the elementary schools in Los Alamos and one for the elementary schools in White Rock.
Asked if unannounced inspections are performed at schools to assess security and other issues, Sgambellone said, “Yes, LAPS has, as part of their security plan conducted security assessments and we have partnered with them.”
Sgambellone said newly-hired officers who are not SROs should be made aware of the layout of multiple buildings including the schools through the Field Training Process.
The Reporter asked if there is an established protocol in the event that officers have to respond to an active shooter call at a school and how the chain of command would be determined in that instance, Sgambellone said the immediate response is designed to stop the threat,
“Therefore a Command Post is not initially established as it’s all hands-on deck until the threat is eliminated. Once that occurs, a Command Post would be established to control the scene, investigate the crime, provide access to the injured, etc.,” he said. He confirmed that in an active shooter situation, the object is to end the threat.
Asked if he believed kids are clear on the role of SROs. Sgambellone said based on the feedback he gets, the thinks the students view the SROs as much more than a police officer.
“Our SROs are trusted adults who are relied on by students and staff. SROs do more than security as well. They offer instruction including Safety Town and DARE and our objective is to expand their role to include a citizen academy and Explorer program,” Sgambellone said.
Taking into account statistics that indicate that in 93 percent of school targeted violence incidents, the student engaged in behavior prior to the attacks that elicited concern, the Reporter asked Sgambellone how the importance of notifying someone in authority when they hear something, is communicated to kids.
“Everyone can use the See Something Anonymous Reporting App to report any concerns 24 hours a day. The application is monitored by trained counselors who can provide support as needed and take on information. Information is reported to the school district immediately and to LAPD after hours,” he said. “Students and families can use this app to get help for self-harm or safety or report concerns about student safety, threats of violence or school attacks, bullying, dangerous behavior, or things like property damage. All tips are anonymous unless the tipster provides their name.”
Asked about the reluctance of students to speak up about what they see or hear, Sgambellone said that’s where the trust of SROs comes in with SROs seen as more than a police officer who is going to get a student in trouble, someone a student can trust to go to if/when they need to.
“That is one of the most important benefits of an SRO program in my view. We’ve had it in place long enough that SROs kids met in elementary or middle school are still adults these kids can go to as they navigate the challenges of young adulthood,” he said.
Sgambellone believes LAPS has made great progress in making schools safer with more work to be done.
“We have a great relationship with LAPS which has resulted in a number of positive outcomes. I think we need to continue our efforts, continue involving parents, staff, and students, and from a community perspective build upon what we have done to make things even better,” he said.
Asked if he thought not allowing anyone under 21 to buy an AR-15 style rifle would make a difference, Sgambellone said the thinks access to weapons is an issue whether the weapon is in the home, at a friend’s house, or is bought.
“I don’t know that there is a right answer for all the ways individuals can access weapons,” he said. Asked if there are firearms stored at local schools currently, he responded, “Yes”.
Sgambellone said COVID put a hold on much of the on-site active shooter training in the community but that LAPD has resumed its community program and begin to meet more regularly with partners which he said will naturally result in more training. LAPD has provided active shooter training for multiple businesses and individuals within the community and in other counties, including McCurdy School in Espanola.
Asked if there are online resources he recommends for people to read, Sgambellone said every school has a Safe Schools Plan that is updated annually and submitted to the Department of Education for approval.
“They do not publish the details of these plans for safety reasons; they use a Standard Response and Reunification Protocols across the district,” he said, adding that general information about these protocols may be found at https://iloveuguys.org/The-Standard-Response-Protocol.html.
He also recommended:
- Protecting_Americas_Schools.pdf (secretservice.gov)
To view the FBI’s 2021 Active Shooter Report go to https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/active-shooter-incidents-in-the-us-2021-052422.pdf/view