INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – Police officers drew theirguns and stormed a local school, practicing for a day they hope never comes.
The situation may sound sinister, but it was all part of adrill designed to prepare every Independence County sheriff's deputy for a massshooting.
"With all the shootings and stuff that's been going on overthe past couple of years," Lt. Brent Everett said, "we're trying to make surethat all of our officers in the department are trained on active shootersituations."
Almost 30 officers received active shooter training Thursdayat the vacant school building in Cushman, Ark., located about 10 miles north ofBatesville.
The school providedthe ideal venue to test the department's response in case of a shooting.
"They're practicing entering buildings where we suspectthere's a threat," Lt. Everett said. "Then once there's a known threat, theymove towards that threat so that they can get it either contained or ended asquickly as possible."
The sheriff's office brought in a trainer named MikeAultman, who serves as vice president of training for AMTEC Less-LethalSystems.
Aultman's company is world renowned and offers tacticaltraining to law enforcement agencies through various scenarios.
The Independence County officers started off their trainingsession in the classroom, first reviewing a history of active shootingsituations.
"We did a little bit of profiling on the active shootersthemselves as far as the demographics," Aultman said, "and then we looked atthe trends with the Department of Justice as far as the injuries that occurredin the last 10 years, the deaths that occurred, what type of places it is andthen also the disposition of those."
Aultman then led the officers in a series of what he calls "movementexercises" through the vacant school.
"It's getting guys to work together as a group," he said, "whetherthat's a two-, three-, or four-man crew knowing that they need to move directlyto the threat.
"They've got to be able to shift the speed in the middle ofa scenario, in the middle of a situation," he added, "because these wholethings are very fluid and very dynamic in nature."
The officers then began role playing, carrying plastic gunswith paint pellets as bullets. They were tasked with searching the classrooms fora suspected gunman, which first appeared as a paper target but was thensubstituted with an actual person.
Lt. Everett oversaw all these drills, while Aultman offeredadvice and criticism along the way. He hoped that the officers would take awayone main message that a shooting can occur anywhere at any time.
"The single biggest thing is that it's not happening in bigcities," he said. "It's happening in small towns in rural America, and it's notonly in just schools. The statistics say that it's primarily business places."
The sheriff's office could only train half its staffThursday.
Another 30 officers will go through the same drills andexercises Friday starting at 8 a.m.