Shawnee Police Department offers free workplace safety training for business professionals

The Shawnee Police Department hosted a workshop on Wednesday to teach how to deal with workplace violence — or, really, violence in any public situation. Photo courtesy of Shawnee Chamber of Commerce

In a country where thousands of people die each year from gun violence, Shawnee police officers this week offered free training for residents and business professionals to learn how to protect themselves and others in potentially deadly situations.

The Shawnee Police Department’s community outreach unit and the Shawnee Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday hosted the workshop, titled “Workplace Violence Awareness for Business.” The workshop provided training on how to respond if a violent situation happened in a workplace or other public setting.

Officer Roman Madrigal led ALICE training during the workshop.

“The word that we use is empowerment, just to empower people to be thinking about what they can do, empower people to realize that as scary as it sounds, you could actually survive something like this,” said Officer Roman Madrigal, a member of the Shawnee Police Department’s community outreach unit. “Sadly, some people may not. But many, many more people can survive if they just… rather than freeze (like) the deer in the headlights.”

The workshop was the first of its kind for the Shawnee Police Department to host at the station. However, the department has done similar training at area schools, faith-based organizations and businesses.

Madrigal and Sgt. Craig Herrmann took a deep dive into ALICE training, a common protocol in dealing with active shooter situations — what are often called “violent, critical incidents.” And at times, they led thought-provoking conversations with the participants — who work for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, Johnson County Sheriff’s Office and the chamber — to draw insight from their own experiences and perspectives on preventive strategies.

“We just feel it’s so important for businesses to be thinking about these situations that can happen,” Madrigal said. “We don’t necessarily believe that it’s going to happen. In fact, it’s probably a very rare possibility. But preparedness is just so important.”

Sgt. Craig Herrmann asked participants to be open-minded when thinking about preparedness during violent, critical incidents.

Herrmann said he wanted to encourage participants to avoid a couple of things: Avoid thinking this could never happen to you. And avoid becoming paranoid and thinking this will most certainly happen to you.

“In fact, a lot of times, you hear people say it’s not a matter of ‘if,’ it’s a matter of ‘when’ this happens,” he said. “We don’t really believe that. We believe the opposite. In fact, we’ll tell you it’s probably not going to happen. Statistically, the likelihood of something happening to you wherever you are is pretty slim. However, that’s not a good reason to say I don’t need to worry about this at all.”

Notably, Herrmann asked participants to avoid getting political because the morning session was not about gun control or societal problems that can foster violent situations.

“We’ve had people in the audience, their political opinion of why we should not be having this conversation is kind of in the way of them realizing you know what, like it or not, this is the society that we’re living in,” Herrmann said. “We’re not here to make a political stand one way or another about the role of guns in society. We’re just here to recognize that they’re here, and there are people here that use them, and what are we going to do to take care of ourselves.”

Here’s a brief overview of ALICE training as a “proactive response” to violent, critical incidents:

  • Alert — Be alert when you hear loud noises, gunfire and/or screaming. Pay attention to text alerts or announcements over a PA system.
  • Lockdown — Barricade yourself. If you’re with others, then don’t huddle together, in case the attacker breaks into the space (when everyone is in separate areas of the room, it becomes difficult for the perpetrator to attack everyone). Find anything you can use to attack the perpetrator. Find alternate escape routes. Call 911 (don’t text or put on social media, the response time is drastically lengthened).
  • Inform — Pass along real-time information. Who is there, what is happening and how. When and where is everything taking place. Skip the why: That isn’t important in the moment.
  • Counter — If the attacker enters your space, interrupt the process of shooting/attacking accurately: Distract, throw things, even if you don’t have a weapon. Act.
  • Evacuate — Exit the building by any means possible. Leave belongings and vehicles behind. Move far away, to a rally point if possible (but not required if it puts you in danger again).