Mesquite PD role plays active shooter situation
By Kirk Kern
In late May, an active shooter in the town of Uvalde, Texas, entered an elementary school and killed 19 students and two teachers, along with wounding 17 other people.
In the aftermath, the town’s SWAT team has been heavily criticized for the way the incident was handled. And although they hope that type of situation won’t occur in Mesquite, the local police department will be ready.
On June 22, the Mesquite Police Department’s Special Reaction Team set up mock active shooter scenarios at Virgin Valley Elementary School to go over how they would react in this type of situation.
“Anytime there is one of these shootings, we take stock in ourselves and reassess in our training,” said Sgt. Wyatt Oliver of the Mesquite Police Department. “That’s not the only reason we did it, but we shifted some things around.”
The Mesquite Police Department doesn’t have a full-time SRT team as the 15-member squad has to perform patrols and other duties. In some ways, this could be an actual benefit in an emergency situation as the first officers on the scene are most likely to be SRT members.
In this training, the emphasis was on an immediate response.
“The biggest thing in an active shooting is immediate action,” Oliver said. “Whether it’s one or two officers, we’re not going to wait for a whole SWAT team to come before taking action.”
That was the biggest criticism of the Uvalde shooting, as officers reportedly waited 78 minutes on site before breaching the classroom that the shooter was in.
Virgin Valley Elementary provided the setting for the role play situation as no students are on campus at this time. Oliver said they played out two situations in which the active shooter’s location was easily identifiable and another in which he was hidden.
“We focused on small teams, two or three guys going in to locate the threat,” Oliver said. “They did a great job. Our tactics change a little bit when there’s no stimulus and you can’t tell where they’re hidden. But they did really well. They found the threat and addressed the situation. It was a good experience.”
It was also helpful for officers to get to know the layout of the school.
“We get to make sure everyone is familiar with the layout of the school,” he said. “There are lots of hidden hallways. These hallways echo. You can hear gunshots and noise. You’ve got to figure it out.”
Oliver says these types of role playing situations are a regular part of SRT training.