Expert: State, local police agencies have active shooter plans in place

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As agencies in San Bernardino, California work to uncover details about Wednesday’s tragic shooting, state and local agencies on the East Coast are also on alert – watching for any suspicious activity that could threaten the public.

Eyewitness News analyst Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Reginald Centracchio joined Eyewitness News on Wednesday to discuss the state and local police reaction to an active shooter situation.

According to Centracchio, local intelligence-sharing hubs implemented after 9/11, known as Fusion Centers, are always processing information and talking to other centers across the country – in hopes of getting the best intelligence to law enforcement on any potential threats.

Like those on the ground in San Bernardino, there are agencies at home that are equipped, both literally and procedurally, to field a catastrophic event like an active shooter situation.

“Locally, every police department has an all-hazards plan and they have an active shooter SOP – standard operating procedure,” Centracchio told Eyewitness News. “Stop the shooters, make sure that you’re keeping safe the best you can – any additional people in the near vicinity, make sure you’re calling in additional resources as you need them.”

According to Lt. Gen. Centraccio, “too many resources” doing the same thing during a situation can hurt an active shooter police operation. Centracchio said in training and exercising, each person has a defined role.

“It’s called the incident command system. One individual is in charge. It could be the local police chief, it could be FBI, it could be ATF,” he said. “There’s a discipline, there’s a protocol that needs to be followed to ensure that there aren’t some additional injuries that take place.”

Rhode Island State Police Lt. Derek Borek, an expert on active shooter scenarios, said the situations that have happened across the country in the past help prepare local officials for a similar situation.

“We can’t have the mentality that it’s not going to happen here,” he said. “We have to have the mentality that it is going to happen here – and we have to be prepared for when it does happen.”

Lt. Borek said the police have tools to help make the dangerous situations a little bit safer for responding officers.

“We have a Lenco BearCat armored vehicle. We also have shields that we utilize in those types of incidents. It used to be that SWAT would have the shields. Now they’re more accessible to people on the road,” he said.

State Police undergo active shooter training every year – working with municipalities and other agencies to coordinate roles in a response.

“We have different teams that would go in to assist. So say one agency is in a certain part of a building, we may respond and go to another part of the building,” he said.

According to Borek, a turning point came in 1999 after the Columbine High School shooting.

“Pre-Columbine, we never trained that the law-enforcement officers went to the threat. We trained that you waited for the SWAT team,” he said. “Today we don’t do that. Today we immediate response in there. Actually going into that building, into that gun fight and neutralizing the threat.”

Police officials in San Bernardino held a news conference Thursday morning. So far, 14 people have been confirmed dead and 21 people were injured when two gunmen, a man and a woman, opened fire during a holiday gathering at a social services building.

Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, sprayed the room with bullets, but police didn’t know if any one person was targeted. Both were killed in a shootout with police hours later.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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