Salem police train for threat at high school

SALEM – City police officers swept through a hallway at Salem High School with guns drawn Thursday – all part of an active shooter training exercise to prepare them if the real deal occurs.

“I think it’s the most important training we’re going to do,” Salem Police Chief J.T. Panezott said.

The guns were fake, no training bullets were used and there was no real intruder except for the occasional teacher who crossed into the cordoned-off area where officers practiced their moves.

According to Panezott, the necessity for this type of training is all too real. The stories flash across the television and cover the printed page all the time telling of the latest school shooting, violent workplace event or movie theatre tragedy.

Boardman Police Sgt. Michael Hughes said he’s “teaching officers what to do in such a situation from the beginning to the end.”

Hughes has been doing this type of training since 2000 and has been training officers the past four years from other departments in both Mahoning and Columbiana counties. He said the lesson he wants officers to take away from the training is “the essence of getting there and stopping the threat as quick as possible.”

Hughes and Panezott worked together for at least 10 years in the Drug Enforcement Administration and Panezott said they’re lucky that he came down to train the officers. There was no cost for the training.

“They’ve got to know what they’re doing immediately. We have to have a plan,” Panezott said. “We have to know what we’re doing.”

Even if nothing ever happens at Salem High School, he said “they’re going to use this every day.”

The police department routinely responds to calls of active alarms, open doors or burglaries in progress, requiring them to search a premises without knowing what they may find inside.

Sgt. Danny Green said the training was long overdue and Sgt. Karl Toy said “it’s one of the best trainings we’ve had. It gives us more confidence in our everyday job.”

Another officer, Patrolman Richard Miller, said the training gets everybody on the same page.

The training was done in two sessions to give all officers the opportunity to attend.

Patrolman Brad Davis serves as the juvenile officer for the department and works a lot with the school district’s administrators, teachers and students. He said the school officials were very excited for the police to train in the building.

Davis and Patrolman Craig Crider conducted some training with school district employees last spring on what they can actively do if there’s an intruder or some other type of emergency in their building.

The district itself has been working on measures to improve security, also, with both equipment and additions to the policy already in place.