MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — “We take it for granted, now, that we’re safe,” police Chief Rodney Muterspaw said Monday afternoon. “But in essence, we’re not always safe. You need to understand that.”
Muterspaw and other Middletown officers spent the afternoon leading a crowded City Council chamber through the active-shooter training they’ve routinely given to schools, businesses and churches. Dozens of attendees watched from rounded rows of audience seating as officers taught them the ALICE response system — alert, lockdown, inform, counter, evacuate — and encouraged them to stay aware of possible exits no matter where they go.
“We started doing this last year because there’s been a change in times,” Muterspaw told reporters later. “It seems like every time you turn on the news, there’s something going on.”
The most recent something, the one that galvanized Middletown police to provide Monday’s free public training, was the Aug. 4 mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio’s Oregon District. Shooter Connor Betts opened fire on a crowd of late-night bargoers, killing nine before police fatally shot him seconds later.
Maj. David Birk said Betts’ decision to wear body armor during the attack wasn’t unusual among mass shooters.
They arrive more prepared than they used to, he told the crowd: “These guys are taking active steps to bring the fight to the police.”
Birk worried about fire alarms as a child, he said. Constantly. His school years were punctuated by fire drills: Lessons on how to get out of the building in a hurry, how to keep calm with the smell of smoke at your back, and where to go afterward.
Children today face a new kind of threat. So do bargoers, Walmart shoppers, people in movie theaters, people in churches and people attending outdoor festivals.
He said he wants to make sure people in Middletown are all as prepared as possible for the worst-case scenario.
“If something does happen in the city of Middletown, everyone is trained the same,” he said. “They know what the steps are. They know how to act. That way it makes our response a little bit easier.”