OAKLAND — Smoke billowed through the halls of Oakland Elementary school Saturday afternoon at the police training course.
The Sutherlin Police Department was putting on an active shooter training for their officers to learn how to respond to a shooter in a public place. The training covered the rapid response and deployment policy that prepares officers in case of a shooting.
Members of the Sutherlin and Winston police forces responded to a mock call from the school that there was a gunman in the school. A faux assailant fired at them out the front of the school before fleeing through the hallways. The officers followed the shooter while practicing clearing the hallways and learning safety formations.
They checked on all of the entrances and classrooms as they wound their way through the building searching for the faux shooter. After disarming the shooter they cleared the area. The officers practiced multiple scenarios including multiple gunmen hiding in different locations in the school.
The officers practiced firing with soap bullets in the guns designed for training.
Both officers and the shooter carried Glock 17T semi-automatic pistols and AR-15 long guns.
The halls were filled with smoke and flashing lights to complicate the situation. Military veterans and teenagers in the Future Soldiers program played the roles of the assailants and the confused and wounded school children.
“The idea is to have sensory overload,” Master Officer Vaughn Rains said.
Master Officer Rich Hopkins said the training had been planned since July and was not in direct response to the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in December. The training was not just for responding to calls in schools, but also to calls in places such as malls, movie theaters and other public places, he said.
He said the department does trainings periodically to stay sharp.
“We like to do these on an ongoing basis,” he said. “Like any physical skill, we start to lose an edge if we don’t practice.”
He said in a shooting situation an officer’s job is to mitigate the loss of life as quickly as possible.
“The goal today is to teach officers how to stop a threat and how to save lives,” he said.
Winston police detective Sandi Koberstein said she learned how to communicate better with fellow officers during a high risk situation from the training. She said she could be the first to respond to an emergency because she also serves as the school resource officer for Winston schools.
“I learned the formations and commands to say to each other,” she said. “Training for a situation makes you that much more prepared.”
• You can reach reporter Betsy Swanback at 541-957-4208 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.