UNION COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) – The school year is here and many law enforcement agencies have spent the summer training for the unthinkable.
7NEWS goes behind the scenes with the Union County Sheriff’s Office in an exclusive story, to see how they are preparing.
Classroom to classroom, hallway to hallway, the Union County School Resources Officers go through drill after drill, preparing for any possible situation. Including an active shooter.
“I’d hate to say that this would come to Union, but you never know. Some of these smaller towns throughout the country that’s had school shootings didn’t think it would happen there, but it did,” said Captain Scott Coffer.
Officer Kevin Smith said he has worked in the schools going on 5 years.
“This is the first year we’ve actually housed the training in my own school, this is my school,” he said. “We learn something new every year we’re training, something different.”
The training was held at Jonesville Middle School.
A stressful environment is created for the training. Officers have to clear the rooms, halls and bathrooms.
“We want the schools in Union County to be the safest schools,” said Smith. “We want to train so that we can send these kids and the staff home every day to their families, safe.”
“Controlled Chaos” is a company owned by Paul Heitz, where he uses military tactics to train law enforcement, all over the state of South Carolina. The company is based out of Chester County, S.C.
“Our School Resource Officers Protect our children in our community. So, why not give them the techniques, whether it’s shooting, room clearing, medical,” said Paul Heitz.
Heitz said learning new techniques is crucial.
“Criminals evolve every single day, so why are our tactics and our techniques not evolving with the criminals,” he said.
“The biggest thing is to get to the threat and send these kids home to their parents safe,” said Smith.
One main message: keep it simple.
“We overthink, things go bad, and I break it down where we don’t have to overthink. Everything is set in place, left, right, they know what they have to do,” said Heitz.
Coffer said it’s good to get an outside perspective to get constructive criticism.
“We put them through this training because they are the first line of defense, they are held accountable to keep these kids safe,” he said.
A parent himself, Coffer said everyone worries when their kids leave home.
“I think this is something that is on everybody’s mind, because you see in the media, or you see on social media, shooting here and shooting there,” he said. “The SRO’s are the first line of defense inside the schools until their backup arrives.”
“Heitz said the key is adapting and overcoming. Every officer needs repetition and to apply techniques, so they remember them if they ever have to use them.
Heitz said his tactics are constantly changing, depending on the type of agency he is training.