NORTH ADAMS -- With school shootings making headlines across the country in recent years, North County police officers want to make sure they're prepared for the worst.
Making use of the empty Silvio O. Conte Middle School building, which is soon to be renovated, all officers from the North Adams, Williamstown, and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts police departments trained for active shooter and hostage situations last week.
"In light of what's certainly been going on in the last couple of years. ... I try to bring this type of training to our department," said North Adams Police Director Michael Cozzaglio. "We're trying to teach our officers to try to respond to an active shooter situation."
The exercises were led by the Berkshire County Special Response Team, more commonly known as a "SWAT" unit, that responds to events a local police force isn't equipped to handle. The officers were trained in responding to hostage situations and active shootings.
"It's good hands-on practical training that we hope we never have to implement," Cozzaglio said.
The officers used their department-issued firearms, which were modified to shoot "Simunition."
"They're like paintballs," Cozzaglio said. "They still hurt."
Knowing that the Conte building was sitting unused prompted the department to seek the training from the special response team, Cozzaglio said. It took four months to plan the daylong training.
Officers learned how to clear classrooms, how to clear stairwells, how to enter a building solo or as a team, and how to handle a hostage situation. Mannequins usually used for CPR training were held as mock hostages.
"We don't want to scare people, but we have to be prepared as best we can," Cozzaglio said.