By Kathryn Menue
BELVIDERE – The last week of March, the Belvidere Police Department, the Boone County Sheriff’s Department, the Belvidere Fire Department, and Belvidere/Boone County dispatchers trained together in active shooter/mass casualty situations.
According to SWAT Team Leader Sgt. Chris Washburn of the Belvidere Police Department, this marked the first round of combined fire and police training in an active shooter scenario.
Lt. Brian Harbison said that this was a great “foundation” for the relatively new collaboration between the fire department and the Belvidere/Boone County Tactical Response Team (TRT).
“This is the first step in a series of ongoing trainings,” Lt. Harbison said.
In total, there were four training sessions, two being held on Tuesday, March 29 and two being held on Thursday, March 31. These tactical training sessions occurred at Immanuel Lutheran School in Belvidere.
Sgt. Washburn said they usually use schools since it gives the officers practice in “different layouts” and it helps them learn the layout of each school in case an active shooter situation ever occurs within one of these facilities.
Plus, “schools work the best because there are times when no one is there,” Sgt. Washburn said.
This was the first time the active shooter training occurred at Immanuel Lutheran School.
At the school, the active shooter training focused on preparing law enforcement officers on what to do in an actual active shooter situation. The Belvidere Fire Department and the dispatchers were invited to the training to observe how officers respond to these situations and why they do certain procedures.
In the long run, knowing each other’s positions in an active shooter role will help these organizations communicate more effectively.
“Just opening these lines of communication is absolutely necessary,” Belvidere Police Chief Shane Woody said.
Sgt. Washburn said these trainings are a “building block process” and that they are important so that everyone “can have a total understanding of the elements.”
The trainings also incorporate past active shooter incident scenarios to teach each emergency responder how to react in a variety of open shooter circumstances.
For instance, the crews studied past active shooter incidents, such as the mass casualties at the Sikh Temple in Milwaukee in 2012.
“It’s a developmental process,” Lt. Harbison said. “We have to know what to do, so we can anticipate what’s going on in an incident.”
To ensure that the training is as effective as possible, Sgt. Washburn is hoping to have the training biannually instead of annually.
“Repetition is key,” Chief Woody said.
Currently, the training occurs every spring during Spring Break when no one is using the county’s educational facilities.
However, Sgt. Washburn would like to have an end of summer training session in August as well, before the students return from summer break. If not, then the police can always train in the schools during one of the holiday breaks in the fall.
A few years down the road, Sgt. Washburn hopes to expand even more, by creating a full scale training scenario involving the public and the schools.
For now, the departments will continue to collaborate in training sessions to ensure everyone is up to date on the tactical guidelines they must follow in an active shooter/mass casualty event.
“The types of tactics we use in this are unique,” Sgt. Washburn said. “Each person gets something different from it,” but overall, each officer understands what to do and what role everyone will play.

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