SARATOGA SPRINGS — Dozens of members of the city Police Department took part in active shooter response training drills this week. The training classes were conducted at Saratoga Springs High School during the school winter break, from Feb. 17-21.
“Our entire department is involved. Everyone who’s not on vacation or gone for this week takes part in the training, said Saratoga Springs Police Sgt. Paul Veitch. “Probably we’ll have 55 or 60 go through.”
City police conduct the training sessions at least twice a year, in a varying number of locations. This week’s sessions marked the first time in a few years the sessions were staged at the high school.
“What we train here is for things that are school-specific. If we’re doing something say at SPAC, it would be more of a large crowd-mass casualty incident. This is more of a school active threat,” Veitch said.
Twenty-four shootings had occurred on K-12 school properties domestically in 2018, and 25 in 2019 that resulted in firearm-related injuries or deaths, according to Education Week – a self-described independent news organization that provides comprehensive coverage on K-12 education news, analysis, and opinion. The organization notes five such shootings – three of which took place in Texas and two in California – thus far in 2020.
Despite the high profile of school shootings in recent years, however, a study published in June 2018 by James Alan Fox and Emma E. Fridel, “The Three R’s of School Shootings: Risk, Readiness, and Response,” points to a more violent past than circumstances of the present-day. According to the report – which researched school shootings and mass shootings between 1992 and 2015 - schools are safer now than they were 20 years ago, and that shooting incidents involving students have been declining since the 1990s.
Local police started the trainings shortly after the Columbine High School incidents in 1999, Veitch said. The most recent training procedures involve having a rescue task force, which includes fire department medics, closer at hand.
“Two or three years ago they would wait for us to go in first then they would come in later and help. It’s slowly evolved; now they want to come in with us as soon as they can to help as many people as they can,” Veitch said.
This week’s training solely involved the city department, and the costs involved during the course of the training are all city costs, with no federal grant money provided, Veitch said.
The weeklong school winter break – with no students present - provided an opportunity for the training to take place at the school.
“We do not train active shooter with students,” Veitch said. “The school is responsible for teaching them lock-downs and what happens in their internal procedures and policies. For us, we focus on what we’re doing, we don’t include need to include them because frankly the school does a good job on their own.”