Labrador RCMP officers train for school shootings and public threats
© Derek Montague
A group of RCMP officers prepare to eliminate any threats during a school shooting training simulation in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The old Paddon Home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay has been closed down and vacant since 2010. But, between May 1 and May 2, the former seniors’ care facility took on many vital roles.
Depending on the scenario, the Paddon Home was a school, an office, a hospital, and more. In each case, there was a serious threat where innocent people were under attack. Often, there were gunmen involved, sometimes explosives devices. Each time, it was up to the RCMP officers to enter the building and eliminate the threat.
These scenarios at the old Paddon Home were part of immediate action-rapid deployment training, taking place for the first time in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
This training is considered vital in modern day policing, ever since the Columbine shootings and similar tragedies in North America.
“That training developed as a result of the increase in school shootings we saw,” said Cpl. Will McGinis of the Happy Valley-Goose Bay RCMP.
“So, the traditional response, if you look at the Columbine incident that happened, police officers would arrive on the scene, contain the scene and wait for special tactical units to arrive.
“Obviously, these situations happen very rapidly and there’s a great chance of loss of life, especially in an environment like a school, or a hospital, or an office building. So they recognized that (the traditional response) was not acceptable. Obviously, we want our officers to have slightly more advanced tactics and skills.”
This type of training has happened before in the province, often in St. John’s where vacant public buildings are easily available. Now, with Labrador Grenfell Health allowing the RCMP to use the old Paddon Home, 14 local officers were able to get the same training.
“That’s the biggest problem that we run into is finding a good facility to use. We were really fortunate that (Labrador) Grenfell Health was gracious enough to let us use the Paddon Home. It’s been a perfect facility for us,” said McGinis.
During the training exercise, the officers were taught the two priorities of dealing with such a threat inside a public building: first to eliminate the threat, and second, to rescue any victims.
The first group would go inside the building to deal with the threat. For the simulation, other officers would be dressed in protective gear, acting as armed hostiles.
The simulated combat inside the Paddon Home was done through using Simunition, which fires non-lethal projectiles, similar to paint balls.
The second team of officers would go inside several minutes later as the rescue team and attempt to rescue any victims.
“The big thing is to how to move as a group through the school as safely as possible and, as well, how to enter the classrooms where there may or may not be a threat,” said McGinis.
“The first priority is to deal with the threat inside and the second priority is to get all those victims out. As long as they do that successfully, then they’re successful with the course.”
On the afternoon of May 2, towards the end of their two-day training, the 14 officers’ new skills were put to the extreme test. They were given one of the more complex scenarios from the course instructors: a school shooting with three hostiles, along with some improvised explosive devices. The Labrador RCMP officers excelled handling this situation.
“It went really well, actually … all the officers are doing a great job,” said McGinis.
The old Paddon Home is located on the residential neighbourhood of Cook Street. The activity happening outside their homes often caused alarm.
The course instructors tried to make as realistic and stressful scenario as possible. There were often officers yelling, accompanied by the sound of gunfire and a blaring siren.
“God forbid this ever did happen, but it’d be one of the most stressful, most dangerous situations those officers will ever encounter,” said McGinis. “We can’t recreate that kind of stress but we try our best. And you’ll hear loud noises, you’ll hear people yelling to try and give them that sense.”