BURNETT COUNTY -- Community police officers from Grantsburg, Siren, Webster, Luck and Balsam Lake participated in “Active Shooter Training” this week at Grantsburg High School. The school was empty while the students were away on spring break.

The officers were joined by game wardens from Grantsburg, Webster, and Frederic. The wardens add another line of defense in an emergency situation where every trained and armed officer is needed on the scene as soon as possible.

Officers secured their personal weapons and used fake firearms for safety during the training event

The event organizer, Grantsburg Police Chief Jeff Schinzing, said, “In small towns like ours, it is likely that one officer —or if we’re lucky, two officers — will be first on the scene of an active shooting. We might be there by ourselves for some time until officers and deputies arrive from other communities. The first minutes are critical, so we are here to learn the best methods to use in that situation.”

The police officers spent about two hours in the classroom to review the basics and talk about scenarios from previous shootings at schools and other sites. They discussed how to approach a building with a reported active shooter and how to gain entry to a school or other facility which in many cases will be locked down due to today’s exterior door security systems.

Police officers from several communities observed and participated in Active Shooter Training at Grantsburg High School recently while students were away on spring break

The officers also focused on how to communicate with school personnel who may have access to camera views inside and outside the school building. They practiced “clearing” hallways and rooms and learned defensive formations that groups of officers use when moving down a hallway in search of a shooter.

Free training

David Sohm, a Grantsburg resident and retired St. Paul MN police officer, provided the training through his company called “Mission Critical Concepts.” Sohm has been a law enforcement officer trainer through his business for 25 years.

Sohm provided the training free of charge to the officers as a way “to give back to our community,” he said. “I understand small police departments have limited budgets for training, so I was happy to help out. They are really good men and women and they work hard, so I was pleased to give back.”

Sohm also provided two recent, free training sessions to area church pastors and staff on how to prepare for a shooter or other disruption at a church.

Chief Schinzing said the event at the school provided enhanced active shooter training for the group to refresh and add to their skills. He is planning other trainings during the summer months before school starts next fall. The next training will involve the same officers plus Sheriff Department deputies from Burnett and perhaps other counties.

While Sohm led the training, his wife, Christine, talked to a reporter. She said the public often has a mistaken concept of law enforcement work, based on police show on television. “Real life situations are not like TV and the movies,” she said, “and the training process is different.

“In real life, the officer faces a wide spectrum of things that could be going on. It’s a slow, methodical, step-by-step process to learn and practice,” she said.

David Sohm added, “The objectives for today were both a start-up and refresher for active shooter training programs. They already have some training but wanted more advanced training in light of all the things going on today.”

Sohm continued, “We focused on tactics and techniques for safely responding to these situations. We also talked about meeting with schools, churches and businesses to start the conversation. The officers will meet each site’s contact persons and learn building layouts, entryways, etc.

“We spent about two hours in the classroom today and then about two hours of field training to work together and build their teams. Things like how to enter a building, clear a hallway, enter a classroom and clear stairways in ways that are safe for the officers and the people they are protecting and to eliminate the threat.”

Sohm also spoke with the officers about handling stress in a tense situation, how to recognize stress and use it to their advantage and not allow it to affect them so they can perform at a high level. 

He says he and the officers are planning a full day of training which may include range drills, live fire at the range and “force-on-force” exercises using nine-millimeter paintball rounds “with the goal of acclimating them to the stress.

“We are planning for an event we hope and pray never happens,” Sohm said.

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