02/22/07 — Deputies practice school response

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Deputies practice school response

By Lee Williams
Published in News on February 22, 2007 1:46 PM

Gripping handguns, Wayne County sheriff's deputies inched down the school hallway. They knew a man had barged into the learning facility and killed several children, and they had one mission -- to take him out.

This was the mock scenario deputies were presented with Monday as about 13 people participated in a rapid deployment drill at Eastern Wayne High School.

Wayne County Sheriff Carey Winders said the course is state mandated. He added it was a refresher course for some of the deputies and a new course for others.

"Rapid deployment is the training of our deputies to respond to an emergency at the school such as a shooting," he said. "It deals with responding to an active shooter on school grounds and what this training does is teach deputies what techniques to follow in situations like that."

Deputies used smoke to startle or confuse a potential shooter and blanks to simulate a shooting during the exercise because they wanted to make it as real as possible.

The need for rapid deployment training came about after the Columbine school shooting in 1999. The first officers on the scene were criticized because they did not intervene as soon as they arrived. Instead, they waited for the SWAT team as they had been trained to do, but by then the damage had been done. Twelve students and one teacher were killed. Twenty-four others were wounded before the teenage gunmen killed themselves.

In the wake of the shooting, officials decided to change the way they respond to a school shooting or any other potential terrorist.

"You don't wait for the SWAT team," Winders said. "You are supposed to respond and take action immediately."

Even if deputies arrive to find victims -- including one of their own -- deputies must stay the course, the course mandates.

"Your job is to pass them by and get to the shooter before they can kill any more victims," Winders said.