NAB Preview: Police Training Videos for an Active Shooter Situation

Part one of an interview with filmmakers Vance Kotrla and Michael Gonzales
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Vance Kotrla

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Michael Gonzales

Government Video got in touch with two filmmakers who will present a panel discussion titled, “Active Shooter Training: Producing a Realistic Video for Law Enforcement,” at this year’s Media Technologies for Military and Government Conference at the NAB Show April 18th-21st, in the Las Vegas Convention Center. Filmmakers Vance Kotrla and Michael Gonzales, who work for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Video Production Unit, will screen a nine-minute active shooter video they produced, and will offer tips on how training videos can be produced in a cost-effective manner. The panel takes place on Monday, April 18th at 11:15 AM in the South Hall meeting rm. 225 of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Government Video: The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Video Production Unit is the largest producer of training videos in the country, making it likely your video content touches on many aspects of police training, briefly, can you describe the range of video subject matter your department creates?

Michael: The training videos deal with a variety of topics for law enforcement. The topics include driver safety videos for the new Ford Explorer patrol vehicles, gun safety for the new Smith and Wesson M&P duty weapons, educational videos on Child Abduction, helicopter safety when flashed by green lasers and many more.

Vance: In addition to the types of content Mike described, there are also literally dozens of videos a year that are more day-to-day type things, such as training tips and reminders about perishable skills, personnel profiles, recruiting content, live streaming events, and social media videos.

GV:How often are these created and do they have to be updated often because of what you’ve learned based on real life situations? Have certain events in the past altered or affected how you create or update these videos?

Michael:The Video Production Unit is updating videos all the time. Policies change, procedures change, and so the videos need to be re-worked. For example, the department changed from Beretta's to Smith and Wesson's. There is no safety latch on the new duty weapons so deputies must be trained in how to use them safely.

Vance:When the changes are minor, we can often just update the existing video, or if they're pretty major we pull the earlier video from circulation and make a new one.

GV:What is the importance of creating a realistic active shooter police training video?

Michael:Law enforcement should be trained in how to respond to a real-life active shooter scenario. Active shooter incidents are becoming more prevalent and simulations on video are helpful to law enforcement in terms on strategy and logistics. For example, there is a science to clearing a building.

Vance:There were actually two videos created simultaneously—one for the public, and one for law enforcement. There are law enforcement agencies all around the country that use this material, so I think we owe it to them to be as accurate and thorough as possible. If they don't have their own active shooter classes or training programs, we want to do whatever we can to equip them to respond. For the public though, most people may see these events in news coverage but still never make a plan for how to respond. We didn't want to sugar-coat things. These events have blood, they're terrifying, and in my mind, a video that doesn't own that isn't doing all it can to help its audience prepare.

GV:Are other police departments around the country producing their own videos to train in anticipation of an active shooter?

Michael:Yes. The City of Houston has a good active shooter video and I am producing a campus safety video just for colleges and universities.

Vance:That's right. A lot of them are also specifically tailored to their environment - how to respond on a particular campus, for instance.

GV:How are the videos distributed and shown. Are they shown in a classroom setting as well as on-demand?

Michael:The videos are starting to be put up online on The Sheriff's YouTube channel. Any agency can request free copies as well.

Vance:We still do some DVD distribution for classroom use, but a lot of that has moved digital, so the videos can be embedded directly into the course content. We have a couple of online outlets for law enforcement-sensitive content, too— stuff that wouldn't be appropriate for YouTube distribution.

For Part Two of our interview with Vance Kotrla and Michael Gonzales, we ask how they pull off script writing, directing, and production under both a small staff and budget.

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