Members of local law enforcement and fire agencies on the move during active shooter training at Scotts Valley High.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)
Civic Life

‘An evolution in public service’: 40 local law enforcement, fire agencies gather for shooter training

More than 40 local law enforcement and fire departments wrapped up eight days of training this week at Scotts Valley High School that saw more than 500 personnel and dozens of community volunteers prepare for active shooter situations. Here’s what Lookout’s Kevin Painchaud saw and heard.

Personnel from more than 40 Santa Cruz County law enforcement and fire agencies converged on Scotts Valley High School over the past week to train for an active shooter situation police see as virtually inevitable.

The focus was on tightening coordination between police, who would be tasked with dealing with and potentially neutralizing a shooter in the first wave of response, and fire agencies, who would be right behind and needed to help with casualties.

Battalion Chief Chad Akin, who is in charge of training and safety for the Central. Fire District of Santa Cruz County, called the effort that started at UC Santa Cruz “an evolution in public service.”

“We’re here to support law enforcement,” Akin told Lookout’s Kevin Painchaud in explaining the role of fire agencies in an active shooter event, whether at a local high school or similar to the mass shooting that killed 10 at a San Jose light rail yard in May. “Initially we’ll go in with local law enforcement teams to stabilize patients, and then our next job is to get them out and where they need to be. So it’s a large, large coordinated effort that’s happening simultaneously. But we can’t do anything unless law secures the area.”

Nader Oweis, who helped pioneer this coordinated training when he was UCSC police chief and is now chief of police at Sonoma State University, was on hand for Wednesday’s session at Scotts Valley High. He detailed a process that started with the UCSC force nine years ago and has grown to include more than 40 agencies, from area California Highway Patrol personnel to small volunteer fire departments in more rural areas of Santa Cruz County.

“I’ve got 35 to 40 dedicated instructors from day one,” Oweis said, “put their heart and soul, worked with us, believed in this, understood the need, did the research, helped to get this class certified from the law-enforcement side.”

Oweis and Mary Garcia, the interim police chief at UCSC, were also quick to thank community volunteers, including the 30 to 45 who each day played a variety of roles in the drills that took over the Scotts Valley High campus.

“Just call the UC Santa Cruz Police Department,” Garcia said of her advice to anyone interested in volunteering for future training sessions. “I can refer you to the right person and start planning.”

PHOTOS: See more of what Kevin saw this week at Scotts Valley High School: