What would police do if a gunman opened fire in NYC? Realistic training shows the reaction

BAYONNE, NJ — Throughout the New York metro area, police protect residents in ways that many don’t realize until there’s a crisis. A close-up look at law enforcement training on Wednesday for a crisis situation shows how intense and necessary that readiness is.

The Port Authority Police Department invited PIX11 News to its active shooter interception training here. It was led by the PAPD Emergency Services Unit, but it brought together officers from a variety of PAPD commands as well as officers from departments in Paramus, Northvale, and the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office in New Jersey, as well as officers of the NYPD.

“By training with [them],” said Chief Emilio Gonzales, who oversees all operations of the entire PAPD, “those mutual aid partners are in step with the training that the Port Authority [Police] puts forward.”

Active shooter training often draws to mind images of gunfire, tactical strategies and urban combat.  They’re part of the training, to be sure, but the key element, trainers said, is lifesaving.

“Not only do we have to stop the threat,” said Sgt. Daniel Dias, a PAPD ESU trainer and EMT, “we have to save the people's lives.”

In an attack, Dias said, most gun victims’ deaths are not from gunshot wounds. “People are going to bleed out [to death],” he said, “unless we know what we're doing.”

Training is frequent, as the PAPD head of counterterrorism pointed out. “I'm like a proud father,” watching his officers train, Asst. Chief Steven Rotolo told PIX11 News, “and these are like my kids. Every time we train, they're getting better and better.”

Increasingly, trainers said, the instruction includes ways to help officers save lives. Each PAPD officer carries a basic first aid kit.  While their gun is their most important weapon, the first aid kit includes what is arguably their most important tool, a tourniquet.

They, and their partner agencies, train on its use, and also instruct civilians on how to use the simple strip of cloth to help stop potentially fatal bleeding.

"We had officers from Jersey City train" son tourniquet methods in late August, instructor Mike McCabe said. "Days later, they had a teen 'rail surf'" on the outside of a light rail car, he said.  The teen fell to the tracks, severing part of his leg.

"They said they used their training," McCabe said, to apply a tourniquet and stop extensive bleeding.  He said that the officers told him that the emergency room doctor spoke with them the day after the incident.  "He said, 'You saved his life,'" they told McCabe.

He said that tourniquet use is key for anyone to know.

"Thank goodness it's not just guns and knives," McCabe told PIX11 News. "It's about everyday injuries that we see."

He meant what he said.  McCabe showed this reporter how to apply a tourniquet, on an emergency situation mannequin.  The whole process took all of 20 seconds.

"You just saved a life," McCabe said.  "With minimal training."