Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Division goes through rigorous training to keep students safe
Some schools in Jefferson County welcomed students back last week. Other school systems will welcome students back between mid-to-late August. When parents send their kids to school they want to know that their children are safe. Jefferson County Sheriff’s School Resource Officers (SROs) work tirelessly every day to help keep students all around the county safe while they attend class.
When Sheriff Mark Pettway took office, one of his first priorities was to increase the number of School Resource Officers in schools across the county. The SROs are placed in schools for a full year and they are a critical piece of the puzzle to keeping schools safe. Their relationships with students, faculty, and staff also are critical to increasing trust with law enforcement.
Under the command of Capt. Felicia Rucker-Sumerlin, SROs spent the summer preparing for all possible scenarios in active shooter situations. In addition, the SROs also trained through real-time simulations in Jefferson County Schools. Earlier in the month, SROs drilled at McAdory High School.
Sgt. Anthony Williams is in charge of the training program for the SROs. During the training, they learn movement techniques, how to respond to active shooter situations, they look at any new lessons learned from the most current active shooter incident, and they are briefed on any updated emergency procedures to ensure that their first priority of saving kids is met. During the first part of the drill, the officers were in the classroom studying any possible situation and how they should handle them if a school is under attack. They then put into practice what they learned in the classroom. The exercises included scenarios for when a school goes on lockdown.
“We look at each and every possible situation that could arise in an active shooter situation,” said Sgt. Anthony Williams. “Every year it’s something different we have to add to the simulations. We also look at what’s going on nationally. Even though other shooting situations didn’t take place in a school, there are things we study from those incidents to ensure that we are fully prepared in any active shooter situation.”
Another area that the SROs focus on is ensuring that everyone has engrained in their minds ‘Run, Hide and Fight’ in an active shooter situation. “When adrenaline is high, being able to recall ‘Run, Hide and Fight,’ is imperative when trying to save lives. You have to have a plan and be able to assess that plan and put it into practice,” Williams added.
Run. Hide. Fight. was put into place by Homeland Security through the Ready Campaign to teach people through three basic words how to save their life if they find themselves in an active shooter situation.
1. Run- get away from the shooter if possible by running away. Leave all belongings behind.
2. Hide – if you cannot get away from the shooter then you should hide out of view of the shooter. Remain silent and make sure all electronic devices are off so that they don’t vibrate. Block doors if possible.
3. Fight- This is the last resort. You should fight the shooter aggressively.
Being a School Resource Officer is not all about containing a school under attack. The job also can be a rewarding experience for both the students and law enforcement officers.
“Our goal is to get the students to trust and build relationships with the SROs,” said Capt. Felicia Rucker-Sumerlin, “We want to be a positive influence with the kids. When we are, they tell us things and help us lookout for any potentially bad situations in the schools.”
On the flip side, the SROs encourage and help kids who may not always find encouragement outside of school. For the SROs, the program helps them build bridges with students. They also find that they become mentors to the students.
“This program keeps our SROs grounded and they often see that they can help students overcome anything in their lives that they are troubled with,” said Williams.
Rucker-Sumerlin stated that there are SROs in 62 schools county-wide. Last year SROs were able to finish the year by making 76 felony arrests, which included 17 terrorist threat investigations, 454 misdemeanor arrests, 83 traffic citations, and 2,009 traffic warnings.