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Vermilion Parish Sheriff's Office conducts active shooter training

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Posted at 7:08 PM, Aug 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-10 21:32:47-04

It all started with Columbine.

"37 years ago, law enforcement had no idea they would have school shootings," Sheriff Mike Couvillon said.

VPSO Chief Deputy Kirk J. Frith added that he has been with the office for 35 years and remembers in the 80's and 90's when no one was familiar with the term "active shooter."

Then on April 20, 1999, two Columbine High School students opened fire and killed 13 people at their school. Frith said Columbine put the term on the map.

The Sheriff's Office has been undergoing active shooter training ever since Sheriff Couvillon was elected in 2005.

The goal is to put law enforcement in the most realistic situations as possible, said James Gleason, an instructor with VPSO.

Gleason explained that to do this, trainers implement a variety of tools. They use simulated gunfire, roleplayers to simulate students and teachers, resources to simulate blood, and someone playing the role of the gunman.

The situations law enforcement go through in the training can be "very, very stressful."

Officers have to learn to make decisions in a second to figure out who the threat is and how to react, explained Frith.

The officials explained that it is better for officers to be proactive than simply react to a tragic event.

All three men said the training is an invaluable tool to law enforcement, especially after the increased number of school shootings and mass shootings that have been occuring.

Trainers do about 40 drills a year. They commended the school board for allowing the sheriff's office to use local schools to train.

The Sheriff's Office hosts the training events and encourages smaller departments to train with them.

Volunteer Justin Merritt is the Vermilion Parish School Board's Legal Counsel/Risk Manager and decided the training was important enough to take part in. This is his second weekend participating; he will be training next weekend as well.

He said that the training "puts them in the actual situations they would face...the rounds feel like you're getting hit hard."

Sheriff Couvillon said, "We pray we never have to use this training, but in the event we do have to use it, we'll be prepared."

Gleason added a similar sentiment.

"If our law enforcement officers can run through these scenarios and survive in the worst possible situation, they'll be prepared in the event anything would actually happen in Vermilion Parish."