Police train to go on offense when responding to shooters

YSU police training

YSU Police Officer Dave Benko enters a doorway at an abandoned school on the city’s East Side as part of active shooter training.

The YSU Police Department recently participated in training aimed at helping officers respond to and stop an active shooter on campus.

Eight YSU officers attended the training inside the former Immaculate Conception School on Elm Street on Youngstown’s East Side. At the training, hosted by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, officers from YSU and other area law enforcement agencies learned tactics on how to prevent violence if they arrive at a scene alone.

YSU Deputy Police Chief Mike Cretella said the training, titled “One Officer Response to an Active Shooter,” is increasingly important given the number of shootings at university campuses and schools.

“It all started with Columbine,” Cretella said, referring to the 1999 high school shooting in Colorado that left 12 students and one teacher dead. “Ever since then there’s been an emphasis on being prepared. On the news, almost daily, you see there’s been a shooting in a public place. This training provides a hands-on approach. Every officer should go through it.

YSU Police Chief John Beshara added: “We’re continually trying to improve tactics and prevent any incident from occurring. We want to get there, put the threat down and try to stop the loss of a life.”

Cretella said police are now taught to respond differently in cases of an active shooter.  “We’re now training to go in alone,” he said. “You can take out an aggressor by yourself. At one time we had to set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team. Now, we’re going on the offense right away, into attack mode.”

Cretella said he learned about the three-day training course while attending a conference in Toledo. The instructor of the conference was looking for locations to host the training.

The training at the abandoned school included classroom instruction and practical hands-on mock scenarios in the building. Officers wore helmets, vests and groin and neck protection and used replica Glock pistols that fired training ammunition. During the scenarios, officers learned how to move through tight spaces and to clear doorways, hallways, rooms and stairwells.

“These types of dangerous situations are scary and fast moving, so officers need to be trained as much as possible to be able to handle them,” Beshara said. “It’s our duty to stay trained. You can have a great plan, but if the plan sits on the shelf and you don’t practice, it gets stale.”

Story by Mike Santillo