Vidalia police train for mass shooting scenarioPublished 12:00am Tuesday, January 8, 2013
NATCHEZ — The recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., has prompted one local law enforcement agency to complete training to ensure they are prepared for a similar event.
Four Vidalia Police Department officers and two dispatchers went through training that simulated a school shooting and other scenarios with Natchez Police Capt. Tom McGehee Monday in the basement of Parkway Baptist Church.
Officers Miranda Clifton, Denny Bozeman, Stuart Boykin and Samara Malone carefully walked the halls of the basement in a diamond formation, with each officer against the back of another covering all angles, simulating the procedures they would use to clear a school in the event of a shooting.
The dispatchers portrayed suspects in the shooting scenario, as well as other hostage situations.
“This way (the dispatchers) are able to feel what their guys are doing in the field,” McGehee said.
McGehee gives the same training to Natchez police officers each August in the basement of the church. Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis said he wanted to do the training even before the Sandy Hook shooting last month.
“But the school shooting had a lot to do with why I wanted (the officers) to do the training,” he said.
The training is done in teams and will be completed over four sessions. The officers, McGehee said, will also learn procedures that can be used in other aspects of police work, including clearing a building during a burglary and hostage negotiation.
A situation like the Sandy Hook shooting can happen anywhere, Lewis said. Preparation and training, he said, is the best weapon the department can have.
“You can never have too much training in police work,” he said. “I have a 5-year-old daughter, and from time to time, I think about the kids in Connecticut. You shouldn’t be surprised what the world is bringing on you, and I just think we need to be prepared.”