Police run drills at Clarksville High School

28-Jul-2015

CLARKSVILLE — Clarksville High School turned into a training ground for local law enforcement Thursday for a fourth day of active shooter drills, an initiative that’s meant to prepare officers for the worst.

“It’s the type of training you hope to never have to use,” said Clarksville Police Chief Mark Palmer.

Although the training, which was held each day this week, was conducted first at high schools in Jeffersonville and Henryville before moving to Clarksville High School, the drills prepare officers for any active shooter scenario, no matter where it could be.

“Unfortunately, some of the circumstances we’re seeing throughout the years just show that no place is safe, that the possibility of this occurring even in a small community such as Clarksville is a factor,” Palmer said.

This year was the first time the Clarksville Police Department participated in the training as a department and the first time it hosted the drills. It’s also the first time all Clark County police agencies have collaborated on the training.

Palmer said the collaboration helps reduce the high costs that come with active shooter training, but more importantly, it brings the departments together.

SHOTS FIRED

As a dozen officers lined up in front of closed doors leading to a hallway of classrooms, Jeffersonville Police Maj. and training coordinator Josh Lynch yelled for everyone to form into groups of three and to “mix it up” so officers from different departments were on the same team.

“All units, shots fired at Clarksville High School,” Lynch called out.

Lynch then sent one group through the doors in five- to 10-minute intervals. Officers walked side by side with their guns, which were loaded with simulated ammunition, at the ready. On the other side of the door were two armed suspects, played by other officers.

After a team passed through the doors, the sound of gunfire rang through the hallways and officers communicated over two-way radios, “Shots fired!”

“It’s very intense and it’s very realistic,” said CPD Sgt. Dave Foote, adding that getting hit by simulated bullets makes it all the more real. “It pretty much mimics what we would go through in a real world situation like this.”

Foote has been with CPD for 23 years but said he has never been through active shooter training. Before he went through the hallway doors for the first of three scenarios, he said he naturally felt a little anxious.

“Because you don’t know what you’re going up against,” Foote said. “I mean that’s the beauty of the training like this is that it’s so realistic that you get the adrenaline flowing, you get your heart going because it could happen. It could happen right here at this school.”

After the first drill, officers met in the school’s library to debrief and discuss what happened. A few minutes later, the officers lined up for the next scenario.

COMING TOGETHER

For months leading up to the drills, each department’s training coordinators met weekly to plan for the training, Lynch said. Each scenario was designed with different objectives and that each one increases in intensity.

For the second scenario, the fire alarms were sounded, an element that raised the urgency of the drills. Lynch said in a real-life situation, officers would have to overcome sensory overload. The last scenario, he said, is total chaos.

Clarksville Police Lt. Shane Bassett has been an instructor for active shooter training for about five years. In the past, training often took place at JPD.

Bassett said Clarksville wanted to formally join the training and host other departments.

“Any time you have a scenario like this it’s good to have mixed departments here because we’re all going to be responding,” he said.

All Clark County police agencies receive dispatch through one operator, the Clark County Office of Emergency Communications, also referred to as central alarm. So if an active shooter is reported in one city, officers from another city would hear it over the scanner and be able to respond.

In addition to working with each other, police departments have to work with area schools. Although schools already have emergency protocols in place, Bassett said the training reinforces those protocols and helps build better relationships between law enforcement and schools.

JPD Chief Kenny Kavanaugh said training was intentionally scheduled at three different high schools so officers could become familiar with locations beyond their city.

“We’re wanting to be inclusive and we’re wanting to show that we’re thinking about not just our own communities but all the communities that are in Clark County,” Kavanaugh said.

Originally posted at News and Tribune Clark County