By MARY RAINWATER
In light of Friday’s tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn., local city and county law enforcement officials want to assure local residents that they are trained and prepared for such an occurrence in Anderson County.
“We have been trained for incidences like these for a long time,” Anderson County Sheriff Greg Taylor said. “We are prepared to assist Palestine police if the need arises as well as the four districts in our jurisdiction.”
Officers at both the Palestine Police Department and the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office have undergone active shooting training, which has become a requirement among most law enforcement agencies.
“We do train our officers in active shooter training and do practice that often,” Taylor said. “In fact, our tactical team is going to do a training drill at a local school while the students are out for Christmas break.
“We hope that we never have to be in a situation like that,” he said. “But, especially now, that situation is on the forefront of our thoughts.
The sheriff reported, and Palestine Police Sgt. James Muniz confirmed, that Palestine Police Department officers also have received the active shooter training — often training together.
“This is a necessity as the first responders in this type of incident will be the uniformed officers on patrol,” Muniz said. “Also within the past 12 months, a representative of the PPD has received additional training in the area of an active shooter incident.
“With his additional training the department has a qualified individual who can train other officers (new officers) in this area and help to keep up the continued training for all members of the department.”
The Palestine Police Department responds to incidences that occur in Palestine and Westwood school districts, while the ACSO is solely responsible for law enforcement at Elkhart, Cayuga, Neches and Slocum ISDs.
“The PPD will be reaching out to the Palestine ISD to assist in our continued training and we will be further asking the district to give the police department access to the new building for training,” Muniz said. “This will allow officers to learn the layout of the new facility.
“The police department is hoping to be able to gain access to the facilities during the holiday break so that officers can do some training while the building is not in use.”
With the addition of new structures at Westwood Independent School District, the PPD has reached out to the Westwood ISD in an attempt to work with the educators there.
“We have received a response from WISD Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman indicating that the district will be looking forward to working with the department,” Muniz said. “Not only will this help in the area of school safety but it will also help to strengthen an already good working relationship between Westwood ISD and the Palestine PD.”
The PPD also will be looking to work closer with schools to formulate district-wide and school-specific violence prevention programs and crisis response plans.
“Our belief is by working together, our children can stand a better chance of survival,” Muniz said. “God forbid if a tragedy like the one that just happened ever occurs here.”
Taylor called Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut “one of the most horrific things” that has happened in the U.S.
“It is a horrific situation, not just for the school and those families, but those first responders must be traumatized as well,” the sheriff said. “It is something I pray never happens here.
“There are just a lot of evil people in this world,” he added. “God must have wanted some angels.”
Mary Rainwater may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com