Officers with the Allen County Sheriff’s Department spent the summer training to defend against an active shooter in a school. During the month of July they worked on active shooter drills at Summit Middle School before the new school year started.
All 141 officers in the department participated along with many other county employees who carry firearms as part of their duties. Chief Deputy Troy Hershberger says simulation rounds make the drills as real-life as possible without shooting real ammunition, “we’re actually shooting a wax paraffin type bullet, but it hurts when you get hit.”
All training is done with close communication with Allen County school officials who make up the Allen County Safety Commission. Southwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Park Ginder, Ph.D., says it’s important for officials to stay on the same page as law enforcement because it provides confidence for the community that they’re working together to keep kids safe. Hershberger says communication is key. “We can’t do it alone. We do it with their cooperation.”
East Allen County Schools District Safety Specialist Doug Goeglein says the training process is always evolving. “You learn as you go. Every time you put in policies, you think it’s the best policy for that day and time, but just like everything else in the world, when new things come along changes are necessary. Adjustments need to be made.”
Parents raised concerns after the law enforcement response to a recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. In that situation, officers waited over an hour to engage the shooter. Hershberger says his department is trained to go to the active shooter. “It’s their job, and their function and their purpose to go to the problem to try and neutralize that problem as best they can and as tactically as they can. Not necessarily just running into the storm so to speak, but to tactically address that threat and neutralize that threat.”
Hershberger says the tactics have changed over the years, “our responsibility is to go to the threat and neutralize the threat. If that means it’s only one officer, the first person here, that’s what they’ll be expected to do. It used to be we would standby and wait for a tactical team, but that philosophy has changed because some of the events that have unraveled over the years.”
Goeglein says school leaders try to keep parents informed as much as possible due to the secretive nature of training tactics. “We try to relay to parents what we do without divulging too much of what we do so that parents see it is a priority for us.”
Hershberger says the most effective way to keep children safe is to work closely with the safety commision. “If we didn’t have that collaboration and partnership amongst us, we wouldn’t be where we’re at today. I feel confident, and I hope they feel confident in us that we provide the best service for our students in our community.”