Like many of us, I continue to reflect on the tragedy that took place in Florida where 17 young lives were brutally taken. I think about their families. I think about the students and teachers who were harmed, both physically and emotionally, from the horrors hey faced in what should be a sanctuary—a school. I also think about the first responders who, without hesitation, ran towards the danger to save lives.
In Oregon, we often take for granted the level and quality of training we receive through the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST). Unlike many places across the country, our Oregon first responders are offered comprehensive active shooter response training, which encompasses unified efforts by all our public safety partners in dispatch, fire/EMS, and law enforcement. On top of that, through collective bargaining, we are able to ensure that our officers and other first responders have the necessary equipment to preserve personal safety while saving the lives of others.
We’ve seen this focus on ensuring Oregon first responders have the training and tools necessary to address active shooters pay off in our own backyard, with many lives saved during the Reynolds High School shooting in 2014 and the Umpqua Community College shooting in 2015.
It is incumbent on our elected officials here in Oregon to ensure that our first responders continue to receive the training and equipment they need to respond to active shooters. But we can do more locally. We need to ensure that every city and county in this State has the funding necessary to adequately staff our police departments and sheriffs’ offices so that schools have law enforcement officers readily available to respond to active shooters.
And we can do more regionally and nationally. Oregon is in many respects a gold standard in how it trains and equips its law enforcement officers and first responders. Let’s use our experiences here in Oregon to help our neighbors and our partners in law enforcement across the country. Nationally, we should be focused on three key steps:
- Every law enforcement officer and first responder in this country should receive training to ensure they are ready to address active shooters at a moment’s notice.
- Every law enforcement officer should have the tools and equipment they need to engage an active shooter without hesitation.
- Every school should have ready and direct access to a law enforcement officer and specifically a school resource officer.
Our youth deserve to go to school without worrying about being gunned down in a classroom or hallway. Every parent deserves the comfort of knowing that their children are safe when they are at school. Our oath of office—to serve and protect—is a moral imperative for us all.