Coweta Training Event
School shooting scenario part of Mantracker
by Alex McRae
School shootings like the December 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Ct., have been on the minds of regional law enforcement officials as they gathered for the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office-sponsored Mantracker training this week.
Law enforcement officials work every day to improve responses to such situations, knowing that fast action saves lives, and in this week’s training a school shooting in progress was one of the scenarios staged at the old Howard Warner School building on Savannah Street in Newnan. The Tuesday session of the 2013 Mantracker was called an “active shooter” scenario and involved officers and volunteers playing the roles of shooter, school employees and students.
The two officers in charge of the scenario were Sergeant Mark Cooper and Investigator Denver Atwood of the Newnan Police Crime Suppression Unit. Cooper said Tuesday’s scenario was designed to involved an “active shooter” instead of a shooter who might have barricaded himself into an area or taken hostages.
“With an active shooter, it’s a situation where shooting is actually going on at the time officers arrive,” Cooper said. “The goal is to get in quick and go straight at the shooter and end it.”
This year’s Mantracker exercise is the 20th such event held in Coweta County. The event was started by the Georgia Department of Corrections Fugitives Squad and eventually taken over by the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office. More than 600 officers from across the west Georgia region and as far away as Tennessee and Alabama are enrolled in this year’s Mantracker training.
The three-day event offers courses in a wide variety of law enforcement disciplines. Training, both classroom and role playing, included canine activities, information gathering, proper use of communications equipment, drug enforcement, interrogation techniques and firearms training.
The “active shooter” scenario at the vacant Howard Warner School involved officers as “bad guys” and responding law enforcement officials armed with specially made Glock automatic pistols that fire simulated 9mm ammunition. Each firearm held a 17-round magazine. Rounds were tipped with capsules filled with dyed laundry detergent designed to splatter on contact with a target.
Although those involved wore body armor, all agreed that being hit with a simulated round was no fun.
“It hurts,” said Atwood. “It really stings.”
The scenario began with officers getting a call from a school official saying a shooter was in the building and firing weapons. In their training officers respond to the scene, assess the threat and take action.
After the exercise, all involved discussed the scenario to determine what went well and what could be improved.
“You always learn something new,” Cooper said.
Cooper and Atwood have been training others in this type of scenario for years. They receive training at courses offered across the nation and return to assist local law enforcement and other jurisdictions requesting help.
“We help anybody who asks for it,” Cooper said. “We want everyone to be as well-trained as possible to handle situations like this. We teach what it takes to intercept the shooter and end the threat.”