Tribal Police lead safety drills

Active shooter training on tribal land involves government and Four Winds

Part of the Pokagon Tribal Police Department’s mission is to keep Pokagon land and the people on it safe. That has meant organizing active shooter training and drills: during the last year government staff have participated in active shooter training with Lt. Ben Graves, a firearms and active shooter trainer. And the security team at Four Winds mandates that Lt. Graves conduct active shooter training with them once a year.

After construction on Four Winds South Bend finished, Pokagon Tribal Police took the opportunity in the empty, still unopened space to conduct an active shooter drill with St. Joseph County and South Bend police departments. Then, to involve casino team members, Tribal Police Officers suggested that the Four Winds HR building was a good spot for a staff training, since it wouldn’t affect guest experience.

“We planned this over the course of three months with casino security, HR, risk management, surveillance, and Tribal Police,” said Lt. Graves. “We laid all the details out to the team.”

Detective Lt. Steve Rider mapped out much of the planning and detail for the event. Leading up to the drill, the Four Winds HR department announced the event to all employees and invited volunteers from other departments to participate or observe. The day of the simulation, Friday, January 25, Lt. Graves conducted a two-hour active shooter training for 70 staff members. He then explained to the group the aspects of the drill they’d participate in next.

“I told the participants to pretend like you’re at work, and when the shooter comes in, have a plan and test if your plan works,” he said. “Afterward we got together as a group and discussed what we saw, what we learned, what we experienced. After lunch we did a second scenario and debriefed those lessons learned and listened to employees’ ideas for expanding different security measures.

“It went very well,” Lt. Graves said. “We did scenarios with two different approaches, entries, police responses, and conclusions. And like every time I've done this, people were nervous at the beginning, but afterward were begging for more training and information.”

“Our main learning objective was to ensure our staff was aware of their surroundings and they knew the appropriate actions to take, in case of an active threat situation,” said Torie Winchester, Four Winds HR vice-president. “Our staff felt comfortable with the trainer and now feel that they are more conscious of their surroundings. We feel that the training was an overall success and brought heightened awareness to staff in the event of a potentially dangerous situation.”

In the future, Lt. Graves hopes to see staff participating in table top exercises, including responding to incidents, setting up incident command centers, and working from the crisis simulation through returning to normal operations.

"This activity really exemplified how the government and casino can work together to make all our properties safe,” he said.