No shooter this time: Departments combine training for school gunman scenario

Posted June 28, 2013, at 6:47 a.m.
Last modified July 01, 2013, at 9:39 p.m.

BOWDOINHAM, Maine — Law enforcement officers glided down the hallway of Bowdoinham Community School, inert weapons positioned carefully in hands, darting from one room to the next.

Absent of children, safety officers imagined the school populated with elementar yage students, training for the frightening scenario of an intruder with a gun.

Officers from Brunswick, Topsham and Phippsburg police departments and Maine Marine Patrol joined Sagadahoc County Sheriff ’s Department’s multi-agency training which concluded Wednesday. School employees were also invited to attend and observe trainings.Cpl. Aaron Skolfield, a firearms instructor with Sagadahoc County Sheriff ’s Department, said this type of training was a first.

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“Everyone from the administrators on down to the guys working the road always talk about how we need to train together, because we’re a fairly rural patrol,” Skolfield said. “We’re all each other’s backup when it comes to serious calls,” and that includes an active shooter scenario.

The school shooting that killed 20 students and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012 was the catalyst that finally pushed the departments to do the training.

Skolfield acknowledged it sometimes takes tragic events to push along long and well intended preparations for such an event.

Maine Marine Patrol officer Matt Sinclair — who covers Wiscasset, Georgetown, Augusta and the Sheepscot and Kennebec rivers — said Monday he works often within Sagadahoc County so he appreciates the training.

“You can’t be overprepared for these sorts of incidents,” Sinclair said. “You hope you never have to use this training but if it ever were to happen, I want it to be second nature. … You want to just act.”

The goal of this training is to “work together so we are all working off the same sheet of music,” Skolfield said.

The four-hour sessions were also designed to teach the first responding police officer, regardless of who it is, to gain an advantage in a volatile situation rather than waiting for large numbers of officers to come.

“Be prepared for it and hope you never have to use it,” Skolfield said.

Bowdoinham Community School is one of several schools within School Administrative District 75 whose superintendent, Brad Smith, told The Times Record that the district has been working with law enforcement and emergency management agencies to update its plans and response to a variety of potential situations, “not just the horrific tragedies at Sandy Hook.”

The exercise at Bowdoinham Community School is one example of the cooperation and support the district has received from local law enforcement officials during this process, Smith said.

“It is helpful for them to train in a school setting, not only specific to that school, but in any similar setting with multiple rooms, hallways and large numbers of people,” Smith said.

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