The federal VALOR Initiative plans to allocate almost half of its $15 million annual budget to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) program that is based at Texas State, allowing the university program to train more police officers to stop active shooter situations.
According to ALERRT’s website, there are no other training programs of its nature operating on a national scale.
“The White House has requested $15 million in the budget go to VALOR, an officer safety initiative, and ALERRT is funded under the VALOR initiative,” said Terry Nichols, assistant director of ALERRT. “Out of that, they’re wanting to pigeonhole about $7 million to us.”
The funding will vastly increase the program’s national reach and result in more officers being trained than ever before, said Diana Hendricks, director of communications and governmental relations for ALERRT.
“We’ve trained 50,000 people in the past, and we’re going to train about 30,000 this year,” Hendricks said. “That’s what seven million dollars can do.”
ALERRT began after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, when local authorities saw a need to train first responders to more effectively respond to active shooters, Nichols said. ALERRT was established as a collaborative partnership between the university, the City of San Marcos and Hays County, Nichols said. For eight days during the summer of 2001, every officer in Hays County was trained to respond to active shooter situations, Nichols said.
Since 2002, the ALERRT program has trained more than 50,000 police officers across the nation in active shooter response training, using more than $30 million in state and federal funding, according to ALERRT’s website. The program currently offers seven grant-funded first responder courses on-site around the country, in addition to a multimillion-dollar training facility located in San Marcos, Nichols said.
Nichols credits the university as having been instrumental in the growth of the program.
“The university saw the value in this program early on,” Nichols said. He said Texas State officials made it a priority to request federal funding on the program’s behalf.
The average number of annual active shooter incidents in America has tripled since 2009, said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who announced the proposed award last month. ALERRT is responding to the rise in gun-related, often-deadly violence with active shooter response training and other officer safety initiatives that have already saved lives, Nichols said.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, whose district includes Texas State, is supportive of funding the ALERRT program.
“ALERRT at Texas State has been on the job for years, through these recurrent tragedies, preparing law enforcement and educators in responding to active shooters,” Doggett said in a statement. “Approving the attorney general’s recommendation for more federal funding would help ALERRT to do more and protect more by giving first responders the tools they need to react as effectively and efficiently as possible.”
Training law enforcement officers how to respond immediately to active shooters instead of waiting for special forces like SWAT teams has saved lives and become standard operating procedure at departments across the nation, Nichols said.
In January 2010, ALERRT was recognized in “Report of the Department of Defense Independent Review, Protecting the Force: Lessons from Fort Hood” for having had a significant role in training and preparing the first responders who stopped the gunman at Texas’ Fort Hood Army base in November 2009. Sergeant Kimberly Munley, who is credited with having had a major role in ending the 2009 shooting, took a class through the ALERRT program.
ALERRT procedures have been adopted as the national standard for the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the New York Police Department, Hendricks said.