Chinle police, school security get active shooter drill

Masket gunman in police uniform confronts schoolchildren wearing masks.

Navajo Times | Darrien Clitso
In a classroom at Chinle Elementary School on Monday, local teens pose as hostages during a school shooting training exercise for police officers and security personnel.

CHINLE

In a perfect world, school security wouldn’t have to do much besides direct traffic at basketball games and break up the occasional wrestling match, maybe intercept a bottle of vodka a prankster was planning on pouring into the punch at the school prom.

It’s not a perfect world. Although school shootings are much rarer than the one-per-week figure cited by President Obama during a speech, there are still 12 to 20 homicides at the country’s 100,000 schools every year, according to figures cited by NBC News.

“It’s a terrible thing that school employees have to learn this stuff,” said Joe Deedon, owner of TAC*ONE Consulting, the Denver-based company that was conducting an active shooter drill at Chinle Elementary School this week, “but you can’t act like it doesn’t exist.”

Police in riot gear.

Navajo Times | Darrien Clitso
Officers in training look for suspects with hostages during the school shooting training at Chinle Elementary School on Monday, July 24, 2017.

At the invitation of Sgt. Emmett Yazzie, training officer for the Navajo Nation Police Department, Deedon and one of his lead instructors, Brian Pollard, trained 15 police officers and Chinle Unified School District security guards, with local teenagers volunteering to act as shooters and victims (there was some darned good acting too, in case a talent scout is reading this).

To make the training more relevant, the trainees responded to several different scenarios in pairs, then as individuals.

“We understand the police here on the Navajo Nation don’t always have backup,” explained Deedon. “We try to make our scenarios as accurate as possible.”

The weapons, too, are as authentic as possible without hurting anyone. They use “simunitions,” which Deedon described as “very realistic, expensive paintball guns.”

In the first scenario the officers faced, they were called to the school on a report of a male in blue jeans carrying a black pistol. He has killed six students and two more are shot and possibly wounded as the cops arrive.

None of the trainees falls for the bait Deedon has provided: a terrified student screaming as she flees the gunman through the halls.

“You didn’t shoot her, so that’s a good thing,” Deedon tells the first pair of trainees.

Sometimes, in a rush of adrenaline, he says later, cops have been known to mistakenly shoot a victim.


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Categories: Education

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at editor@navajotimes.com.