MORRISTOWN – Morris County sheriff’s officers have refreshed their training for a harrowing event they hope never to encounter: an active shooter within the five-story courthouse.
After the courthouse was evacuated of employees and the public, such a tense scenario recently was simulated when an officer posing as a litigant in a courtroom abruptly disarmed one officer and shot another before he was subdued.
Adding to the chaos, officers on an other floor engaged in verbal combat in a hallway with an officer posing as a citizen who refused to put down the black object in his hand – a cell phone – and raise his arms.
The training session led by Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Walter Rawa and observed by Superior Court Assignment Judge Stuart Minkowitz, who leads the Morris and Sussex county court districts, capped off several days of training that included how to deal with civil disobedience and domestic violence litigants.
“I think you guys have a good command of it. You know who’s in charge. This is not a timid world and when the bell rings we’ve got to come at this thing hard,” county Sheriff James Gannon told officers within the protective services unit at the training’s conclusion.
Though officers are familiar with the courthouse layout, the active shooter training was enhanced by the office’s recent acquisition of a digital Collaborative Response Graphic, which displays the floors of the courthouse and positions of officers.
Designed by the Ewing-based firm Critical Response Group, CRG’s have been used by the military to map out villages and combat areas to acquaint soldiers and officials with unfamiliar territory.
Domestically, the graphics are used at schools, medical and public facilities so first responders in stressful situations can use the CRG app and know the terrain, said Alex Carney, a Critical Response Group official who was present for the training.
“You obviously rely on mutual aid partners so the point of this application is to allow everybody to talk on the common picture during an emergency,” Carney told the officers.
The courthouse and attached county Administration and Records building has undergone multiple security enhancements in the past few years, including a new front courthouse entrance on Court Street and some locked stairwells accessible to approved employees.