In light of recent active shooting incidents in Aurora, Colorado, and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the NJ ROIC is reinforcing the need for awareness on what to do when an active-shooter incident occurs. For more information, please review the following resources.
On March 24th, 2013 TCNJ Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST) Amy Podolski answered a 911 cell phone call that originated from Atlantic City, New Jersey. A woman had stopped breathing and her adult son was desperately requesting medical assistance. PST Podolski calmly walked the son through CPR while simultaneously sending emergency life support to their Vermont Avenue address. For 15 minutes, PST Podolski continued her steady instructions through the background distraction of the caller’s hysterically crying young nieces. When the victim’s breathing resumed, PST Podolski instructed her son to lay his mother on her left side. Her breathing stopped a second time and again PST Podolski coached the son to begin CPR under her direction until paramedics arrived on the scene. The victim was transported to the hospital and returned home later that evening. In speaking to Campus Police Captain Tim Grant, the son credited PST Podolski with saving his mother’s life. “That woman (Amy) who guided me saved my mother’s life. She told me everything I needed to do. I just want to thank her. She was wonderful.”
EWING — Armed with modified guns loaded with soap bullets, a team of helmeted sheriff’s officers and campus police made their way up a staircase at The College of New Jersey, preparing to encounter a gunman, or at least someone playing one. They secured the stairs to the second floor of Bliss Hall and worked their way down the hallway toward a room where the sound of gunfire blared from a radio. They heard calls for help and pounding on the walls.“He’s shooting us!” a voice yelled from the room.“Hurry up!” another cried out.“Help!”Trailed by a State Police sergeant who was helping run the exercise yesterday morning, the officers approached a room at the end of the hall, checking empty classrooms and moving forward quickly as a team, just as they had been instructed.“We don’t have many advantages, because they know we’re coming,” Sgt. Chris Maskello told the officers.A man ran out from a classroom, screaming. He was unarmed, but in the confusion he was shot several times, red soap splattering on his sweatshirt.
The officers entered the room, finding several people sitting at desks and the killer crouched behind the teacher’s lectern, holding a rifle and clad in body armor. Yellow and red bullets flew across the room, taking down another two unarmed people and the killer.
The “active killer” simulations at TCNJ are being run by the State Police this week to prepare campus and Mercer County sheriff’s officers to respond to shootings in public areas like shopping malls and college campuses, State Police Sgt. Michael Ambrosio said. All officers in New Jersey must undergo such training, he said. It’s the second year the college has hosted the simulations.
New this year were GoPro cameras attached to helmets worn by the lead officer in each simulation and the troopers playing the killers. A college staffer also shot video of the simulations at same time. The footage was reviewed after the morning’s simulations ended.
“Going through this sort of thing prepares you for a circumstance you don’t ever want to deal with, and seeing the video element is great because you can critique the mistakes,” said college spokesman Matthew Golden, who was caught in the crossfire during one simulation as he lay motionless on the ground.
“They shot me when I was already dead,” he said.
Several State Police troopers also played the roles of innocent bystanders and killers armed with guns and body armor. All the participants were required to wear helmets and neck protectors, and encouraged to wear heavy clothing to avoid bruises from the soap bullets.
During the final simulation of the morning, a trooper acting as a bystander started playing a piano in the classroom, complaining loudly of cramped knuckles. As soap bullets flew he ducked out of the way, still playing his tune until the simulation ended.
A few minutes later, the officers watched the camera footage and had their performance reviewed by Maskello.
“We’re not here to bust anybody’s chops. We’re certainly not experts, but any critique is just that,” Maskello said. “You have to be confident in your abilities to get the job done.”
All of TCNJ’s campus police officers will go through the training sessions, Chief John Collins said.
“The idea is that if they have to do it in real life, they can react to it,” Collins said.
Ideally, schools would practice active killer drills with students the same ways they practice fire drills, so that students would know how to protect themselves in such situations, Ambrosio said.
“The guns are already out there. People need to know what to do,” he said.
As each simulation began, officers did not know how many active shooters or bystanders were involved or where in the building the shooting was taking place.
“You have to improvise and overcome because that’s how it is in real life,” Ambrosio said.
Each simulation required the sheriff’s officers and campus police to go from the first floor to the second and down the length of a hallway, verifying the safety of rooms as they went.
“It was very impressive, I think, for two organizations that haven’t worked together before. That’s a great job,” Ambrosio said.
In real-life dangerous situations, the college uses an alert system called Send Word Now to notify the campus community of threats, Golden said. It includes text message alerts, email, voice messages, a hotline and a message on the school’s website, Golden said.
“So we have always try to have a bunch of different systems in case one goes down,” Golden said.
The final day of training will be held at TCNJ today. Collins said he hoped the officers would use the experience as a learning tool.
“At the very least if practice is what you got out of it, you can’t ask for more than that,” Maskello said. “You can’t get enough of it.”
EWING — Dressed in red protective gear, Bill Bastedo looked like a giant Michelin man, or a kung fu warrior.
He was neither. Bastedo, a retired police officer, was playing human punching bag for a group of women at The College of New Jersey. He took plenty of kicks and punches, happily: The students were learning how to protect themselves and take control of dangerous attackers, he said.
“It’s very rewarding for both the students and the instructors,” Bastedo said.
The students at the class last Sunday included college sophomore Jen Sharo, who said the prospect that she could be assaulted some day had driven her to join the the college’s rape aggression defense program.
“I wanted to know that I’ll be able to defend myself if I had to,” she said, after fighting off Bastedo during class. “I feel so much better today. He’s a big guy… It makes me feel like I can actually do it.”
One by one, the students put on protective pads and took turns facing Bastedo in three scenarios. Each time, the students used their newfound skills to escape Bastedo to cheers from their fellow classmates.
“You panic for a second,” TCNJ senior Danielle Cassidy said. “But then you remember all your training and that just because he’s bigger then me doesn’t mean he’s bigger than my spirit. That’s what I kept telling myself.”
The course has been offered at The College of New Jersey since 2009 but has been generating a buzz lately thanks to changes such as a new instructor, a new class time and some word-of-mouth marketing. TCNJ campus police officer Jim Lopez, who started teaching the 12-hour course in October, said he jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the program when the position became available.
“One of the things I like to do is I like to help, I like to teach,” he said. “I see that this is something I can do on my part to help students evolve and become better people.”
The program, a basic self-defense course for women, takes place over four 3-hour Sunday classes. It is open to anyone but students get priority, Lopez said.
The class begins with Lopez showing students basic skills and then helps them improve, aiming to teach them something they never learned before, he said.
Lopez was minimally involved in the program for years, he said. When he became the teacher, he jumped in by telling everyone he saw about the course, he said.
“Part of my job as campus police officer is I constantly walk the halls like a school resource officer,” he said. “So I always bring up the course.”
Lopez has been averaging 10 students per class, he said, and was recently asked by a sorority to run a one-day class for its members.
“By word of mouth, students are starting to learn about this program more,” he said “Now they’re more interested.”
Lopez, who on Sunday was teaching the last session of the most recent class, said he sees his students gain “a lot of self-confidence” during the course.
“The students themselves tell me, when they first start this class, that they’re a little bit nervous,” he said. “They’re a little bit nervous about today’s last and final exercise. But come the final exercise, they realize that they have it in themselves to do it.”
The final class is designed to be as close to the real experience of an assault as possible, Lopez said. Students suited up with pads on Sunday and went through a series of real-life scenarios to test their new skills.
To make the experience all the more realistic, Lopez brought in Bastedo, who the students had never seen before, to play the role of assailant.
Bastedo, a recently retired West Windsor police officer, said he earned his rape aggression defense or RAD certification through his current employer, Princeton HealthCare System, which runs some programs at Princeton University.
“The hospital has me go over to the university to run simulations or teach,” he said.
“They’re trying to team up with The College of New Jersey and help out with RAD also.”
Bastedo said he puts on the “red man suit” and plays the aggressor occasionally to help students use their skills and prepare for a potential future attack.
TCNJ’s campus is relatively safe, but students may encounter a situation elsewhere where they need their new skills, at home home or while traveling in unfamiliar places, Lopez said. “It’s good to be safe wherever you are,” he said.
He said he hopes to expand the program beyond the entry-level course offered at the college, bringing in other officers and starting courses for children and senior citizens.
Lopez’s students praised his dedication to the course and the confidence he helped them develop in handling tough situations. Sophomore Vicki Yang said past experiences have shown her the importance of knowing how to defend yourself.
“I got mugged before,” she said. “Now I feel much more protected. Now I’m ready to go.”
David Karas/The TimesA TCNJ Campus Police vehicle is parked at the station on Sunday
Nine police officers at The College of New Jersey were honored for saving lives, catching crooks and investigating crimes during a ceremony in West Long Branch on Wednesday, the campus police department said.
The awardees recognized by the New Jersey College and University Public Safety Association included Sgt. Ray Scully and officer John Turner, who revived a female student who collapsed in a bathroom in October after injecting heroin, the college said in a news release.
Sgt. Michael Bell received an award for his dedication over his career. In 2009 he saved the life of a 6-year-old who had a severe allergic reaction and stopped breathing, and he revamped the department’s crime reporting, the release said.
Detective Christopher Russomanno, officers Bobby Villa and Julia Verwers, and Ewing officer Jeffrey Caldwell were recognized for catching a man who fled to a college parking deck after severely beating his girlfriend last June, police said. Villa was injured while arresting the man.
Russomanno and Verwers and Detective Matthew Norton of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office were also honored for their investigation of a reported sexual assault in late August that was found not to have occurred.
The association honored Sgt. C. Matthew Mastrosimone and officer Michael Sedwick for arresting a man allegedly attempting to shoplift $400 in textbooks from the campus bookstore. The man had prior arrests on four other state college campuses for similar offenses.
Russomanno and Bordentown Township Detective Salvatore Guido were recognized for their efforts in identifying a former TCNJ employee who used a campus-owned computer to commit identity theft.As part of the ceremony, TCNJ Police Chief John Collins was installed as president of the association for a one-year term.
Contact David Karas at (609) 989-5731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
TCNJ Security Officer Marcos Garcia received the award for “Outstanding Performance” from the world’s largest educational organization for security professionals, ASIS International (formerly the American Society for Industrial Security).
Garcia received the award at the Central Jersey Chapter of ASIS International’s annual Law Enforcement & Private Security Appreciation Luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 29 at Pierre’s Restaurant in Monmouth Junction.
According to Frank Halpin, chairperson of the chapter, this event offers the Central Jersey Chapter the opportunity to recognize those law enforcement and Security Professionals who have committed an act of valor, meritorious service, or have contributed to the enhancement of public/private sector cooperation during the past year.
“We are very proud of Officer Garcia’s selection for this award,” said John M. Collins, chief of police and director of campus security at TCNJ. “ASIS International is the preeminent professional organization in the security industry and Officer Garcia’s selection to be honored by the New Jersey Chapter is a testament to his dedication to duty and the professionalism and enthusiasm he brings to his job here at The College of New Jersey.”
According to Collins, Captain Tim Grant nominated Garcia for the award in recognition of Garcia’s distinguishing professionalism and volunteerism.
“Security Officer Garcia raised funds for The New Jersey Special Olympics and in June of 2011, participated in their annual Torch Run. Each year he takes part in the student versus campus police 3V3 Basketball Tournament. Security Officer Garcia provides physical security at the residence halls, provides safety escorts across campus, patrols larger events from the vantage of a Segway, and provides security for the entire campus on his bicycle patrol,” wrote Grant in his nomination.
“I thank God first for the opportunity that he gave me to be alive and in good health,” Garcia said in reference to his award. “I thank my bosses from Campus Police Department Chief Collins, Captain Grant and Lt. Lopez for supporting me 24/7, and thank my coworkers, security officers … as well as the other police officers and of course every student.”