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FASTER gives gun training to Colorado teachers, administrators

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If someone begins shooting at the students or staff at Fleming K-12 School in northeast Colorado, football coach and bus driver Scott Muller wants to be ready to shoot back.

Something like this is nothing you want to do, Muller said during a break from the active-shooter training course he took this week. But anybody who wants to protect kids, they will take something like this on. After all, said Muller, it s unlikely help would be nearby if someone attacked Fleming School, about 20 miles east of Sterling. The local sheriff told him they are so far out they won t be able to respond in time to do much. It will be pretty much left up to someone at the school to do something. Muller is among 17 teachers and administrators from five mostly rural counties who received intensive training[1] this week on how to prevent or at least minimize a mass shooting at their schools, many of which are in far-flung areas where it would take law enforcement up to 30 minutes to respond.

Each participant already has a concealed handgun permit and is approved as a school security officer. As many as 20 Colorado school districts have designated teachers, administrators and other personnel as armed security.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Instructor Chris Wallace, right, teaches educator Ronnie Wilson, left, how to correctly position his body for recoil during a gun training and handling program offered by FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley. FASTER is sponsoring the gun training seminars for Colorado teachers and administrators. Wilson is president of the Liberty Tree Academy in Colorado Springs.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Instructor Chris Wallace, right, teaches educator Ronnie Wilson, left, how to correctly position his body for recoil during a gun training and handling program offered by FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Instructor Marty Garland loads a 9mm magazine during a gun training and handling program offered by FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Bullets for a 9mm gun are ready to be loaded into guns during a gun training and handling program offered by FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley. FASTER is sponsoring the gun training seminars for Colorado teachers and administrators.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Instructor Chris Wallace talks to teachers and administrators about ways to safely handle their guns during a gun training and handling program offered by FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Students, who are teachers and school administrators, learn ho to handle their guns correctly and safely with instructors from FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Instructors Forrest Sonneweld, left, and Jeff Staggs set up targets to be used during a gun training and handling program offered by FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Instructor Chris Wallace, center, teaches students how to correctly position their body for recoil during a gun training and handling program offered by FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley.

  • FASTER Gives Gun Training To Colorado Teachers, Administrators

    Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

    Students, who are teachers and school administrators, learn how to handle their guns correctly and safely with instructors from FASTER at the Wilbur B. Ross Memorial Police Training Center on June 20, 2017 in Greeley. FasterColorado is sponsoring gun loading and training for Colorado teachers and administrators.

But the course work laid out this week by Ohio-based FASTER Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response is much more intense than a typical concealed weapons class in Colorado, said participants.

This, said Muller, is a whole new level. Which means there is no sugarcoating of the consequences of not confronting someone bent on killing everyone within reach.

You will be killed if you do not fight, said Chris Wallace, a 41-year law enforcement veteran, as he introduced students to the course. The educators sat in silence as Wallace showed slides of the results of past mass shootings and described in stark terms what might happen to victims in the next attack.

Adult males will be tortured and killed, he said. Females will be raped and killed. There will be no mercy involved in these situations. There is no talking yourself out of these situations.

Good training will remove unneeded emotion from your response to an attacker, Wallace told the educators. That will make a counterattack more effective, he said.

You ve to get inside the moment, he said. Don t go so fast that you miss what you need to see.

When you engage the shooter, you need speed and surprise and violence of action, he added. FASTER s instructors current or former law enforcement officers have trained nearly 900 Ohio school staff members over the past five years. No matter their day-to-day roles teacher, superintendent, librarian, coach, secretary school staffers going through FASTER training are taught how to approach and shoot an active assailant. They are also tutored on hand-to-hand fighting skills, and they learn advanced medical training from a trauma surgeon. On the second morning of the training, the educators learned how to apply a tourniquet to a fellow student s arm and leg in the midst of chaos, practicing the act of cutting off the flow of blood to keep someone alive.

Later in the day, all 17 took to the shooting range where, under a blistering sun, they learned how to properly remove a handgun from its holster, quickly but surely approach an attacker and level their weapon to shoot. Just as important, instructors showed them how to safely holster their sidearms and wait for emergency help. The three-day class was held at the Weld County Sheriff s Department shooting range. It was organized by Coloradans for Civil Liberties, a gun-rights group aligned with the right-leaning Independence Institute. Tuition is $1,000 per student, and the Independence Institute offered scholarships.

We have raised scholarship money because we never want the lack of training budget money to keep any school personnel from having access to this lifesaving training, said Amy Cooke, the institute s executive vice president.

Graduates will be certified as exceeding Colorado Peace Officer Standards and Training handgun qualifications, said Laura Carno, co-founder of Coloradans for Civil Liberties.

We want to give them world-class training so they can stop active shooters at their school, Carno said. School districts that use staff as security personnel screen them extensively, say school officials. That includes administering psychological tests often used on law enforcement recruits.

The screening is pretty tough, said Muller, the Fleming football coach. I took a psychological screening, like other applicants. But some dropped out. And I can understand why. It s tough that one day you may have to take down a student that you ve known for a long time. Weld County Sheriff Steve Reams offered use of the shooting range for training because he supports Second Amendment rights. He also wants rural school staffers to be able to protect themselves, said sheriff s spokesman Matt Turner.

We all know there is anxiety about sending your kids to school and wondering if they will be safe, Turner said. We wanted to help in any way we can to ensure kids safety.

Fleming parent Carmen Vandenbark said most parents support school officials deciding to arm qualified staff members. Fleming is fairly remote and has no local police department, and response times from first responders can be lengthy.

It was a good, common-sense solution, Vandenbark said. But others say active-shooter training for teachers will do little to protect students and might make a bad situation even worse.

In armed confrontations, trained law enforcement hit their target only 20 percent of the time, said Eileen McCarron of Colorado Ceasefire, a group that opposes gun violence. In a crowded classroom, what happens to the remaining 80 percent of the bullets? And how do we expect a nervous, far less-trained individual to perform anything but worse? Ronnie Wilson said he took the training to help ease the fears of parents who worry about school security.

One of the first things parents ask about are academics, and the next thing is whether their kids will be safe at our school, said Wilson. And that is our highest priority.

Wilson is president of the governing board of Liberty Tree Academy, a K-8 charter school slated to open in Falcon, near Colorado Springs, next year.

This has been real eye-opening for me, and a great experience, Wilson said of the FASTER training. I know we can t be prepared for everything. But I now know I m better equipped to handle the worst kind of situation.

References

  1. ^ intensive training (www.denverpost.com)

Troubled Colorado state mental hospital can’t keep up with inmate competency evaluations

The state mental hospital cannot keep up with an unexpected surge in court-ordered competency evaluations for accused criminals, the Colorado Department of Human Services said Thursday in asking for relief from a long-standing lawsuit. The department filed to invoke special circumstances in a case lodged against the state by Disability Law Colorado. State officials informed the advocacy group in a letter Thursday that the mental hospital cannot hold up its end of the settlement agreement, which requires jail inmates to receive mental health evaluations or treatment within 28 days of receiving paperwork from a judge. The action means inmates whose mental competency is in question could sit longer behind bars as they await evaluation.

These inmates are presumed innocent, being held in pretrial status, probably receiving little if any mental health care, said Mark Ivandick, managing attorney for Disability Law Colorado, which first sued the state over the issue in 2012 and revived the case in 2016 when there was a backlog of 100 inmates not receiving timely evaluations. They are just relegated to languishing in jail before they get admitted.

The problem, said human services Chief Medical Officer Patrick Fox, is a major increase in court orders for mental health competency exams from judges across Colorado, particularly in the last two months. Competency evaluation orders were up 44 percent in May compared with May 2016. And orders for restoration treatment with the aim of restoring a defendant s mental health in order to face charges were up 89 percent compared with a year ago.

We are basically grabbing the oxygen mask right now and saying, We need relief, Fox said. It s straining our resources beyond the point of being able to manage it presently. The recent spike is the latest in a 15-year struggle to keep up with mental health evaluations and treatment for inmates in Colorado and across the country. In 2000, the state mental health institute performed 429 competency evaluations and 87 restorations. Compare that with 1,871 competency exams last year and 671 restorations, an increase of 336 percent and 671 percent. The rise has been attributed by experts to a greater awareness among judges about the impact of mental health on defendants, as well as laws that critics say criminalize mental illness. Defendants awaiting competency or needing restoration have been charged with anything from misdemeanor trespassing to capital murder.

The safety-valve provision in the settlement temporarily suspends the time-frame requirements until December. Fox said the department will not consider the action a timeout or a relaxation of its efforts to promptly evaluate inmates for mental health issues. Rather, the state mental health system will perform evaluations and begin restoration treatment as soon as we can with our current resources and constraints, he said. State officials plan to meet soon with Disability Law Colorado to discuss the department s filing.

A compromise reached in 2012 required the department to complete in-jail evaluations within 30 days, or admit people to the state hospital for in-patient evaluations within 28 days. It also required that if defendants were found incompetent to face criminal charges, the hospital or an in-jail treatment program must admit them within 28 days. The state was required in 2016 to hire an independent consultant[1] to track how quickly it completes mental competency evaluations. Documents filed in the case last year revealed a 2015 memo directing department staff[2] to admit only one person per day at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. That order led to a backlog of an estimated 100 inmates, Disability Law said. The department s request for relief from the settlement requirements is not related to staffing issues at the Pueblo mental hospital[3], state officials said. The 449-bed hospital was recently placed on a termination track by federal authorities critical of nursing staff levels.

The evaluations are conducted by therapists with the state Office of Behavioral Health, part of the human services department.

References

  1. ^ to hire an independent consultant (www.denverpost.com)
  2. ^ memo directing department staff (www.denverpost.com)
  3. ^ staffing issues at the Pueblo mental hospital (www.denverpost.com)

Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo’s problem with inmate …

The state mental hospital cannot keep up with an unexpected surge in court-ordered competency evaluations for accused criminals, the Colorado Department of Human Services said Thursday in asking for relief from a long-standing lawsuit. The department filed to invoke special circumstances in a case lodged against the state by Disability Law Colorado. State officials informed the advocacy group in a letter Thursday that the mental hospital cannot hold up its end of the settlement agreement, which requires jail inmates to receive mental health evaluations or treatment within 28 days of receiving paperwork from a judge. The action means inmates whose mental competency is in question could sit longer behind bars as they await evaluation.

These inmates are presumed innocent, being held in pretrial status, probably receiving little if any mental health care, said Mark Ivandick, managing attorney for Disability Law Colorado, which first sued the state over the issue in 2012 and revived the case in 2016 when there was a backlog of 100 inmates not receiving timely evaluations. They are just relegated to languishing in jail before they get admitted.

The problem, said human services Chief Medical Officer Patrick Fox, is a major increase in court orders for mental health competency exams from judges across Colorado, particularly in the last two months. Competency evaluation orders were up 44 percent in May compared with May 2016. And orders for restoration treatment with the aim of restoring a defendant s mental health in order to face charges were up 89 percent compared with a year ago.

We are basically grabbing the oxygen mask right now and saying, We need relief, Fox said. It s straining our resources beyond the point of being able to manage it presently. The recent spike is the latest in a 15-year struggle to keep up with mental health evaluations and treatment for inmates in Colorado and across the country. In 2000, the state mental health institute performed 429 competency evaluations and 87 restorations. Compare that with 1,871 competency exams last year and 671 restorations, an increase of 336 percent and 671 percent. The rise has been attributed by experts to a greater awareness among judges about the impact of mental health on defendants, as well as laws that critics say criminalize mental illness. Defendants awaiting competency or needing restoration have been charged with anything from misdemeanor trespassing to capital murder.

The safety-valve provision in the settlement temporarily suspends the time-frame requirements until December. Fox said the department will not consider the action a timeout or a relaxation of its efforts to promptly evaluate inmates for mental health issues. Rather, the state mental health system will perform evaluations and begin restoration treatment as soon as we can with our current resources and constraints, he said. State officials plan to meet soon with Disability Law Colorado to discuss the department s filing.

A compromise reached in 2012 required the department to complete in-jail evaluations within 30 days, or admit people to the state hospital for in-patient evaluations within 28 days. It also required that if defendants were found incompetent to face criminal charges, the hospital or an in-jail treatment program must admit them within 28 days. The state was required in 2016 to hire an independent consultant[1] to track how quickly it completes mental competency evaluations. Documents filed in the case last year revealed a 2015 memo directing department staff[2] to admit only one person per day at the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo. That order led to a backlog of an estimated 100 inmates, Disability Law said. The department s request for relief from the settlement requirements is not related to staffing issues at the Pueblo mental hospital[3], state officials said. The 449-bed hospital was recently placed on a termination track by federal authorities critical of nursing staff levels.

The evaluations are conducted by therapists with the state Office of Behavioral Health, part of the human services department.

References

  1. ^ to hire an independent consultant (www.denverpost.com)
  2. ^ memo directing department staff (www.denverpost.com)
  3. ^ staffing issues at the Pueblo mental hospital (www.denverpost.com)
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