NEW ULM - Brown County police departments spent Thursday running through simulation training for a worst scenario - a school shooting.
Coordinated by the Brown County Emergency Management office and directed by the Brown County Emergency Response Unit, which functions as the county's SWAT unit, the officers from the Brown County Sheriff's Office and the police departments of New Ulm, Sleepy Eye and Springfield worked together to improve their response abilities if a school shooting occurred.
Using the buildings at Jefferson Elementary School and Cathedral High School, the officers went through eight types of scenarios. The training involved an actor with a gun and several civilians played by school officials and New Ulm Medical Center staff. These individuals were selected so they could also learn how to respond to a school shooting.
Thursday's training required officers to start each run from the location of a call to which they must respond. They traveled to the school building without prior knowledge of which scenario was active and responded according to what they encountered. The situations ranged from a docile person with a gun outside the school to the intensity of an armed individually holding a hostage and firing on police. To simulate realism, officers and the shooter use firearms loaded with "rubber bullets" and red dye.
The Brown County Emergency Response Unit officials shadowed the officers through each scenario to observe how they handled each situation. At the post-mission debriefing, they critiqued the officers on how they handled everything from remembering to grab their keys to the school to the use of lethal force on a shooter.
Twenty-eight officers, including 18 from NUPD, participated in the scenarios with the assistance of 10 ERU officers. Each scenario involved three to four officers responding to a call.
NUPD Commander Dave Borchert said the training does not always involve a school shooting, but the departments push themselves very hard so they can be fully ready for a real situation. The drills involve as many situations as they can think of to ensure officers are prepared for the chaos that occurs in real incidents.
"We're actively trying to challenge the officers. We want them to be ready if something like this ever occurred," said Borchert.
Brown County Emergency Management is planning another emergency response scenario Thursday at the New Ulm Medical Center. This training will focus more on the hospital staff testing their response to a variety of emergency situation with actor patients.
(Josh Moniz can be e- mailed at email@example.com)