Deputy Stan Harrison knows that he will more than likely be the first shot in the event an active shooter breaks out at Robinson Elementary School where he works as a resource officer.
“Our backup might be two, three, five minutes away, so we have to take the situation and confront it,” he said. “After Columbine, everything changed to where you want to take an active shooter out right away to protect the children and the teachers and staff. So our duty is to go find that person.”
The county’s school resource officers, Dawson County deputies assigned to the local schools, spent about 8 hours last month training for such situations in preparation for school starting Monday.
Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle said while the county has been lucky and has not experienced situations to warrant the training, his officers will be prepared in the event of a crisis.
“When you put an officer in a situation, it shows them what to do to prepare and shows them how they’ll react,” he said. “I hope something like this never happens in our schools, but you’ve got to be prepared for it.”
The training conducted by Sgt. Ray Goodie included classroom time, but focused primarily on simulated shooter scenarios.
“The class shows the officers in an active shooter situation that time is not on their side and that they have to be quick and decisive about what they do,” Goodie said. “In an active shooter situation, the officer will enter the school with the expressed purpose of locating and neutralizing the threat. So it’s designed to make them understand that you hear the shots, you have to go and take care of whatever suspect is causing that problem.”
Harrison said his adrenaline was pumping as he entered a mock classroom and opened fire with simmunition rounds on a SWAT team member posing as an active shooter.
“All you’re told is the guys got a gun and he’s shooting inside the school. Then you go,” Harrison said. “What you try to get in your mind is that you have kids in there, because that’s the situation you’re going to have.”
Goodie said the training is self-correcting, primarily because the simm bullets hurt. The simm bullets are shaped like actual bullets and are harder than paintballs.
“When you do it right, you don’t get shot as much, so it hurts less,” he said.
Accuracy was also tested when officers were given only three bullets, while the active shooters fired off dozens.
“It’s not like firing at a flat range. Whatever shots they get, they have to take and accurately hit, because in a school situation, you’re going to have little kids running around,” Goodie said. “When you shoot and you’re not shooting accurately, then you could be just as much a problem as the active shooter is to those innocent bystanders that are coming around.”
Goodie said there are numerous law enforcement seminars that focus on terrorists targeting schools as a way to get governments to meet their demands.
“The kids are in school all day. There are no metal detectors. There’s nobody physically keeping people from coming into the school. They could just walk into the door and keep going,” Goodie said.