CALUMET CITY | Virtually as emergency personnel responded to explosions at the Boston Marathon on Monday, Calumet City police were doing rapid response training inside the Sandridge Fitness Center.
The Calumet City police played out several "active shooter scenarios" involving a single suspect and hostages inside the building.
"Since Columbine and (other shootings), you can't call a SWAT team and have everybody sit inside and wait anymore," Deputy Police Chief Dan Zorzi said.
In groups of four or more, police entered and secured the building as if responding to a 911 call. Fitness Center and Parks Department employees played the roles of victims during the event.
"It's an eye-opener. You never know what could happen," Angel Lozano, a fitness instructor who played the role of a victim, said. "It's their training but it's helping both of us, in a sense. We have knowledge now because we know how to cooperate and make things easier on them."
The scenario became more and more complicated over three stages. The suspect mimicked shooting several victims and placed mock bombs, including some modeled after ones found after the Columbine shooting. Zorzi said the fitness center was chosen because it offers the police a lot of different options with its classrooms, hallways and rooms of different sizes and shapes.
"We've had some pre-existing training that we've done in the past, but we do tweak them form time to time depending on the role players and the location," Sgt. Jason Menclewicz said. "We want to make it challenging for the officers because it's not something that's ever going to be easy, but we also want the officers to have a learning point and have a win, meaning they were successful."
Menclewicz is director of training for the department. He and other senior officers briefed the teams on what they did and did not do well at the end of the day.
Zorzi said the department does rapid response training annually. Monday's drill was one of three Calumet City police will do over several weeks. Every officer will participate in at least one.
"Today is just a refresher for a lot of guys, but we do have some new people who may have been hired since last year's training. And you can't practice this stuff enough," Zorzi said. "It just gives us an opportunity to work with each other. Even if we may not be on the same shift, we get to work together."