A Battle Creek police officer holds a woman who was armed with a knife during a training exercise Thursday.(Photo: Trace Christenson/The Enquirer)
They practice hoping it won't happen.
Battle Creek police officers are training this week in case they are called to an attack in a school or business, club or theater.
"We want to enhance their tactics and provide safety for the officers and safety for the community," Sgt. Chris Klein, Battle Creek Police Department training officer, said Thursday.
Police are using the vacant South Hill Academy at 50 Spencer St. for their annual active shooter training, although Klein said it's not just about shooting.
"We are seeing a tremendous amount of incidents around the world and tactics used by the suspects are increasing and we need to step up our game, too," he said. "We have seen a large increase in knife attacks around the world as terrorists are encouraging their members to carry out assaults with edged weapons.
"It's not just firearms, it's not just guns."
While many of the practice scenarios did include guns, Klein said knives were included.
"We like to include that scenario because an edged weapon can be very dangerous and we don't want officers to go into a situation that just because it's not a gun that they feel their safety is not in jeopardy," he said.
Klein said he and other trainers are always trying to change the practices to include recent information from incidents around the world and from the streets of Battle Creek so officers are prepared for different encounters.
But as events change, the most important training element remains critical thinking, Klein said.
"There have been scenarios where we would shove an officer into a room with one bad guy and a gun and there is not a lot of thinking that is going on. Go in and kill the bad guy and end the scenario."
This year's training includes multiple gunmen, distractions like scared innocent bystanders, dark rooms and malfunctioning weapons.
"We want to put them in a situation that is as close to real life as we can," Klein said. "Students in a classroom, people in a movie theater and dimming the lights. They have to sort out who are the good guys and who are the bad guys and they have to find the suspect even when there are innocent bystanders around. We can't just shoot into a classroom. We have to identify the threat and address that threat accordingly."
During the training the officers encountered multiple suspects running through the halls and hiding in classrooms, three suspects hiding in a single room, one person with a knife mingling with innocent people, and two gunmen hiding in a dark auditorium.
The officers are forced to consider and decide on different tactics within seconds as people playing the suspects are shooting simulated rounds at them.
Two Battle Creek police officers, wearing protective training helmets and carrying similated handguns, prepare to enter a classroom looking for an active shooter during training on Thursday. (Photo: Trace Christenson/The Enquirer)
"They might have to decide do I stay and fight or look for cover," Klein said. "They might have weapon malfunctions and they have to work through that and take the fight to the suspect."
Klein said they also want to demonstrate to the officers the effect of stress, including a heightened heart rate and adrenaline surges.
"We try to build these in, like an increased heart rate and the tunnel vision and auditory exclusion that goes with it," he said. "We are trying for more thought-provoking scenarios."
Klein said the trainers know they can't fully duplicate a real attack.
"But this is meant to force you to work through problem after problem after problem," he told officers at the end of the day. "The only way to lose is to give up. We want you to be fighting back and finishing it."
Contact Trace Christenson at 269-966-0685 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @TSChristenson
An officer engages bad guys during an active shooter training exercise Thursday. (Photo: Trace Christenson/The Enquirer)