In rural areas where public safety officers have a broad territory to patrol, conservation agents respond to more than calls regarding wildlife and water resources.
According to Jason Braunecker, supervisor of the St. Joseph district for the Missouri Department of Conservation, people don’t always know that agents are called to respond to public safety situations. Handling potentially dangerous and violent situations, he said, calls for thorough training.
Last year, Braunecker participated in special training at Northwest Missouri State University with officers from Maryville Public Safety and the University Police Department. He went on a voluntary basis to meet continuing education requirements, but the experience convinced him that the hostile intruder training at Northwest that took place this weekend was valuable enough to be mandatory.
“When I went through it, I thought everyone needs to go through it,” Braunecker said.
The eight-hour training took place in Everett Brown Hall where agents learned about the history of active shooters and practiced response and rescue tactics in nine different scenarios simulating hostile intruders in the workplace and school.
According to MPS Sgt. Rex Riley, learning the history of violence is a vital part of figuring out how to neutralize and minimize harm.
“We learn from history, and it’s our greatest teacher,” Riley said.
Riley noted that reviewing the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 taught first responders that handling hostile intruder situations needed to be reconfigured. The incident at Columbine lasted more than an hour, which Riley said was way too long.
“We have to evolve with these types of things,” Riley said.
Riley said one of the keys to this kind of training is keeping it simple so that an officer recently graduated from the academy can gain confidence in these situations.
“This impacts the community,” said UPD Lt. Mike Ceperley. “And it’s important that we all know how to respond.”
MPS and UPD officers are two of four public safety entities that coordinate special training exercises throughout the year. The Missouri State Highway Patrol and Nodaway County Sheriff’s Office also work with the two teams to ensure that all first responders will know how to work together.
“It’s important that we have a consistent message on response techniques,” Ceperley said.
Collaborative efforts began in 2007, after MPS and UPD officers attended a National Tactical Officers Association conference.
“Here, we don’t have the luxury of high numbers,” said Riley. “You might have the first four guys on the scene all from different agencies.”
Braunecker applauded the collaboration between the two teams, and said he thinks it is vital to improving response times in emergencies.
“They have a great training program that is, hopefully, going to save lives,” Braunecker said. “Having multiple jurisdictions working together is something you don’t see too often.”