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Crossroads Mall hosts active shooter training for police and first responders

As mass shootings continue to rock the country, Police in West Michigan are thinking about better ways to protect their citizens.

As mass shootings continue to rock the country, police in West Michigan are thinking about better ways to protect their citizens.

Portage Public Safety and first responders took part in an active shooter training at Crossroads Mall Saturday night.

A heavy police presence at the Crossroads Mall was not an emergency, but officers are preparing for a worst case scenario.

"Both fire and police have to react quickly,” Portage Public Safety deputy chief John Blue said. “It's important that you practice, you critique you make adjustments."

After closing time Sunday, PPS used the mall to prepare for the unthinkable; someone walking into the mall and opening fire.

"What we are focusing on today is that very important first 20 minutes to half hour event incident and management," Blue said.

As part of the drill, officers descended on the shopping center in full combat gear.

Teams did not know the details of the mock active shooter scenario, as the idea for the exercise was to be as realistic as possible.

“What we are trying to do is organize chaos, which is an awfully difficult thing sometimes to do,” Blue said. “In these events you are going to have people 10-times this amount running out screaming."

Dozens played the part of victims and eyewitnesses, prompting mall officials

"This is really a result of a conversation the city manager and I had back in the summer about the current events, the mall and things that were happening, and we decided to move forward and do the active shooter drill," Charise Stewart, the general manager of Crossroads Mall, said.

Officers were trained on setting up a perimeter, getting bystanders to safety and neutralizing a possible shooter. But, the Portage police deputy chief said the public has a role too.

"Being self-aware, making sure that you notice the suspicious,” Blue said. “If you see an individual coming in with a long gun, the key element is escape first."

While this exercise comes in the wake of the Texas church massacre, Blue said it is an annual drill with the goal of being prepared.

The drill had 75 participants and wrapped up at 9:30 p.m.

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