Drill simulates school shooting scenario
BY AMELIA HARPER
Thursday, March 8, 2018
ELM CITY — Bodies lined the hallways of Cooper Elementary School on Wednesday as school resource officers pursued suspects into areas filled with smoke, screams and the acrid scent of gunfire.
This was not a real school tragedy playing out. Instead, it was a series of simulations designed to test school resource officers in situations that reflected their darkest nightmares.
Capt. Allen Wilson, who leads the special operations division of the Nash County Sheriff’s Office, said the simulations forced school resource officers to think about how they would handle a worst-case scenario and neutralize a threat to student safety.
Normally, school resource officers receive this type of training annually at other locations in the state. However, in the wake of the shooting that killed 17 students and educators in Parkland, Fla., Wilson said the sheriff’s office felt that a refresher course in handling an active shooter scenario was warranted.
“Knowing how to deal with these situations is not enough,” Wilson said. “These officers need to be mentally trained in how they would handle a shooting at their school or any other school in the area. They have to get in the right mindset to deal with that kind of threat.”
The team used “simunition” — non-lethal training ammunition — to help make the scenario more real. Each school resource officer associated with the Nash County Sheriff’s Office went through intensive training Wednesday beginning with weapons training in the afternoon and ending with active shooter scenarios in the evening.
Wilson said the school resources officers will be involved in more training this summer.
“We plan to train with other local law enforcement agencies, fire departments and emergency services to simulate an integrated response to a large-scale situation,” Wilson said. “The goal of that operation will be to save lives, reduce casualties and mitigate damage.”
School resource officers with the Rocky Mount Police Department who serve in city schools have also had training in dealing with school shootings, said Cpl. Brad Summerlin of the Rocky Mount Police Department.
“Last spring, I was able to attend Solo Active Shooter Response Conditioning,” Summerlin said. “This was a three-day course offered by the North Carolina Justice Academy. The course is designed to introduce methods and principles to safety and ways to successfully respond as a solo officer.”
Since then, Summerlin brought the training back to school resource officers in his department and they participated in training in July, before the school year began.
“They were trained in knowing they will be the first response to an active shooter in their schools,” Summerlin said. “We constantly look for the latest in training and how we can utilize it to make our officers better prepared for any situation they may encounter.”