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Jerry Lottie demonstrates a response. Photo: Sarah Harris
Jerry Lottie demonstrates a response. Photo: Sarah Harris

SUNY Plattsburgh police train to respond to a shooter

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In the wake of last month's shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, colleges and schools are re-thinking their security procedures. At SUNY Plattsburgh, officers are learning how to respond to a shooter.

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Reported by

Sarah Harris
Reporter and Producer

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On a bitterly cold January day, students are still on vacation. But campus police are gathered in an empty dorm common room.

A grey cardboard target shaped like a person leans up against the wall. Fake training weapons lie on a bench.

Police conducted the drill in Wilson Hall, a high rise dorm. Photo: Sarah Harris
Police conducted the drill in Wilson Hall, a high rise dorm. Photo: Sarah Harris
An officer demonstrates a technique called "slicing the pie" – clearing the room with a firearm.

"What we're doing is a single officer response to an active shooter training for university police," explains Jerry Lottie, assistant chief of university police.

"You know I think it's just a measure to be prepared," he continues. "Be trained and be ready to respond with what's recognized as best practices in the field."

Although this training's been planned for months, it takes on new resonance in light of the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

"Since Columbine and then Virginia Tech and more recently Newtown there certainly has been quite a bit of focus on gun violence on college and university campuses," says Alison Kiss, director of Clery Center for Campus Security, a non-profit that works for safer college campuses.

 College safety practices have changed in response to mass shootings.

 Federal law requires colleges and universities to disclose their campus' crime records. They also have to have a written emergency response procedure that they practice every year.

Training weapons used by campus police. Photo: Sarah Harris
Training weapons used by campus police. Photo: Sarah Harris
Dave Meyer is secretary with the Northeast Colleges and Universities Security Association. He's also in charge of campus security at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where a student was shot in the college bookstore in 2009.

"It was very trying – it occurred within about a block of my office and the suspect fled," Meyers remembers. "We immediately went into keeping everybody here, having extra police people and attempting to lock down a campus with several hundred buildings and you know it was a scary time."

Back at SUNY Plattsburgh, officers say this is a technique they hope they don't have to use.

But assistant chief Jerry Lottie says it's best for campus police to be prepared.

"It'll also heighten their awareness to the issue and make them prepared to respond if we ever needed to."

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