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Officers practice for active shooter scenarios
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Special blue weapons that shoot colored paintballs are used during an Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training session. Multiple law enforcement agencies take part in the event, which trains law enforcement how to handle active shooters indoors.

For the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training course Tuesday, a group of officers had the mission of protecting the hostages and subduing the suspect. The training, hosted this week by the Gainesville Police Department, prepares officers on the local, state and federal level for active shooter scenarios.

“One of the things that we’re teaching is the difference between a hostage situation and an active shooter and how fast that can change,” said Gainesville police Lt. Jay Parrish.

The scenario was named “Stockholm,” with two hostages instructed not to move from the doorway unless forcibly removed. An officer pretending to be injured informs the responding officers of the suspects’ location.

From Gainesville police to the Department of Natural Resources, multiple jurisdictions joined for the training scenarios, a vital element in any collaborative emergency response.

“It’s important that we all be on the same page as to how we respond to those situations,” said Gainesville police spokesman Cpl. Kevin Holbrook.

Officers used training ammunition that works with regulation police weapons, a nonlethal round with color markings. Officers responding had blue rounds, while the hostage-takers used orange rounds.

Officers attempted to convince the hostages to move out of the door’s threshold to no avail. If they moved, the pretend hostages said, they were told they would be shot.

Before the hostage-taker could begin his countdown, the scenario officers had secured the hostages and stopped the suspects.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and this is the third time I’ve seen a group a come in, the first time seeing it, and do it right,” said Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Joe Perkins.

With its genesis tracing back to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., the ALERTT program now is coordinated with help from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Recent shooting deaths, such as the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012 at Newtown, Conn., prompted the FBI to partner with the Bureau of Justice Assistance.

Training requires about five or six instructors, with law enforcement from Cherokee County and Suwanee also in attendance.

Most officers will go through the training once in their careers, Parrish said, but learning the dynamics of the situation is paramount should a situation ever escalate.

“We fall back on our training,” he said. “These officers realize how important it is.”

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