Goal Is To Learn
BY KEN LITTLE
Weapons drawn, sheriff's deputies cautiously advance through the hallway of a county school, searching for a reported gunman.
Time is of the essence. So is officer safety.
It's a scenario no one ever wants to see happen in Greene County.
But a group of sheriff's deputies spent four days this week training at different schools to be prepared in the event it does.
The 32-hour "Active Shooter" course was held at Chuckey-Doak High School, South Greene High School, West Greene High School and on Thursday, at Chuckey-Doak Middle School.
LEARNING SCHOOL LAYOUTS
One training goal is for deputies to familiarize themselves with the layouts of different county schools, said Sgt. Nick Milligan, who assisted instructor Sgt. David Beverly with the training.
"A lot of (resource) officers know their schools, but they don't know the other ones," Milligan said.
Law enforcement officers regularly train on topics like firearms use, drug enforcement, child sex abuse and encounters with individuals with mental illness.
A new training emphasis has been added in recent years after horrific school shooting episodes like the one last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that resulted in the deaths of 20 students and six adult staff members.
The training is needed for deputies to be able to respond quickly and effectively to emergencies in Greene County, Beverly said.
Both Beverly and Milligan have attended Active Shooter training sessions conducted by other law enforcement agencies. The 11 students on Thursday included patrol deputies, a county correction officer and a detective.
Until recently, standard protocol for the first law enforcement officers arriving at a mass shooting scene was to seal off the area and wait for SWAT team members to arrive.
Beverly learned at an Active Shooter training exercise conducted by the FBI in Nashville that most such incidents are over within nine minutes, usually not enough time for a SWAT team to mobilize and be deployed.
"Patrol (officers) are going to be the first ones to respond," Beverly said.
The preferred response now is for officers arriving at a shooting scene to get into the building as soon as possible and isolate the shooter, he said. Learning the best tactical approach to accomplish that safely was another component of the training deputies received.
"We're hoping to prepare the first, second or third officers to get there, to come in and get from point A to point B as safely as possible," Milligan said.
The goal now is "to get into the building, go to where the threat is and take care of that situation," Beverly said.
Deputies practiced "hallway formation" Thursday as they went through the Chuckey-Doak Middle School hallways in search of a suspect during an exercise.
"It's how to navigate these hallways and enter into them a little more safer," Milligan said.
Deputies also trained in the safest methods to search and clear classrooms and stairwells.
"With the navigation of stairwells, we're looking to do 360-degree coverage so nobody can get around you or get by you and we can keep them locked down to one specific area," Milligan said.
Classrooms, stairwells and other out-of-the way spaces are unique to each school building, making it important for deputies to know the designs of different Greene County schools.
"In the event of an active shooter, we want to make sure our officers are trained the best we can train them. Hopefully it will never happen, but if it does, we want to be able to take care of our students and staff," Milligan said.
Some middle school hallways were filled with office furniture as staff gives the building a thorough cleaning before students return.
Beverly thanked principals at the schools where the training was conducted, along with Dr. Vicki Kirk, Greene County director of schools, for allowing access.
Milligan has been giving presentations to teachers and other school system staff "so there's good cooperation with the schools as far as safety," he said.
The air conditioning in the middle school was off Thursday. Despite the heat, deputies were enthusiastic about the training.
"They've been doing very good. Everybody's been coming along," Beverly said.
Veteran sheriff's Deputy Mike Jones, one of the Active Shooter participants, said the program is worthwhile.
"I think it's important that patrol officers get this training. We actually train in the environment we will have to take action one day in these high schools and middle schools," Jones said. "Every time we are in one of these schools we learn new things."
The eventual goal is for all patrol deputies to complete Active Shooter training, Beverly said.
Milligan said future training would be conducted in other Greene County school buildings, to familiarize deputies with as many of the schools as possible.