Officers train in old police headquarters

'Shooter' drills put officers in familiar ground

The old sheriff’s administration building has sat nearly vacant for close to a year, but in August about 300 officers filed through the hallways with weapons drawn for “active shooter” training.

“It’s going to be the most gut-wrenching situation you’ve ever been in,” instructor Oleg Grinko told a class of Richmond County officers during a session last week. “You’re going to pass bodies – God forbid, children – but you’ve got to go in.”

Teams of officers took turns filing through hallways that once housed investigators and administrators but now had only scattered filing cabinets, telephones, dusty desks and empty boxes. The goal was to find and eliminate the source of gunshots that echoed through the halls.

In a large room littered with bullet casings just outside former Sheriff Ronnie Strength’s office door, two men equipped with two AR-15 rifles and two Glock handguns, loaded with paint cartridges, had a shootout with teams of officers.

Each time was different. Sometimes a shooter committed suicide and other times they surrendered after the shootout. Officers had a split second after coming face to face with the shooters to determine the best course of action.

“You’ve got to pay attention,” Sgt. Everett Jenkins, who played a shooter in the training exercise, told the deputies. “We’re expendable. Period. We signed up for this.”

Lt. Bill Probus said the training was adopted shortly after the Columbine school shootings in 1999. The training has continued to adapt to different scenarios. Instructors declined to detail the
specifics of training techniques because of safety concerns.

In the past, the sheriff’s office has conducted similar training exercises at schools, commercial establishments and the “shoot house” in Blythe. The former Richmond County Sher­iff’s Office building offered another option for training.

Sheriff’s administration moved from the building in Sep­tember 2012. The jail booking area remains open, but employees occupy only the bottom floor.

“It’s mainly vacant and it gives us a wide variety of different scenarios we can set up,” Probus said.

Long hallways, stairwells and various intersection points give police an opportunity to practice different skills learned during the class.

“A lot of the feedback from the deputies say it’s some of the best training we’ve had,” Probus said.

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