RCMP members train to deal with active threats

Gary Kean gkean@thewesternstar.com
Published on February 28, 2014

Const. Desmond Mollon hopes he never has to put what he’s learned the past two days to use.

Still, it is crucial that police officers be ready to respond at a moment’s notice to any active threat to innocent lives.

Should something serious, such as a gun-toting person in a mall or school or an explosive that could go off in a public place, happen in Corner Brook on Mollon’s shift, it could be him trying to divert the attention of the threat away from civilians in the line of fire.

Mollon was one of 14 RCMP officers who began two days of the police force’s Immediate Action Rapid Deployment training in the city Thursday. Another 16 officers completed their two-day training Wednesday.

The officers first learn the tactical theory involved in initially encountering the threat. Then, they practice scenarios designed at defusing the situation and getting the innocent people, some of whom may be injured already, out of harm’s way.

“You have to be prepared because you never know,” said Mollon during a break in the training. “You always have to be prepared for the unknown and the potential is always there. Hopefully, it’s something we never have to deal with but, in the case it should happen, we are going to try and get as many officers ready as possible.”

Police forces used to have special emergency response teams who would be called in to deal with such serious incidents.

That usually meant the patrol officers on regular shift duty that day, and likely the first to respond to the scene, would only contain the situation until the specialized officers showed up.

Every second counts when someone is shooting at people or when a bomb could go off at any moment. So, the RCMP is in the process of training every single one of its members to do what they can to help get people to a safe place right away, if possible.

Cpl. John Dawson, lead instructor with the RCMP’s tactical training section, said there is usually around only a 15- to 20-minute window to deal with an active shooter in a public place.

“So, we have to form up a team of usually the frontline members working on the shift ... to go in, locate the active threat and take that threat off the innocent lives that have nothing with them and put (the threat) on us,” said Dawson.

Dawson did similar training for western Newfoundland members in Stephenville last May. So far this year, the RCMP has also conducted sessions in Clarenville and Grand Falls-Windsor.

The two sessions in Corner Brook were done at Academy Canada, with the school’s administration agreeing to let the officers use the facility in the evenings when students and staff had gone for the day.

The officers use training pistols that fire simulated rounds akin to paintball pellets and inert sprays of a soapy substance to simulate pepper spray. They also practice what’s called a Seal Team Carry, which involves removing a person away from the active threat.

“The school was great, allowing us to use these facilities ... We have lots of movements and we are not just in one location, with room entries and shooting simulated rounds,” said Dawson.