Lessons learned from Sandy Hook

Sandy Hook

APPLETON - Local officers are learning lessons from their peers who responded to a deadly mass shooting at an elementary school.

In December 2012, 26 victims, including 20 children, died in the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

Connecticut State Police Officers spoke as part of the 5th Annual National School Resource Officer Training Conference in Appleton Monday.

"These families put these little first graders on the bus to go to school with their lunch box and back pack and they never came home. That just is insurmountable. You can never, ever understand it," said Connecticut State Police Lieutenant J. Paul Vance.

The emotions of the Sandy Hook shooting are still raw for Lieutenant Vance. His department responded to the tragedy and led the criminal investigation after.

"No matter how tough you are, how old you are, how long you've been doing the work, we've made sure, to this day, our people are, as I'll call it, 'okay,'" Vance explained.

That's something Vance shared with local police officers and educators in Appleton Monday. He said ensuring officers' emotional health after the shooting has been crucial, something local law enforcement appreciates.

"There's been incredible lessons learned from here, what the Connecticut State Police did for their employees, but also how they reached out on a real in-depth level to stay with families who lost children and adults in this incident," said Appleton Police Captain Todd Freeman.

One of Vance's peers shared information from the criminal investigation. Vance told FOX 11 the more officers who can learn from it, the better.

"We want the best possible law enforcement that we can have in this country, hence, we share," Vance explained.

Another important lesson? Ensuring the police and schools work together.

"When a critical incident happens we fall back on our training. Our challenge is to make sure our schools feel the same way and information like this helps toward that," Freeman explained.

"Our schools can't be prisons, but they certainly have to be secure and we have to do everything we can to protect our children," said Vance.

The training conference runs through Wednesday, covering several school safety topics. It's put on by the National Criminal Justice Training Center at Fox Valley Technical College.