For the past week and a half, Burbank Police Officer Brent Ambrose
has led fellow officers through the halls of Burbank High School in
search of teenage shooters and their victims.
Although the scene is a drill -- part of the department’s Active
Shooter Training program -- every officer involved in it will know
how to react to a similar situation if it happens locally.
“These incidents are occurring on a weekly basis across the
nation, and [Burbank Police] needs to keep up with new tactics,
because we are not immune to this threat,” said Ambrose, the
department’s lead defensive tactics instructor and coordinator of the
Ambrose and nine other trainers began instructing 16 officers per
night in the school’s Industrial Arts building Oct. 20. They will
have trained the entire department by the time they finish Thursday.
The training begins with an hour of classroom instruction, where
officers learn about the history of school violence and the
fundamentals of prevention. Later, they participate in three
scenarios around the building where trainees, using guns loaded with
blank bullets or paint pellets, hunt other officers playing the roles
of shooters, victims and innocent bystanders.
“Up until Columbine, patrol officers were trained to surround a
building and call SWAT teams,” Ambrose said, referring to the 1999
Colorado high school shooting in which two teenage gunmen killed 12
students and one teacher. “But since it took 47 minutes for SWAT to
arrive, the public’s reaction to Columbine changed the way we
He added that police need to know defensive tactics, since they
are expected to handle the crisis while waiting for backup to arrive.
“Bottom line, our department is one of the best because of the
training,” said Det. Kathlyne Speirs, who completed the Active
Shooter Training on Oct. 20. “Situations are evolving and changing
every day, and if we don’t prepare for it, it’ll cost us our lives or
Along with confronting school shootings, Ambrose said officers
learn how to safely handle explosives and weapons of mass
Burbank High Principal Bruce Osgood said he was eager to cooperate
when Ambrose asked to use the school’s facilities.
“Our No. 1 concern is school safety, and to that end, we work
closely with the police department,” Osgood said. “The more training
we have in place, the safer the kids are.”