School resource officers undergo ‘real-life’ training to respond to a shooter

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 17, 2018

CLEVELAND — It seems as though school shootings have become so common that most people can’t even remember where or when they’ve occurred. In response to that reality, local school resource officers took part in solo active-shooter training Thursday.

The scenarios used in the training included a single officer being the first to respond to a lone shooter before backup arrives. About a dozen officers put on masks and, instead of bullets, used nonlethal paint rounds called Simunition. The rounds have the look of a bullet, but the sting, if someone is “shot,” is similar to that of a paintball pellet.

The training has been several months in the making and came together through a partnership with Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury Police officers and Rowan County Sheriff’s deputies. The training was held at the ForceTec training facility in Cleveland.

“It’s nerve-wracking,” said Salisbury police Officer Isaac Miller, who is a resource officer at Henderson Independent High School.

He’ll begin his third year as an SRO and said this is the first time he’s participated in training of this caliber.

“I think I did well. We have a great trainer who’s been doing this for years,” Miller said.

He said this type of training is beneficial.

“This is as real as you can get without actual bullets,” Miller said. “You never know when you get in that actual situation.”

Each officer was given the same scenario, but with a few changes. For instance, the “shooter” would change his tactics and force the officers to change their response.

After each officer was taken through the scenario with a trainer, Master Deputy Jay Davis conducted a debriefing. Davis, along with sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Flowers, asked each participant to rate his performance.

Flowers said the real planning for the training began in the spring. Once the officers confirmed the dates, it all came together.

“It’s good to get it done before school. It will be fresh on our minds. It’s to prepare us for the evil that may come,” Flowers said.

Rowan Master Deputy Charlie Ashby is a school resource officer at Southeast Middle School.

It’s great training because it gives officers the opportunity to respond to rapidly changing situations. “It’s real-life, hands-on,” Ashby said.

He said when officers encounter situations in a school setting, the answer may not always be to shoot.

Veteran Salisbury police Officer Shanita Millsaps has been a school resource officer since 2011 and is currently assigned to Knox Middle School.

It’s the first time she’s had such realistic training, she said, adding that it was nerve-wracking at first and she just wanted to make sure she did a good job.

The scenario gave her a few things to think about, including how she would respond using her radio to communicate with any backup and not underestimating the “shooter.”

“I liked that it was hands-on,” Millsaps said.

Deputy Tommie Cato has been in law enforcement for over 25 years, the majority with the N.C. Highway Patrol. He’s been an SRO about four years. He’ll be assigned to East Rowan High School.

“Unfortunately, in today’s society, we need to be the best marksmen we can be. We interact with our citizens and we try to be part of our schools. We have to be well-trained,” Cato said.

He said this type of training allows the officers to take into consideration any possibilities and do good in the schools.

Master Deputy Lunda Eller has worked in law enforcement for 30 years and been an SRO for three years. She’s assigned to Erwin Middle School.

She had never had such realistic training in which one officer responds independently against a single perpetrator. Eller said she’s glad Flowers took the initiative to organize the training.

“It’s extremely beneficial. It’s more like real life,” she said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.