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July 3, 2014

CSU Police offer ALICE training courses

By Timothy Simko

The Cleveland State University Police Department is offering a training program as a precautionary measure to prepare faculty and staff in the event of a school shooting.

“The bottom line is we can’t be everywhere,” said Ronald Morenz, captain of the Cleveland State Police Department. “So the more knowledge that the community can have the better.”

Brad Crane, program manager of the A.L.I.C.E. training institute, explained how the A.L.I.C.E. program came about.

Brad’s father Greg Crane—a law enforcement officer in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area—created A.L.I.C.E (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate) to increase the chances of survival in an “Active shooter on Campus” emergency situation. After the Columbine High School shooting, he wanted his wife—an elementary school principal—to have a better plan in case of an active shooter event.

Greg’s wife explained her school’s protocol for dealing with an active shooter situation. She would put out a “Code Red” over the PA system and teachers would enter the classroom, lock the door, turn out the lights, and sit in the corner waiting for police to arrive—which was the standard for many schools at the time.

“My dad just felt like that didn’t give them a lot of options,” explained Brad.

According to a recent report by The Huffington Post, at least 27 shootings occurred on or near college campuses in the past year. 18 people were killed and many were injured.

Despite these statistics, only two of the shootings were reported to have involved an "active shooter," in which a gunman fires and attempts to kill people in a confined area.

Greg believed that the reason so many were killed and injured in active shooter situations was because the targets were too easy. He and a fellow officer set out to create a plan based on strategies that brought them through some violent shooting situations. As they developed the strategies they would run the strategies by Greg’s wife, and she would tell them how they would work in a grade school environment.

Brad Crane emphasized that the A.L.I.C.E. program teaches more about countering a shooter in an active shooter situation, and that the course itself doesn’t teach fighting.

“I can’t teach people how to fight in a 45 minute presentation to kids,” said Brad.

A.L.I.C.E. instead utilizes the scientific theory of the OODA loop, which was created by John Boyd, a colonel in USAF and a military strategist.

According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. An individual that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby "get inside" the opponent's decision cycle and gain the advantage.

“For every physical act, a mental act went before it,” explained Brad.

Brad explained that there is currently a viral video, where a 72-year-old woman tried to hit the gun out of the gunman’s hand and delayed the shooter for about 16 seconds. This delay helped lead to the gunman being distracted and allowed for his would-be victims to stop him.

“We really try to take their mind out of it,” said Brad.

Brad Crane explained how the classes are taught by instructors is left solely to the instructors and the local economy, however the A.L.I.C.E. training institute provides various recommendations for the instructors.

“We recommend first and foremost not only educating the staff but the parents as well,”

A.L.I.C.E. recommends that grade school communities that utilize the A.L.I.C.E. program hold an open house for the parents where the local police and school district explain what is going on.

The campus police department’s variation of the A.L.I.C.E. program is designed to be an enhancement to standard lockdown procedures utilized on a traditional school campus. The focus of this program is an alternate response to the traditional lockdown procedures.

“A.L.I.C.E. teaches other things to do other than just hide,” said Morenz. “While hiding has its place, fighting back has its place too.”

Morenz cited a recent story published on lawofficer.com, where a lone gunman at a small Seattle university was pepper-sprayed by a student while reloading his shotgun and—with the help of others—the gunman was subdued.

“They [the students] weren’t A.L.I.C.E. trained,” explained Morenz. “But it’s the basic principle that A.L.I.C.E. teaches.”

Active shooter situations have also made Americans dispute whether to allow guns on campus. However, according to a 2013 survey of students by Ball State University, 4 in 5 students at 15 Midwestern colleges would prefer to keep guns off college grounds.

Ball State also released the results of a study on June 2 of this year confirming that a majority of college and university presidents want to keep college campuses gun free.

The study, “University Presidents’ Perceptions and Practice Regarding the Carrying of Concealed Handguns on College Campuses”, found that about 95 percent of the respondents were against allowing concealed weapons on campus.

The A.L.I.C.E. program has been in effect at Cleveland State University for a year. According to alicetraining.com, A.L.I.C.E. has been adopted by over 900 organizations, representing more than one million people across the country. In addition, many campuses are sending their police and security personnel to be trained in this program.

“It’s getting more popularity as people become more aware of it,” said Morenz.

Toni Jones, who is a campus police officer and is A.L.I.C.E. certified, is currently teaching the program. Thus far, there have been 27 classes taught with 458 total attendees.

“In teaching them I’m giving them tools,” she explained.

Jones explained that in her courses she teaches students and faculty through the use of various exercises, including having them barricade doors and an exercise involving throwing tennis balls at the students.

“I don’t lecture them I make them participate,” she said. “I’ve taken that material [A.L.I.C.E.] and made it realistic.”

Jones said that the techniques she teaches in her A.L.I.C.E. courses give students and faculty a better chance of survival. She explained that the fundamentals of A.L.I.C.E. buys students time, helping increase chances of survival.

“Your life is priceless,” said Jones. “There’s no amount of dollars that is worth your life.”

Jones described her version of the A.L.I.C.E. program as a lecture as well an interactive program, citing it as “a kinetic way of teaching.”

The program is currently voluntary at Cleveland State, however other schools such as the University of Akron have made the program mandatory—according to Jones.

Jones stressed the value of the program, explaining that in this day and age that an active shooter situation can take place anywhere.

“There really isn’t a venue that’s gone untouched,” she said. “To them everything’s fair game and it’s sad.”

An active shooter isn’t just limited to a single demographic either, according to Jones. She cited stories where teachers who didn’t receive tenure and workers who received a pink slip orchestrated an active shooter situation.

“There’s no description of an active killer,” she said. “People are driven over the edge and they can be dangerous.”

Within hours of the school shooting on June 10 at Reynolds High School, it began to circulate on Twitter that the incident was the 74th school shooting in the United States since December 2012, according to the group Everytown for Gun Safety.

However, this statistic is currently under dispute as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is a gun control advocate, founded the group. This statistic also included off-campus events that occurred near the schools and homicide victims who were not involved with the schools.

CNN recently dissected these statistics and ultimately decided that only 15 of these events could be defined as school shootings.

While the number of campus shootings that have taken place can be disputed, campus police feel that this program can help students and faculty be better prepared in the event that an active shooter situation occurs at Cleveland State.

A.L.I.C.E. sessions will be held over the course of three weeks starting Tuesday Sept. 3. All training sessions last approximately 90 minutes and will be held in Room 110 at the University Police Department located at 1840 Chester Avenue.

To register for a session, faculty, staff, and students can email a request to Shirley Lute, an administrative coordinator for the university police department, at s.lute@csuohio.edu. Enrollment for the A.L.I.C.E. sessions is limited and they will be accepted on a first-come, first-serve basis.