PLAINFIELD — The police department here took full advantage of fall break this week by using Plainfield Community Middle School’s facilities to hold a training activity.
The department orchestrated a workplace shooting scenario in conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The drill began with a suspect entering the school and being buzzed into the main office. Once there, he got into an argument with a school employee that he had had a relationship with, and then simulated shooting her.
“This scenario is a domestic situation,” Plainfield Police Department Chief Darel Krieger said. “We are mandated by CALEA, our accreditation body, to do some sort of training once a year. Then we have to show proof of the training.”
CALEA is the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The purpose of the agency is to improve the delivery of public safety services.
The entire scenario was recorded and videotaped so the department could learn as much as possible from the drill.
“The recording also helps us debrief, so we can see how we could have done things better,” Krieger said.
Krieger is completing his first year as chief of police for Plainfield. He took the helm on Black Friday in 2012.
“When we do a scenario like this, we play it as normal as we can,” he said. “When we get a call for a shooting like this, the next call is for the captain of the uniform division for advice. If that person determines we need to send out SWAT, he will call myself or Major Weber to give the okay.”
PPD Maj. Carri Weber is the assistant police chief.
“In this case, Major Weber got the call and responded,” Krieger said. “It takes a while, which is one of the drawbacks. In some of the big departments they can have a team on duty at all times.”
During the training, Sgt. Leon Champine was the first officer to respond and was able to get the shooter into custody. He then became a very important person for the rest of the scenario.
“You see, since he was there at the beginning, you want to keep him close,” Krieger said. “After SWAT is called, then we put in a call to the PIO and get an incident command post set up.”
The SWAT or ERT (Emergency Response Team) is made up of specially trained officers who train together to become comfortable responding in a stressful situation.
Krieger said setting up a command post is not one of the strong points for the police department.
“This is something that is done very well by the fire department,” he said. “But it helps us to practice. We set it up as close to the scene as we can that is also a safe distance.”
For this drill at PCMS, the command center was set up at Harding Street and Stafford Road, right in front of Maple Hill Cemetery.
A PIO or public information officer works with the officials on duty to communicate with the media.
“Once we have the building cleared, we send in detectives and they sort out the details,” Krieger said. “They then work with the PIO to release the information. This is why the information in the initial press releases can be so vague. Especially if there is a shooting, we would want to notify next-of-kin.
“If there was a hostage situation, we have two officers trained in negations: Carri (Weber) and Jill (Lees).”
Capt. Lees is one of the department’s PIOs.
Krieger said doing a drill like this one can take a lot of time because personnel know it’s a simulation.
“Since people know, it’s hard to get them in high gear,” he said. “It would be nice if only a few people know, but as soon as we pass out the fake guns, they would know. And since we did this year at the school, we had to let a lot of people know.
“So they did know this was just practice. But we still learn a lot of things from an exercise like this.”