Two police officers with guns drawn stood above me. Adrenaline was high as voices shouted.
It really felt I was in the middle of an active shooter situation. Wearing protective body armor and a face mask (thankfully), I was crouched on the floor against a post when suddenly two Kentwood Police officers were rushing towards me to use that same post as cover. When I picked that post to capture video from, I didn’t realize it would be in the middle of the action.
The view of the two officers above me was captured by a videocamera with a GoPro attached for an extra wide-angle view. Those handheld cameras, along with other nearby mounted cameras, captured the drama of what they were facing that I couldn’t see: a gunman only 20 yards away pointing a weapon while a hostage kneeled next to him.
It’s not often a civilian gets to witness training scenarios of police and emergency responders; however, the City of Kentwood is one of a few municipalities that Sabo PR works alongside. So when the city’s police and fire departments recently practiced active shooter training at Woodland Mall I was asked to join. The training was designed to ensure the city’s first responders could to react quickly and efficiently to an active shooter threat – and I would capture the action.
The training took place at the former Sears department store, located at the west end of Woodland Mall. The mall, a longtime partner of the Kentwood Police department and another SPR client, provided the training space that gave officers a chance to train in a large retail environment with multiple rooms, stories, escalators and elevators.
My task was spending one of the days with police and fire officers, capturing the compelling moments of what they go through. I employed three GoPro cameras, two Nikon cameras and a Sony videocamera. Since the cameras were often in the line of fire, the challenge was installing them to provide as many angles as possible while the training was ongoing.
After picking the remote camera angles ahead of each scenario and starting those cameras rolling, I had an amazing opportunity to move and film right behind the officers, sometimes alongside, as they worked through the rooms. It really felt like I was on a ‘COPS’ reality TV show.
The end result of capturing the training was to provide footage that the police department could use for its own internal promotional needs, as well as providing footage for the media. We interviewed Kentwood Police Captain, Bryan Litwin, to provide supporting sound bites we could share with the media.
With the staff at traditional news organizations shrinking, there’s still the same amount of news to cover. That’s where we can provide the journalism skills to help tell the story of what our municipalities are doing for their citizens.