A look into FIUPD’s three-year active shooter training 

Sergeant Juan Ramirez led the debrief of the first simulation. Robert Jaross/PantherNOW

Diego Diaz | Interim Editor-in-Chief  

Bangs would echo throughout Viertes Haus, Friday, July 7. Within seconds, figures clad in black and blue would rush into the building, rifles raised, speeding through the halls, racing to the origins of that distinctive pop. 

Just behind the officers wearing “Priority Response Team” vests were the red-shirted instructors, examining each movement, command and action committed by the officers.

Moments later, reinforcements would stream in, each taking a role depending on the priority at hand. The first group called to secure the closest exit, the next to administer aid to those injured, preparing them for evacuation.  

The scene was just one component of FIU Police Department’s Active Shooter Response Training, a three-year program created to train officers as well as educate faculty and students on how to stay safe during these all-too-common events.

Training is set to occur in every major building at FIU’s campuses, as a means of increasing community involvement. 

In an interview with PantherNOW, FIUPD Captain James Mesidor explained how the training hopes to bridge the information gap between civilians and police forces, as a means of ensuring their safety during these increasingly common tragedies.

“Especially with what’s going on around the country, the increase of active shooter-involved situations, we just want to make sure our faculty, staff and students are prepared in the event they’re in the middle of one of these situations,” said Mesidor.

Officers taking part in the training also include those of police departments overlapping or adjacent to FIU campuses, in this case, those of Miami Dade County and Sweetwater.

Mesidor highlighted the invaluable cohesion this training creates between FIUPD and neighboring police departments.

“God forbid in a situation like that these neighboring agencies will come to assist,” said Mesidor. “And we want to make sure we are breaking down a lot of the barriers regarding communication, and expectations of each and every agency.”   

The department argues that the key to this preparation is the realistic approach taken during the reenactment. These include the use of a handgun loaded with blanks, non projectile ammunition, by the officer acting as the shooter, and FIU community members groaning for help as if they were injured.  

“It prepares officers mentally,” said Mesidor. “We hope for them to take it in and submit it to muscle memory because we know in any critical type situation there is only fight, flight or freeze.”

“We don’t want them to freeze.”

The training also highlights the current “national standard” in active school shooting protocol, stopping the gunman as quickly as possible.

“Number one stop the shooting, number two, stop the dying, and number three rapid casualty evacuation, taking the injured to the hospital,” said FIUPD Sergeant Jose Ramirez, the officer who led the training.

The tactic, known as rapid deployment or rapid response, saw national implementation following the failure of law enforcement in dealing with the 1999 Columbine Highschool Massacre. At the time, officers utilized a containment strategy, creating a perimeter around the school, with SWAT teams finally entering 47 minutes after the first shots erupted.  

Yet, the strategy’s implementation would be uneven, as seen in recent examples, most notably and close to home, the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre. 

Prosecutors would reference the training during the recent trial of school resource officer Scot Peterson, who had been charged with seven counts of child negligence, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury. They had argued Peterson had not followed the rapid response protocol, instead remaining on the perimeter of the school’s building while shots were being fired. 

Peterson would be acquitted on all charges.

However, as a 2018 public safety commission report investigating the massacre would highlight, Peterson was not the only officer not to rush in, most likely due to fear.

But in Miami, as FIUPD Chief Alexander D. Casas explained after the reenactment, the Parkland shooting became a catalyst in standardizing and increasing the frequency of active-shooter training.

Training is set to continue until March 2026. The next will take place at Academic 1 at the Biscayne Bay Campus. Students and faculty interested in joining training can sign up through the link

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