COVER: Gov. Rick Perry and other officials brief the media at Fort Hood on April 4, two days after a disturbed Iraq War veteran killed three servicemen and then himself. TEXAS TRIBUNE PHOTO by BOB DAEMMRICH
by LAUREL WHITE
Medill News Service
WASHINGTON — A law enforcement training center based at Texas State University in San Marcos may receive millions of federal dollars to support programs that train officers how to handle situations like the recent Fort Hood shooting.
U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday cited the recent tragedy at Fort Hood as he asked Congress to authorize a combined $15 million for “active shooter response training” and other officer safety initiatives.
“In the face of this urgent and growing threat — when the lives of innocent people are at stake — those who stand on the front lines need our full and unwavering support,” Holder said.
Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) Center is the national leader for active shooter training programs funded by the Department of Justice. It has trained more than 50,000 officers nationwide in the past decade, using more than $30 million in state and federal grant money, according to the center.
Active shooter training teaches law enforcement how to isolate, distract and neutralize an active shooter. It also shows officers how to effectively enter and move around a room when they’re handling a situation alone.
“The additional funds would allow us to reach more people,” said Pete Blair, director of research at ALERRT. “Obviously, we’d like to roll out the training to every officer we can reach – the more funding, the more officers we can reach.”
Blair said that ALERRT has a waitlist with more than 300 requests for training from 42 states.
In Woodway, outside of Waco, the current president of the International Association of Chiefs of Police said the potential cash influx would be a boon for first responders.
“We’re very much in favor of additional support for active shooter training,” said Yousry Zakhary, who is also director of the Woodway public safety department. “We must be prepared for the worst.”
Zakhary said he hopes that active shooter training becomes standard for officers, “just like learning how to drive a car or shoot a weapon.” He said that he has visited many officers who would appreciate additional training.
“ALERRT at Texas State has been on the job for years, through these recurrent tragedies, preparing law enforcement and educators in responding to active shooters,” said U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, whose district includes San Marcos. “Approving the attorney general’s recommendation for more federal funding would help ALERRT to do more and protect more by giving first responders the tools they need to react as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
Holder said the average number of annual active shooter incidents has roughly tripled since 2009.
“Each of these tragic events is a heartbreaking reminder that mass shootings are all too common,” he said.
Four people were killed and 16 injured earlier this month at Fort Hood when Spc. Ivan Lopez opened fire on the base. Lopez was among the dead. In 2009, 13 people were killed and 32 were wounded in a similar mass shooting on base.
The $15 million is part of the $27 billion Justice Department budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It is currently being debated by Congress, with subcommittee hearings set for later this month.
LAUREL WHITE reports for the Medill News Service, a content partner of The Texas Tribune, where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.