A recent training session for members of the Toccoa Police Department focuses on school safety.
Back on January 26, the eight members of the police department’s Special Operations Response Team, or SORT Team, held a training session at Toccoa Elementary School.
Toccoa Police Department Detective Shannon Westbrook heads up the SORT Team.
He said the team trained on a variety of scenarios.
“We did different drills, training on responding to a barricaded person at the school, a hostage inside the school, and a suspicious person on the perimeter of the school,” said Westbrook. “We trained on different entry methods and responding to the classrooms and removing the threat.”
Westbrook said this training has been done regularly before, but adds that especially in light of recent events, it is important to conduct such exercises.
“Recently, of course the school situation has been big news,” said Westbrook. “We have done it in the past. We felt now would be a good time to refresh our training on it, ensure the public and the school system that we are well-trained and up to date on our methods.”
He also said that it is invaluable for the SORT team to be able to use Toccoa Elementary for the training exercise, rather than another location.
“It gives us a way to familiarize ourselves with the layout, where each particular room is located so we do not have go in and search around,” said Westbrook. “We know exactly where to respond and where to allocate the manpower.”
According to Westbrook, the SORT team could respond in a matter of minutes if a situation were to arise.
Furthermore, Toccoa Police Chief Tim Jarrell said that all officers will undergo similar training because if a situation were to come up, the officers on the road would be the first to respond. According to Jarrell, such training has been regular in the past, but has taken on added emphasis in light of what has happened recently.
Jarrell also said that both Stephens County School Superintendent Sherrie Whiten and Toccoa Elementary School Principal David Jacobsen have been very supportive of what the police department has done and is doing.