By Cheryl Fiandaca

MILFORD (CBS) – Response time is critical during an active shooter situation. That is one of the biggest reasons behind Milford Police Department’s decision to create its own specially trained unit which includes an emergency room doctor.

These officers are taught to move quickly and think outside the box. Tom O’Loughlin, Milford’s Police Chief, calls it SWAT graduate school, telling the I-Team that the idea is to bridge the gap between regular patrol officers and SWAT.

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The special operations team is trained by counter-terrorism expert Jeff Beatty. The former Delta Force commander says in an active shooter situation every second counts and speed helps resolve the situation and save lives.

Milford Police Special Ops team trains at Milford High School (WBZ-TV)

So far in 2018, there have been more than twenty school shootings. According to O’Loughlin, those tragedies show the need to get help to victims more quickly and he says waiting for a regional SWAT team or the State Police unit takes too long. “If you have an active shooter situation you’re aren’t going to stand up a SWAT team for about 45 minutes to an hour. People think they just come out of the woodwork, they don’t,” he said.

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In addition to the team’s ER doctor the officers are all EMT trained and are also expert marksmen. O’Loughlin says they all live in town, take home their equipment, and know the Milford public school buildings because they attended classes there.

“These officers were carefully selected,” Beatty explained. “Basic SWAT training gives them a good foundation. But, this training takes them to the next level. They’re taught there are no cookie cutter solutions,” he added.

Red dot on wall in Milford High School classroom (WBZ-TV)

Milford’s other new school safety measures include: a panic button app for smartphones that alerts police to an active shooter. The classrooms now have red dot stickers marked with the room number and the closest outside door number which is critical information for police during a crisis. The dot’s location also tells students and staff it’s the safest place in the room during a lockdown.

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Police will also be able to access the school cameras and the public address system. But, all of this comes at a significant cost. O’Loughlin says the town approved spending of about $650,000 for the first year that includes vehicles and equipment. On average, the cost of maintaining the special operations team will be on average $400,000 a year to provide this added protection for the safety of kids.

Cheryl Fiandaca