GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — As the Oxford community is left reeling following Tuesday’s deadly shooting at Oxford High School, Kent County Sheriff’s Office Undersheriff Chuck DeWitt says the incident will leave an everlasting impact on the incident’s first responders.
“Their injuries may not be physical, may not be the same, but they will be scarred for life,” DeWitt said.
Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard says his department’s approach of going in right away to de-escalate the situation — rather than setting up a staging area — may have saved lives.
“You saw some scenarios where the officers or deputies didn’t go in,” Bouchard said at a Tuesday night press conference following the shooting which left four students dead. “They staged or waited outside. After some of those scenarios were observed I made it very clear to our staff if they get there first, their job is to go in and neutralize the threat.”
DeWitt says his department would have responded similarly.
“It’s our job, our responsibility and our staff embrace that,” DeWitt said. “Once they got on that scene, they are not waiting, they’re actively pursuing, trying to identify that threat to prevent others from injury.”
He says the 1999 Columbine High School shooting led to an enhanced focus on active shooter training for law enforcement agencies.
“We’ve learned a lot from Columbine,” DeWitt said. “Not only is it our department’s efforts, but every agency’s focus nowadays is to be able to respond to these school related shootings, school event shootings, in the best way possible.”
KCSO staff undergoes regular training for active shooter situations.
“Even though they have increased, they are not frequent,” DeWitt says. “It’s those infrequent situations that really dictate and call for the need to be able to train and react when appropriate.”
KCSO school resource officers assist in active shooter trainings that local schools set up.
The department provides active shooter trainings, called Civilians Response to Active Shooter Events, for businesses and groups that hold mass gatherings to promote safety and security.
“Over the last three years, 5,000 people in Kent County have benefitted from that kind of training,” DeWitt said.
Most of the training, whether at schools, businesses or places of large gatherings, adhere to the principles of Avoid, Deny, Defend.