SLMPD has not had large scale active shooter training in years

Published: Jun. 21, 2022 at 10:32 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - It’s been one month since the horrible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

It was an unthinkable tragedy that police departments and school districts must think about every single day.

“In the real world, things happen in an instant, all we can do is try to prepare it,” said Deandre Davis, the head of Safety and Security at St. Louis Public Schools (SLPS).

He trains his security and teaching staff with hands-on drills.

“Once the event happens, muscle memory tells you exactly what you need to be doing, training is pivotal to that,” he said.

But when it comes to St. Louis Metropolitan Police (SLMPD), News 4 Investigates has learned the department has not had a large-scale active shooter training in six years.

That’s a concern for Davis. It means any patrol officers—who would be the first respond—haven’t had hands-on training in the schools.

“You want them to be in here, know the layout, be familiar, have some of that muscle memory already?” asked Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “No doubt. I think that would be beneficial for them,” Davis said.

St Louis police aren’t too happy about it either.

“I think it’s terrible actually,” said one officer to us, who wanted to remain anonymous.

Others said they couldn’t remember the last time they’d had active shooter training.

“I think it’s something we should look to do,” said Jay Schroeder, with the St. Louis police union.

“The problem is that since 2016, we have been in kind of protest mode since Michael Brown and Ferguson and so it was getting everyone geared up, so you have to try to pick what you’re training for,” said Schroeder.

And he says staffing shortages make training, and everything else, more difficult.

“That’s the real worry is not having the people there when you do call,” Schroeder said.

But News 4 has been along as other area departments have done other large-scale hands-on-training scenarios.

Though the department initially declined to do an interview, News 4 caught up with Director of Public Safety Dan Isom.

“The first officers on the scene should engage and go in. and you’re confident your patrol officers know that?” Trager asked. “I am confident they do,” Isom said.

He says their policies are clear and reinforced to the officers.

“The first two or three officers that respond to the scene need to know they need to go in and engage that individual, we don’t have time for SWAT and 10 other groups to respond and that’s the message we’ve sent,” Isom said.

Still, he says, they are looking to plan another large-scale training, often referred to by the acronym MAC-TAC.

The last one, in 2016, trained 950 of their officers. Recruits do active-shooting training in the academy and the department notes SWAT trains monthly.

In a statement, SLMPD said:

“Although COVID-19 limited our ability to conduct live, in-person large-scale exercises, we anticipate having these types of trainings continue again in the near future with most, if not all, of the restrictions put in place during the last few years being removed.”

Back at SLPS, Davis says they’re working on another training next month and practicing for every conceivable scenario. He says this because kids’ lives depend on it.

“If there is an active shooter in our building, actively assaulting people, we are not waiting for the police,” he said.

News 4 checked with St. Louis County Police. They said they just did one such training exercise last year.