As I’ve said many times before, some assignments in the life of a photojournalist can be really boring. REALLY boring. But the worst of the worst are worth it for the best.
I walked into work one August morning and checked my assignment bin. I did a double take when I read that I was going to a local high school to watch different police organizations do active shooter training. First, I didn’t really know what this meant. Second, police running around an empty high school with guns!? How could this not be a fun assignment?
I got to the school about 20 minutes early because I didn’t want to miss a second of this shoot. I was glad that I did because it gave me an opportunity to talk with one of the chiefs that was running the show. He explained more specifically what this training was for.
In essence, it’s all for worst case scenario. Think Columbine. An “active shooter,” or a bad guy with a gun that is using it, in a crowded environment like a school, business place or mall. This training was to teach law enforcement how to respond.
They learned different tactics for moving through hallways as teams and individually.
They trained with different tools including a shield.
Then they started scenarios. The “responding officers” had to follow the sounds of gun shots. They didn’t know what they would run into. One of the chiefs fired starter pistols to draw the attention of the officers. I was glad I had my ear plugs in because those rounds are very loud inside a school building.
The other cheif that was there followed behind the teams to ensure safety as they moved through the halls. There were dummy pistols, grenades and other dangerous objects on the ground along the way. The only immediate danger would be tripping on one of them. But they certainly elevate your heart rate as you think about the real possibilities.
There were a few civilian volunteers to play hostages and sometimes the bad guy. However, when they wanted a multiple shooter scenario, some of the officers played the roll of the bad guy.
This was a seriously fun thing to cover. That being said, I hope I never have to see these guys use these techniques in the real world. But it does instill a certain level of confidence knowing that we have officers trained and ready, just in case.