More than 30 officers from the Greenwood Village Police Department visited Campus Middle School July 23 to train for the worst kind of emergency.
CMS turned into a different kind of campus for the day, as police officers trained to quickly and efficiently respond to an active shooter. Supervisors led about 35 officers through different drills and scenarios, all designed to improve response time and effectiveness in case of a dangerous situation. Officers who responded to the shootings at Arapahoe High School in December were on hand to talk about the best way to enter a room, navigate a hallway and climb a flight of stairs in an emergency.
"We train the officers on the building blocks to get them to the point where they're comfortable in a dynamic, fluid situation," said Greenwood Village Police Chief John Jackson said. "We must act quickly, we must be efficient and we must go immediately to the threat."
The session was the latest in an ongoing series of exercises for the department, all part of a partnership with the Cherry Creek School district to update security in schools. Along with four other police departments and three fire departments, the Greenwood Village Police department has played a central role in making sure that safety in the district is constantly evolving.
"It started with the leadership of Superintendent Harry Bull. He had a vision to pull the different agencies that service the Cherry Creek School district to get us on the same page," Jackson said. "For the better part of this year, we've had an active group that's been working on creating those coordination pieces."
That's included building a common vocabulary for emergency responders from different departments. It's also meant creating a new approach to mapping the district and marking district buildings. Police and fire departments now have shared access to key cards and detailed building plans – it all makes for a more comprehensive approach.
"We encourage the responders to come into the schools," said Randy Councell, director of safety and security for the district. "We want to get them in quickly. Law enforcement has all access."
Attention to detail was a key part of the training session at CMS. For over eight hours, uniformed officers stalked back and forth through the school's empty hallways and classrooms. They ran through specific drills again and again, prowling down halls in teams of five and six with unloaded weapons drawn. At the end of the day, the officers responded to a specific scenario carefully plotted by supervisors.
"We need to get better at immediately entering a school and working on the preservation of life," Jackson said. "We're going to go through plans that include the structure, the communication and the speed of an incident."
That kind of training can take time and focus. The Greenwood Village Police Department's nine-hour exercise at CMS was only a small part of a much bigger effort.
"Next week, we'll do it again," Jackson said.