While parents are busy shopping for back-to-school supplies and clothes for children soon returning to school, Georgetown Police Department officers have been holding active shooter training at schools across Scott County.
One hallway of Great Crossing High School was filled with smoke and shotgun shells last week as officers went through a number of different scenarios that challenged their focus and sharpened their abilities. Though no real danger was present, it was important to make the training as realistic as possible so officers would be prepared if similar incidents were to happen in the future, said GPD Assistant Chief Darin Allgood.
“It’s really good training because it helps the officers keep this type of training fresh in their mind and that helps officers tune in,” Allgood said. “With it being as hands-on and as live as we can make it, it gives them the opportunity to see as real as it can be. Whenever you come out here and you have the rounds going off, the blanks, in long hallways, you can hear the echoing, even with the earplugs it’s still very loud.”
Volunteers were used to role play as active shooters and victims, acting out a number of different scenarios for the officers. In one run through, the portrayed gunman fired a blank shotgun round as another actor fell in front of the officers from a side hallway. The officers went through a number of stressful courses, each with a different scenario and varying number of assailants.
“When they hear that first gunshot, you can still see the officers jump a little,” said Allgood. “As the scenarios go, we start with the basic scenario, just to get the blood pumping a little bit, and then we work up… maybe just one bad guy or two bad guys with our role players that are here, running out saying that he went that way or he’s up the hall,” he said.
Though a recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, has been the center of the nation’s mourning and a debate regarding police response to active shooters inside the walls of educational facilities, Allgood said the trainings being conducted by the GPD are ones that have been performed each year to prepare officers for incidents that could take place anywhere or at any time. He added although the training is not because of the particular shooting in Texas, it is important officers stay on top of training to ensure they are capable of protecting the community if the time arises.
“Everybody can say, ‘I would run in, and I would do this. I would do that,’ but… it’s a little different when it’s for real or even whenever it is as realistic as we can make it. That’s why we try to prepare to have the mindset to go into the fight and keep going because you don’t know what you’re up against,” he said. “It’s our job to do the best we can to keep our community safe. It doesn’t have to be at a school. It could be at a factory or a church or wherever. We just want to make sure that we’re prepared as mentally and emotionally and physically as we can be.”
With a growing community, residents remain a tight-knit group, especially within law enforcement agencies like the GPD, he said adding that undergoing active shooter training inside familiar school buildings force officers to face the startling reality that a school shooting is always a possibility.
“We know that, hey, my coworker has a child that goes to school here,” he said. “We took that oath, and we’re doing anything we can to keep them safe. Unfortunately, those types of events happen, and hopefully it never happens here, but if it does, we’ll do our best to be prepared.”
There’s no question that first responders deal with stressful situations at times, but Allgood said it is the resilience of these individuals like his officers that help them be able to act accordingly and get the job done.
“You have to have what we call the warrior mindset. When you get up every day, put that badge on, you know it might be the last time you see your wife or husband or your kids. You know that going into it, that you might not ever get to see them again,” he said. “Whenever you are presented with an incident or a scenario like this, you have to drive through, that’s your job to keep bad things from happening to kids, adults, whoever, to keep the community safe.”
This reality can take a toll on officers, but they lean on each other to persevere through difficult situations that could threaten their communities, he said. When it comes to ensuring the safety of students, Allgood added his officers are willing to do whatever it takes to have a safe learning environment where “kids can be kids.”
“We appreciate the school system. They allow us into their schools… We work closely with them. Some of their staff are here in the building, and they’ve heard the gunshots go off. It’s good for them to hear it now so that they will know if they hear something like that,” he said.
“We want to encourage the students, as well, not only is it our job to keep you safe, but know if there’s a student that hears something that doesn’t seem right, if they see something, don’t be scared to tell a teacher, Officer (Ben) Martin or Officer (Brandon) White, our school resource officers, because it takes all of us,” he said. “If you see something, say something. We hate to have to tell kids, but stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings.
“We still want kids to be kids, still be able to go to school and be safe and all that, but unfortunate as it is, still have open eyes and be aware of your surroundings.”
Emily Perkins can be reached at email@example.com.