Sarasota Police Officer Julius Gonzalez runs up the stairs at Southside Elementary School for armed shooter training. Shots from a starter pistol signal to Gonzalez where the shooter might be located.
"It's a scary feeling when you hear the gunshots, but it's what we signed up to do," Gonzalez said.
For him, this isn't just a drill. It's training for a live situation of finding an active shooter.
The Sarasota Police Department and Sarasota County Schools collaborated to host an evaluation of active shooter tactics at Southside Elementary on Friday. Officers involved in the training had no idea they would be participating when they started their shifts.
Sarasota County’s critical dispatch team would make the active shooter call for the training. Officers would then run through the school searching doors and listening to commands from the dispatch. Officers pretended to be the active shooter and victims who were shot in order to make the training as realistic as possible.
The Sarasota Police Department, Sarasota Memorial and Sarasota County School Board Police worked together on the drill to replicate a real shooting. Rainey said that because tactics and communication may differ depending on the agency, evaluations like these can help overcome those hurdles. It’s his goal to have the training held in every school in Sarasota.
The police department has been planning the training since 2021, but Rainey said that the school shooting that occurred in Uvalde remains on the department’s mind as they prepare.
“If you're a police officer in the United States in 2022 and you're not prepared, you might be in the wrong profession,” Rainey said. “This is an assignment that is above all others.”
This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Sarasota PD active shooter training held at Southside Elementary