Sheriff’s Department trains to be prepared during a school shooting

Chris Foreman Chief of Special Operatio

CASHMERE - Last week, active shooter training occurred at Vale Elementary with the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department. The training was organized through the Sheriff’s department and took place at Vale because the Cashmere School District offered their facilities to the department for training, Sergeant Chris Foreman said.
While there are no current plans for the Sheriff’s Department to conduct active shooter training at another school in the near future, the plan is to rotate through training in different schools every year, so the department knows the layout of each school, Foreman said.
The high school had cleaning scheduled the week training was scheduled to occur, so training could not be done there, Foreman said. He said that training at Vale Elementary will help the Sheriff's Department be prepared for an active shooting that happens at any school in their jurisdiction.  The last time the Sheriff’s Department has done active shooter training at a school was ten years ago, he said.
In the past decade, the Sheriff’s Department has done certain active shooter training, but it was at a house, Foreman said. A challenge for the Sheriff’s Department is having access to facilities, he said. While it is best for schools for the Sheriff’s Department to train in the summer, that is the departments busiest time of year, and it can be difficult to get everyone together for training while still having enough active patrol.
Across the state, Sheriffs’ Departments are mandated to do many types of training, but school shootings are not one of the mandated trainings, Foreman said. He said the Sheriff’s Department still thought school active shooting training was important.
The Sheriff’s Department ordered a lot of special equipment for the training. For example, they used dummy bullets that shot paint capsules to make the training as realistic as possible, he said. While mistakes have been made by law enforcement in the past in certain shootings, the Chelan County Sheriff’s Department will respond to eliminate the threat, he said.
“I think the public has a fear that law enforcement is not going to respond appropriately because they didn’t in this instance,” Foreman said. “And I think we are sensitive to that and want the public to know that we are coming in and we are going to go in right away to eliminate the threat. If we have an active shooting at a school, mall, business, or place of worship, it doesn’t matter the venue, we are going to eliminate the threat.”
One mistake during the Uvalde shooting, Foreman said, was that the chief of police was inside the building as a rescuer and so they didn’t have anyone to step up and lead operations and set up an incident command, he said.  If there is a shooting in Chelan County, the first few officers who get there are going in, he said, but after that someone at a supervisory level will set up an incident command.
Setting up an incident command involves working with many agencies like the fire, EMS, and the school. He said that incident command is set up in an area close to the incident but without an immediate threat so that the officers organizing command don’t have to worry about being shot at. The Sheriff’s Department has not had any issues with communicating via radio when near an incident, he said, and the emergency responders have their own radio frequency they can communicate on.
Foreman said it is difficult to say an exact time that the Sheriff’s Department would take to respond to a school shooting. He said a school resource officer could respond right away or other officers could be there in a minute or a few minutes, depending on where they are at.
The Sheriff’s Department partners with other agencies during a shooting, he said, like Washington State Patrol, neighboring police departments, and wildlife fish and game officers. Washington State Patrol realizes that if there is an incident, they are going to respond from wherever they are on the highway, Foreman said.
Fish and game officers are commissioned and go through the same academy officers do, he said. Anyone that carries a firearm at their job is commissioned and will respond to the incident, he said.
The priority during an active shooting is to stop the killing and neutralize the threat, he said. Once the threat has been neutralized, the priority is to stop the dying and provide medical care and coordinating with fire and EMS to treat the victims as well as to escort people to safety.
Foreman is confident that the Sheriff’s Department takes their oath seriously and will do what they can to defend the people.
“Every deputy in the Sheriff’s Office has taken the oath to serve and protect the community. A lot of the deputies have children in those schools, and we take that oath seriously and if needed we will sacrifice our own lives to save children’s lives in our community. And each and every officer when they put on the uniform knows that can happen on any given day. And that’s essentially what we have signed up for,” he said.

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