Several police agencies converge on Galleria after hours for extensive training.
By Mary O’KEEFE
It is the type of chaos that everyone dreads. The popping sound of gunfire echoing down a corridor at a mall with people running, some left behind, crying for help. While it is not something most shoppers contemplate, for law enforcement, it is something they need to prepare for in case the unthinkable becomes a reality.
Glendale Galleria was the scene of such a training session for Glendale Police and about 12 other agencies late Friday night. After the Galleria doors closed at 10 p.m., law enforcement took over the area.
“These are real life scenarios,” said Lt. John Dilibert of the Burbank Police Dept.
Several scenarios played out throughout the night involving active shooters in the mall, a suspect in a van in the parking lot and a possible bomb.
The shopping mall was a perfect location for this type of training with its long halls and many places for “suspects” to hide. About 200 officers participated in the training session with an estimated 100 volunteers that played frightened shoppers and suspects. The volunteers were from the various agencies including Explorer and citizen volunteer programs.
“We also have our chaplains here to help the victims,” Dilibert said. “This is what would really happen if this type of [event occurred].”
The night was eerie in its resemblance to a real life scenario if gunmen took over the mall. When the training began, sounds of gunshots echoed down the mall’s corridors. Both suspects and law enforcement were using blanks (a type of cartridge that contains gunpowder but no bullet). Actors yelled for help and panicked to get out.
“I was used as a distraction,” said Valerie Dunger, a volunteer actor.
As the officers made their way through the food court area and toward the mall’s escalator, Dunger began to yell for help. She was located on the upper level. The officers maintained their move toward the stairway looking for the suspects when gunfire rang out.
“I got nervous as soon as the gunfire started,” she said.
Actors would also run toward the officers to give them information of where they thought the shooters were located, and in some cases tried to follow the officers as they searched the area.
Dilibert said this is what happens in the field. Individuals try to help but end up just creating more problems, or they are working with the suspects and trying to distract officers.
The gathering of law enforcement agencies, developing scenarios and finding the right location was not an easy task.
“We have been planning this for a year,” said Lt. Steve Robertson, Glendale Police Dept. “We wanted a mall specifically … we are very thankful to the Glendale Galleria.”
Law enforcement represented included Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Anaheim, Alhambra and San Gabriel police departments as well as California State Los Angeles University and Glendale Community colleges’ police forces and the FBI.
“That was another important component, getting all the agencies together,” Robertson said.
Not all agencies do this type of intense training, Robertson added. “This is very progressive.”
There are many cities that have large shopping malls and this type of training not only helps law enforcement train for potential scenarios in an actual location but also helps them develop relationships with other agencies that will be called upon during an emergency, Robertson added.
“Those relationships are key,” Robertson said.
For a gallery of photos and a video on the training session, visit www.cvweekly.com or scan the QR code.