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Police departments ramp up school shooter training as students return to classroom

"It has definitely evolved, but the understanding is that the stakes are a lot higher," said Cobb County Sergeant Wayne Delk.

ATLANTA — Police departments across metro Atlanta have ramped up active shooter training as students and staff head back to the classroom.

In the wake of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, many parents have expressed concern about school safety to their local school districts and police departments.

"It is very close to home, it's heartbreaking," said Sandy Springs Police Sergeant Matt McGinnis. "But that's why we train.”

11Alive reached out to 16 police departments across metro Atlanta to ask how they train for a potential school shooting event.

Six of those gave detailed responses about how they’re training for a school shooting, including Fairburn Police, Roswell Police, Atlanta Public Schools Police, Gwinnett Police, Sandy Springs Police, Dunwoody Police, and Cobb County Police.

"We do train in many of the schools," explained Sergeant Wayne Delk with the Cobb County Police Department. "Our tactical guys will actually play bad guys and role players and we bring in civilians to play victims.”

Delk said their training is more realistic than its ever been.

"It has definitely evolved, but the understanding is that the stakes are a lot higher," he said.

In Sandy Springs, the training is similarly realistic.

"We have to be ready to respond to something that nobody wants to respond to," McGinnis said, "and the only way to do that is by putting ourselves in that type of environment as best we can."

All use guns that shoot projectiles or send shockwaves.

Gwinnett Police completed a training simulation at a local elementary school in late July, before students and staff returned to class.

Gwinnett PD Corporal Ryan Winderweedle said they even included actors playing students and teachers.

"We had role player students running through the halls screaming and yelling, students in the room," he said. "It's as realistic as it can be.”

Another significant change most of the departments who responded pointed out, is that they no longer train to wait for backup.

Rather, they train to respond.

"It is trained into them, you're going in," Winderweedle said. "Even if unfortunately you're by yourself, you're going to go into the school.”

Dunwoody Police wrapped up a Civilian Response to Active Shooter Event (CRASE) course, which was open to the public, in early August. 

Department spokesperson Sergeant Michael Cheek said the department also held a tabletop session with Dekalb County School Police about active shooters at schools.

"During the exercise we discussed logistics of evacuating students, reunification of students, how Dunwoody Police can access the schools, how to get medical responders to the location, potential traffic issues, and many other response protocols," Cheek said. "Our main goal we responding to any active shooter is to stop the killing before anything else."

The Fairburn Police Department confirmed they have a two day active shooter training for all of their officers scheduled for Aug. 16 and 18. 

Roswell Police Department spokesperson Officer Timothy Lupo said all of their officers go through the A.L.E.R.R.T. curriculum (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training) developed by Texas State University. More information on that program can be found here

"Specifically for 2022, every month a cohort of our officers go through a weeklong in-service training where one 10-hour day has been dedicated solely to active shooter response drills and scenario-based training at a local training facility," Lupo said. "That facility is modular in design and allows our officers to train in environments mimicking schools, office buildings, residential homes/apartments, etc."

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