GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Controversy surrounding the police response to the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas has West Michigan parents asking questions of their own.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom sat down with News 8 to discuss the department’s policies and procedures for responding to an active school shooting.
“I have gotten a lot of community input over the last week or so (saying), ‘We want to make sure that you’re getting the training, that you have the right policies and that you will go in if there’s a situation where our children are in danger,'” Winstrom said.
As the new boss joining the department from the outside, Winstrom said he reviewed the department’s training procedures after being sworn in earlier this year.
“I was very happy when I started to look at this when I arrived that (training) has not gone by the wayside here and that they are on top of it,” he said. “They train every year on it. … They’ve actually done training in Grand Rapids Public School buildings on it.”
When responding to a school shooting, GRPD officers are trained to act with urgency and take down the threat.
“If that (first officer on scene) hears gun shots, if they’re directed by children or teachers that the offender is in there, if they can go in, they can move in,” he said.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office trains its deputies to do the same.
“We are going to stop that threat as quick as possible and we are running towards that gunfire,” KCSO Sgt. Eric Brunner said.
Similar to GRPD, deputies undergo scenario-based training, where every second counts.
“Your officers have to turn that gear in their mind and say, ‘There’s gunfire, I’m running towards it because there are other people way more important than us that we need to help,'” Brunner said. “We’re going to help them most by stopping that threat as quick as possible.”
Both law enforcement agencies said it’s too soon to comment on potential mistakes made by police in Uvalde.
“Once this incident is fully reviewed and we get all the information out of it, I think that’s going to be an ideal time for the Grand Rapids Police Department to train again,” Winstrom said.
Winstrom said officers undergo the training at least once a year. The robust program includes training in Grand Rapids Public Schools buildings. The department also partners with the fire department to practice active rescue training.
Life EMS Ambulance hosted a field training for a mass casualty incident Thursday at Houseman Field in Grand Rapids.
The field training gives new employees with Life EMS a chance to practice emergency responses with mock patients.
The training wasn’t in response to the recent mass shootings but was part of their regular training efforts that ensure their crews are ready to answer the call.
“We put them through these trainings and try to make things as realistic as possible so that they are better prepared for if and when the time comes that they need these skills,” Patrick Cooney-Davis, a field supervisor with Life EMS Ambulance, said.