By James Day
Silverton Police Chief Jim Angelmier, the reporter and City Manager Ron Chandler were lined up against the wall of a classroom wing at Silverton High School. In front of them a heavily armed active shooting suspect held a gun on a student hostage, played by a mannequin.
A bell rang, eerily realistic screaming and shouting boomed through the hall and a lone Silverton Police officer moved quickly down the hallway to engage the suspect.
“Drop the gun! Drop the gun!” the officer yelled. Shots were fired (the officers were using paintball cartridges), the suspect went down and training monitors who had been trailing the officer yelled “End scenario!” and “Holster!”
And then they ran the drill again and again until all 12 officers on hand had participated. A series of community members took turns playing the shooter, with Chandler also taking on the role. He took a paintball cartridge to the hand, the thigh and his midsection and called the experience “humbling and unnerving, that’s the best way to put it.”
As we observed in the hallway in our brightly colored vests, safety glasses and face shields the hallway floor became littered with paint shell casings.
Welcome to 2022, a year that to date has included more than 25 school shootings, including the loss of 21 lives at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. Silverton Councilor Elvi Cuellar Sutton at a pair of City Council meetings has encouraged the city to be more proactive on school safety issues.
Wednesday, Aug. 17, was a step in that direction. Officers started with a classroom briefing by Anglemier which focused on strategy and tactics. They then headed out for the solo officer exercise. A second exercise involved a trio of officers working collectively to subdue a shooting suspect in a classroom. Silver Falls Superintendent Scott Drue was on hand for this piece and noted to Angelmier a desire to have the SPD train at as many of the district schools as possible so that officers can familiarize themselves with their layouts.
Sgt. JJ Lamoreaux, the lead trainer for the exercise, noted that that familiarity was one of the key goals of the exercise.
“I would characterize the goals for the training (were) to create a scenario-based training that puts officers into what they may physically and mentally feel in an active shooter situation,” Lamoreaux said, adding that officers needed to learn “how to stay in control as they go into a hazardous incident, and confront an armed threat.
“Basing the training in a local school gives the officers a sense of realism and allows officers to train in an environment that is actually familiarizing the officers with the school layout.”
Angelmier and Lamoreaux both said that federal grants had enabled the department to purchase equipment that should allow the SPD to conduct such training exercises on a regular basis.
In a post-exercise email exchange with Our Town after the 4.5-hour session, Lamoreaux called the training “a huge success and beneficial to the officers due to the recent incidents of active shooter situations in the nation. The officers’ performance demonstrated an understanding of the expectations put on them when responding to these types of incidents. The fact that we have the capabilities, equipment, and trained staff to be able to hold our own training is amazing in itself.”
When asked what the department learned from the exercise Lamoreaux said:
“The officers were given a reinforcement of the expectations and responsibilities [they] have during an active shooter situation. Officers were presented with different tactical options to confront the different armed subjects in this specific incident. Officers learned and experienced the mental and physical affects an officer may experience during an active shooter incident and how to control them.
“Most importantly, this type of realistic training provides reinforced confidence in their abilities to respond to and handle these types of incidents.”