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Preparing for a campus crisis

Jackson Bell

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

someone else’s.”

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.”