NORWALK – In a display of its commitment to constant preparedness and campus safety, Cerritos College hosted a large scale active shooter drill last Friday.
The drill took place from around 9 a.m. to shortly before noon. It involved Cerritos College Campus Police, Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department’s Norwalk Station, L.A. Fire Department, and various local first-responder agencies. Members of the college’s track team also participated, acting as victims, wounded, hostages, and civilians who might be caught in the crossfire.
Friday’s drill came mere days after a shooting occurred at the UCLA campus, claiming the life of a professor.
Reports indicate that gunman Mainak Sarkar, a former graduate student of the school, killed his estranged wife at her Minnesota home before making the long trip to UCLA, where he then fatally shot 39-year-old engineering professor William Klug. Sarkar then turned his weapon upon himself.
This was not the first time that the college’s police department had participated in a drill like this, however this was the first time that the college had hosted such an event. According to Cerritos College PD Chief Tom Gallivan, Friday’s drill had no correlation with the tragedy at UCLA.
“This has been in the planning stages for several months, probably since February,” said Gallivan. “Something this size – a training exercise – can’t be put together overnight. It’s a lot of moving parts.”
The drill was split up into two separate scenarios, both similar in nature, for two separate groups of officers and deputies. However, due to the intentional random nature of the activity, both played out differently. Clearer weather conditions during the second drill allowed for the participation of a surveillance helicopter; a luxury that the first group did not have.
According L.A. Sherriff’s Department Captain Curtis Jensen, upon entering the training, officers and deputies have no knowledge of what awaited them. The only information given is that of an active shooter call, and what is given over their radios; the manner in which the officers react to what they encounter occurs in real time.
“What happens in a situation like this is the deputy sheriff's or the officers who are going to be the people responding, they know that they are in an active training scenario, [but] they don’t know anything else,” said Jensen. “…what you’ll see – you’ll see breakdowns, you’ll see things slow up, you’ll see things get chaotic because people on the fly are trying to figure out what it is they’re doing or how they’re going to neutralize that threat.”
During training, it is officers’ mission to use general training tactics and protocols to eliminate the threat to the active population. Jensen also noted that officers cannot prevent the threat, however are trained to stop it with as minimal casualties as possible.
Protocol’s continued throughout the entirety of the scenario, including the triaging of injured or deceased. Jensen said that the experience is just as intense for those who are playing the victims as it is for the officers.
Erica Davis, one of the volunteers at the drill, said that the simulation stirred up real emotions even though that she and the other participants knew that they were not in real danger.
“Because I know all of the people that were in the simulation, especially the people who were supposed to be playing dead, it was really weird seeing it happen at first,” said Davis. “…it was definitely really scary, just kind of thinking about it and watching it all happen.”
Normal school activity had concluded prior to the drill, and the campus was open with minimal staffing and students.