PLYMOUTH COUNTY– According to Officer Doug Mazzola of the Plympton Police Department, mass shootings, defined by the FBI as when four or more people are killed in an episode of gun violence, have a long history in the United States. Today, though, and in the past two decades, the frequency of such horrific incidents has increased markedly.
More and more regular patrol officers across the country have had to face-down “active shooter” situations, which according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are defined as an “individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and other populated area”. FEMA also notes that there often is no pattern or method to victim selection and that the events are unpredictable and may unfold quickly.
For these reasons, Plympton police conducted an active shooter drill on Saturday, March 12, along with seven other area law-enforcement agencies, including the Halifax Police Department, at a large industrial complex in Plymouth County. About twenty officers participated. The costly, but unfortunately necessary training, was incredibly intense and realistic, according to Mazzola, who participated.
He stressed that “interoperability” was a key term for police today, and such joint training drills allow officers to have the same mentality and skills necessary to fall in and assist in whatever scenario might occur, regardless of which department or agency the officer works for.
The training consisted of a classroom portion, emphasizing the history of mass shootings as well as current strategies engaged by police nationwide. They then toured the host facility, and began conducting drills covering multiple scenarios, including a barricaded hostage-taking scenario. Officers and volunteers participated as “victims”.
Police fired blanks and simulated ammunition, commonly known under the brand name Simunition, which has a dye to mark when someone is shot, in order to create as realistic an experience as possible. The blanks were of the same decibel as live ammunition, which, according to Mazzola, “really got the adrenaline going.”
“We’ve always had mass shootings, but Columbine [the massacre carried out by two teens at a Colorado high school in April, 1999] was a turning point for police, especially in terms of police tactics. It’s no longer surround the perimeter and wait for a SWAT team to arrive. We actively engage the shooter now in these situations, entering as quickly as possible,” added Mazzola.
The trainers were all certified by the Massachusetts Police Training Council and the curriculum used was similar to that used nationally by other law-enforcement agencies, he said.
Plympton and the surrounding area may have some small police forces, but they are highly skilled and trained. Recent incidents across the country have demonstrated that violent incidents can occur anywhere, but the residents of Plymouth County can rest assured that should an incident occur here, our local police are top-notch.