By Kelsi Peace, Managing Editor
Area law enforcement experienced firsthand what an active shooter situation could feel like, from seeking out a shooter to extracting a victim, thanks to a training the ACU Police Department hosted.
The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) spanned eight days, with four sessions for the 16 different forces, including the entire ACU PD and members of the Abilene Police Department, Texas Highway Patrol and Dyess Air Force Base Police.
“You learn the tactics, and then you actually engage the tactics,” said ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison. “When the application process involves someone shooting at you, it really changes the dynamics.”
The second day of the two-day training put the police officers in real situations, called force-on-force training, where they used “simmunition” as opposed to real 40-callibur bullets to tackle shooter situations in the vacant MacDonald Hall.
Officers entered the building in teams, rescued victims and worked to secure the scene and engage the active shooter.
“Generally, police officers are trained, under normal circumstances, to act as a one – or at most – twoman element,” said Lieut. Tracy Weims, an Abilene police officer and certified senior instructor for the training. “We’re pushing them to work as a team, to communicate. It’s a different mindset, as there’s a level of trust that has to be established.”
The 115 officers who trained with the ALERRT program learned tactics the program is teaching across the nation, equipping any trained officer to apply tactics alongside any force that is called to a crime scene, Ellison said.
“The demand for it is extremely high,” he said. “We were fortunate that we were chosen as a site.”
Last year, Ellison sent four officers to a similar training in Dallas, but travel costs to attend the grantfunded project still added up, he said. By hosting the training, Ellison said the force was able to train together for free.
“You cannot put a price tag on preparedness,” he added. “You cannot be over-prepared.”
And the ALERRT training prepared the officers for a shooter scenario, said Ellison, who lauded the training as the best he had experienced in his 24 years of police work.
“It hurt,” Ellison said. “The training hurt.”
The mock ammunition moves at what Ellison estimated to be a speed of 450 feet per second, and with the accuracy of a bullet. The “simmunition” leaves a mark if an officer is shot. Although painful, the training was also fun and rewarding, Ellison said. He said he plans to send his force through the training once a year or, at the least, two years.
“They’re not finished training,” Weims said. “What we give them in those 16 hours is just the beginning. Hopefully, what we’ve done is altered their mindset, so they will use this training on a daily basis.”
Weims said the 16-hour training, which crams 40 hours worth of learning into the time, has never received negative feedback in his five years of instructing.
“I’ve never had a student walk away from the training shaking their head and feeling they’ve wasted their time.”