Lock-in relevant after campus shootings

ASHLAND — In the wake of shootings at Northern Illinois University and Virginia Tech, administration and criminology students at Southern Oregon University engaged in drills Friday to learn the best way to get such a crisis under control fast.

Armed with paintball handguns, students formed a diamond-shaped "hunt team" and tracked down an "active shooter," played by Medford police Chief Randy Schoen, who led the instruction.

Cornered in a classroom, Schoen was quickly dispatched by the students, who had just watched a movie detailing the new approach to an active shooter: Don't wait for the SWAT team, don't give the shooter any time, but move forward — even if you're alone — ready with deadly force.

Part of SOU's eighth annual Lock-In, the training also gave criminology students hands-on experience in street and ground fighting, crime scene investigation, K-9 drug enforcement and defensive tactics. Participating law enforcement agencies included Oregon State Police, Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Central Point, Medford and Ashland police departments.

One segment tested students for fitness and stamina required for chase, fighting and apprehension of suspects, said Lee Ayers, an SOU criminology professor. Ayers said all of the 30 recent female applicants for positions with Jackson County Sheriff's Department were unable to pass the endurance test.

Ever since the April 16, 2007, shootings at Virginia Tech, SOU administration officials have been running "table-top" crisis command drills in which they establish lines of responsibility, communication and first action in the event of earthquake, brush fire, extreme weather or a shooter on campus.

The drills looped in city of Ashland and Jackson County staff, who ran table-top drills from their own locations, said Craig Morris, SOU vice president for finance and administration. SOU campus security also has run tactical drills with Ashland police, who would be in charge on campus in case of a disaster.

"No one knows what the disaster is going to be. It's a surprise," said Morris. It's important to know all the resources on campus and around the valley and how to use them, he said.

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