With no prior warning about the scenarios underway, answerers and dispatchers had to respond to calls as if they were the real thing.
The first time they made their way down the underground hallway, the Madison Police Department crept cautiously, stealthily training their guns on every doorway. The second time through, officers moved swiftly and purposefully, weapons at the ready. Both trips ended with a round of gunfire.
However, the shots fired were blanks, and the rifles toted were merely plastic props in the MPD's active shooter training scenarios staged in the Credit Union National Association Wednesday and Friday. The sessions, designed to ready the MPD for responses to different possible scenarios, gave all thirty officers a chance to face both rapid deployment and non-lethal action situations.
"What we're doing here is not so much looking at the scenarios [but] onsite training," explained West District Captain Jay Lengfield. "What's important is for all the officers to be aware of this complex, how it's laid out."
The opportunity to train in CUNA's sprawling Mineral Point complex was, in the words of one officer, "huge" -- both figuratively and literally. Not only does the facility's maze of security-protected hallways make a perfect stage for the hypothetical action, it holds a host of additional challenges.
"Aside from being in the scenarios, we're looking at other obstacles they'll have to deal with just by being in this building," said Lengfield. Based on the captain's description, the officers faced a veritable obstacle course.
The exercises also provided a training opportunity for the county's 911 call center. With no prior warning about the scenarios underway, answerers and dispatchers had to respond to calls as if they were the real thing.
In the first scenario, staged on one of CUNA's underground ramps, an "unwanted person" pulls a knife, forcing officers to disarm him via non-lethal shotgun. Not too bad.
In the second, an armed robber enters the building, forcing rapid deployment of officers down CUNA's long underground halls and up three flights of stairs, plus an escalator.
What officers weren't told was that they needed security access for locked doors almost every 40 feet and that their radios wouldn't work on half the CUNA campus, leaving it up to each group to figure out how to communicate with dispatch and with each other.
"They had to realize that it was really just them," said Lengfield. "How were any other backup officers going to be able to get there?"
Luckily, the MPD wasn't alone. One of the training's main goals was to familiarize officers with CUNA's security staff, Midwest Patrol and Investigative (MPI).
During the training scenarios, MPI accompanied officers down CUNA's snaking hallways, swiped them through security-protected doors and -- perhaps most importantly -- kept them in touch with dispatch and 911.
"What we're really looking for," said Lengfield, "is how the officers work with the security here, because that's very crucial."
If this week's training scenarios are any indication, "crucial" is the best word for the MPI-MPD symbiosis; one group fails, and they both do.
The first session's stealthy creeping turned out to be the result of an MPI radio miscommunication, and MPD officers in the second scenario turned the wrong direction, almost taking a wrong door.
But as Lengfield pointed out, "It's better to do this in training mode than when the real thing happens."