Newton County Sheriff's Office School Resource Officer Deputy Sherri Collier trains to face a school shooter should the situation arise. Deputies were training Thursday at the Newton College and Career Academy using scenarios they might encounter in real life. - Staff photo by Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith
COVINGTON -- Newton County Sheriff's Office personnel spent Thursday preparing for something they're hoping and praying they never have to use.
More than 30 school resource officers and NCSO supervisors underwent active shooter training in the hallway and classrooms of the Newton College and Career Academy.
"We're using scenarios that simulate what it's like to be involved with an active shooter in our schools," said training organizer and Public Information Officer Deputy Cortney Morrison. "The training is designed to expose deputies to stressful situations as close to realism as possible."
Morrison said air soft pistols will be used in some scenarios that shoot pellets and if a deputy is stung with one of them, he or she will remember it.
"Pellets hurt and you don't want to get shot, so it trains your mind and your body to respond appropriately," she said.
Morrison said another class is planned for February which will include the training for all deputies.
Based on lessons learned from Columbine and other school shootings, Morrison said the prevailing wisdom is for every law enforcement officer to be prepared to face armed gunmen in public settings.
"They decided one of the problems with Columbine was that law enforcement did not go in right away," she explained. "Now, the foremost goal is to locate the shooter and the training dictates that the first person on scene, whether it's a school resource officer or a patrol deputy, takes action instead of waiting for S.W.A.T. Whoever is the first person there, they go in."
Morrison said about half the day was spent on classroom training and the other half was spent on scenarios that she described as "very hands on." Actors played the parts of students who reacted by screaming and engaging in other behaviors that would be typical in such a situation.
"With an active shooter situation, it is so unpredictable and can evolve very quickly so we have tried to create scenarios where deputies will have to make split-second decisions," she said, adding that those taking the class faced situations where the gunman was barricaded, holding hostages or just acting as a single shooter.
Morrison said Newton County School System principals and other personnel were also invited to participate in the training.