Guns were drawn and suspects captured Sunday in a Suffolk County police drill designed to protect students and teachers against a rogue shooter at a school.
It's part of the police department's approach of preparing a response in case a school or mall is besieged by someone armed with a gun. The department has been training officers at the locations during off hours.
"Historically, the shooter has done their homework," police Officer Frank Faivre, the lead trainer, said Sunday.
Members of the Suffolk County Emergency Services Section on Sunday trained officers from several precincts as well as members of the highway patrol and marine bureau.
The purpose of the training drill at Miller Place High School was to familiarize the officers with the layout of the school and get tactical training in case of a real-life shooting, Lt. Kevin Burke, an officer with the Emergency Services Section, said.
Suffolk police began stepping up their training in January 2013, shortly after a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., killing 20 children, six adults and himself.
The drills are conducted at middle schools and high schools across Suffolk. Police also have trained at the South Shore Mall in Bay Shore and the Smith Haven Mall in Lake Grove. Their next training exercise is planned for April 27 at Deer Park High School, Burke said.
Patrol officers are briefed first on a possible scenario and then they are trained on how to get to the shooter first and as safely as possible.
Burke said officers from all seven of the department's precincts are being trained.
Faivre, the lead trainer, said first responders are at a disadvantage when they arrive at the scene if they don't know the layout of the location.
But not so for the shooter, Burke said. "They know where they are going to go and where they are going to hide," he added.
Not only do the officers familiarize themselves with the interiors of the schools and malls, they also are trained to engage the shooter as soon as possible.
Burke said the drill was for police only, and that the school district has its own safety protocols in place. "We all have kids and you're not going to find a group that feels stronger about this," Burke said. "We would need to stop the shooter."School districts across Long Island, New York State and the country remain focused on the reinforcement of safety protocols and emergency preparedness, Marianne Higuera, superintendent of the Miller Place School District, said by email.