Training for the unthinkable

GETTING BRIEFED» L.A. County Sheriff Special Enforcement Bureau training instructor prepares deputies for a day of extensive training of a “shooter scenario.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff deputies from Crescenta Val­ley and Altadena stations trained on Tuesday for a scenario that would be a parent’s worse nightmare — a student en­tered a school with a gun.

Although it was just a train­ing exercise, every effort was made to create an at­mosphere similar to a real emergency including creat­ing the sounds of gunfire and the screams of nervous and scared teenagers.

“We have to be prepared for the safety of our community,” said Capt. Dave Silversparre of the CV Sheriffs Station.

IMG_0053The Crescenta Valley sta­tion has participated in this type of training session on several occasions. Silver­sparre said training in all emergencies, like fire, earth­quake and this type of crime, is invaluable for deputies.

Many of the deputies that were new to the CV station participated as well as the station’s training deputies.

The session was guided by the Special Enforcement Bu­reau, the L.A. County Sheriff equivalent to Special Weap­ons and Tactics (SWAT), who began the day with a briefing on tactics then went to the simulation.

Pasadena students from Marshall Fundamental Sec­ondary School and Pasadena High School volunteered to play victims.

“We were told to yell and create chaos,” said senior Jo­sephine Kinney.

The teens were also asked to provide a description of the shooter to deputies.

Fortunately none of the students had experienced this type of violence but they were more than aware of the potential danger.

Senior Veronica Ota re­counted a story of being in lock down when she was in sixth grade due to a student bringing a paintball type gun to school.

“And we were scheduled to perform the play ‘Bang, Bang You’re Dead’,” said Ota.

The play, written by William Mastrosimone, deals with school violence. Ota said the play was postponed because it’s opening weekend coin­cided with the Virginia Tech school shooting.

The students saw their par­ticipation in the training as a way to help deputies prepare.

“It makes us safer. Why not be prepared?” asked Marilyn Bradford, senior.

“We trust [the deputies]. We expect them to be there to protect us,” added Kinney.

Sgt. Michael Harding, spe­cial enforcement, said the objective of the training was to have the deputies work to­gether as a team and to know their mission is to save lives.

IMG_0066A review of other school and public shootings is done by the enforcement training offi­cers, and tactics are changed or kept by what is learned. Harding said that in addi­tion to his deputies he tells his own school age children how to react if this situation occurs.

“Go find an escape route, run or barricade your class­room,” he said.

The deputies were taught a variety of things including how to ask right questions to verify where the shooter was, how to enter buildings and how to cautiously move through the classrooms.

“The dynamics of an active shooter is a lot different than other situations,” said in­structor Griz Saldana.

Response to reports of a home with a possible bur­glary suspect still in the house are handled differ­ently than a report of a per­son with a gun in a school or mall, he said.

“You have to understand how the body reacts, how to read body language of the students, teachers and the suspect,” Saldana said.

The training day concluded with a debriefing and depu­ties went back to their sta­tions.

“I look around this school, and malls, and I see fire alarms and multiple emer­gency protection, but there is nothing that will warn us about an active shooter. There is no alarm, so we need to be ready,” Harding said.