January 24, 2013

Sheriff's Office trains for possible school intruder

Mock exercise held at Sublimity Elementary

By Magen McCrarey
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — Specialized tactical response training was in full force during the MLK holiday on Monday at Sublimity Elementary School.  With students out of school for the holiday, it provided the perfect opportunity for the Laurel County Sheriff's Department Specialized Response Unit (SRU) and deputies to perform emergency safety drills.

There are a million "what if" questions involved in an active shooter, hostage or multiple shooter situations, said Lt. Rodney Van Zant, commander of the SRU.  In order to be prepared for a variety of situations, officers ran several drills aimed at increasing the speed, element of surprise and violence of action for each officer.  

As heavy boots echoed through Sublimity's deserted hallways, air soft pellet guns were heard within classrooms where an unknown perpetrator was planted.  The mock exercise provided a realistic shooting experience to keep deputies on their toes.

"We try our best to put our deputies into as many 'what ifs' as possible, that way training is already in their head. Instead of trying to come up with a new plan on the spot in the heat of the moment, they already have something to revert back to," Van Zant said.

Bringing deputies in to train with the SRU encourages congruent responses throughout the department if an active shooter situation was ever to occur at a Laurel County school. In addition, it brings deputies, who are primarily out on the road, up to speed with tactical department responses.

"Our training is constantly evolving," he continued. "Timing is really everything. If we can shave tens of seconds off of our responses, I feel like we've made progress."

There are currently 22 deputies employed at the Laurel County Sheriff's Office; six are members of the SRU.  

For the next six weeks, Sheriff John Root is requiring all deputies to walk through all 18 county schools.  Following the six week period, all deputies are expected to provide random walk -throughs each month, to provide additional safety to the schools.

At the next Laurel County Fiscal Court meeting, Root will ask to hire deputies to be planted within the schools permanently.  Deputies have not acted as School Resource Officers for six consecutive years. These positions are currently being held by two full-time officers London Police officers.  The LPD have had officers present in the schools for 12 years in a row.  

The next Fiscal Court meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 24 at 6:30 p.m. at the Laurel County Courthouse on Main Street.