LaGRANGE — Outside the former Unity Elementary School building on Park Avenue on Wednesday, Troup County sheriff’s deputies gathered around a heavy, metal door and took turns slamming a battering ram into it until it popped open.
LaGrange Police Officer Josh Clower watched, and after each deputy gave it a go, gave tips and feedback.
“Do it as many times as you need,” he said.
The training was part of a daylong exercise LaGrange police and the sheriff’s department participated in to prepare for dealing with a shooter inside a building, like a school. It was the first time the two agencies collaborated on such an exercise.
“We’re just going through and letting them use each one of these tools to know what it feels like, so the first time they use it is not on a live call, it’s here in training,” Clower said. “… That way when it happens, you have that picture painted in your brain of what it’s going to be like.”
In addition to the techniques for entering through a barricaded or reinforced door, the deputies also went through exercises with scenarios designed to prepare them for what they might face if trying to find a shooter inside a building. Throughout the shooter scenario training, the participants stopped at “stations” for tips and varying scenarios on handling different areas like stairwells, classrooms and hallways.
“We incorporate a couple of different scenarios (at each station) where … (they) show us what they picked up, and efficiently and, hopefully, effectively at the end, locate the shooter and handle him as need be,” Clower said.
The police department has annually trained with shooting scenarios like this, and does smaller training quarterly, but this year partnered with the sheriff’s department.
“The sheriff’s office … help us all the time, and we help them all the time,” Clower said. ” … Say there were a few deputies here in the city working on something and were close to the call. We all show up, we’re all operating under the same tactics and we know what we’re going to do, versus we were all taught one way and they were taught another, and they zig, we zag, and it all becomes a mess.
“But luckily, we’ve all come together really well, and we’re all trying to get on the same sheet of music so that we can best … handle the issue as quickly and as safely as possible, and save as many lives as we can in one of these catastrophic events.”
Sgt. Stewart Smith, sheriff’s public information officer, said the joint training opportunity shows the better cooperation between the police and sheriff’s departments over the last few years.
“We definitely appreciate them doing this with us,” he said. “… It seems like on an almost weekly basis we’re doing something together, so it’s good to have some training with each other.”
Matthew Strother is the editor of LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2153.