APSO conducts drill at Dutchtown High School

Greg Fischer Editor-in-chief
Chief Deputy Bobby Webre (left) and Major Mike Toney address the media after an school shooting response drill was conducted at Dutchtown High School.

On Wednesday, July 18 APSO conducted a drill at Dutchtown High School to simulate response to a violent situation. No students, staff members, or members of the public were allowed on campus.

Media was invited to witness only the cars and fire departments' speedy entrances to the scene.

Sounds of children screaming were played loudly over the school's PA system to mimic a more realistic environment. Police officers rushed into the school with rifles.

"This is what we call a phase one response drill to an active shooter at a school," Chief Deputy Bobby Webre said. "Throughout the summer we have been participating in a lot of training at one of the schools in Donaldsonville, the old West Ascension Elementary School. It's shut down now, so we've been doing some tactical entries into that school."

Webre continued that they wanted to use Dutchtown for a drill because of the large size of the school. They wanted to practice exactly what they would do when Fire and EMS is included.

"How are we going to set up that mobile command," Webre proposed.

The priority of law enforcement in a school shooter situation is stopping the threat, but the second-most important priority is communication. That means mastering the mobile command, according to Webre.

"I want to make sure that police can talk to fire and that fire can effectively communicate to EMS, "he said. "Also, can we communicate to the school system? That's where that unified command is so important."

Since the scenario is rare, but high-risk, Webre said that there is a lot of potential for mistakes. He said that the only way to do it right is to "train, train, train."

After the drill, the police will look at video from the drill, evaluate timelines and breakdowns in communications. So that the next time they will do it better. Obviously, the summertime is the best time to train for situations like these because the kids are out of school. Webre commended the the Ascension Parish School System and Superintendent David Alexander for their cooperation.

"We've been practicing this for quite a while," Webre said. "Our tactical situations are getting better."

He is speaking of the first car that arrives on the scene. He added that as soon as the first police officer gets there, they have to go in.

"You hope the second one is right behind them, and you hope the third one is right behind him," Webre said. "When we're teaming up now, I can see our tactical movement and clearing through the school and moving to the threat is becoming much, much smoother."

The Crises Response team is going to show up, but the Ascension Sheriff's Office knows that they cannot wait for the team to arrive.

"So that civil deputy--even if he is working in IT--if he is close by, he has to come," Webre said. "And he has to have the tactical skills to deal with that threat. That is where I think we are getting much better."

Webre also mentioned quickly getting to the injured and controlling kids who are running away from the school. He said that those things tend to slip during training. That is the the importance of communication and the mobile command.

"We want to see the big picture of how chaotic a campus could be if there is an active shooter."

Phase two will involve role playing with students. APSO would like to master campus evacuation and reunification.

"We have those plans for every school," Webre said. "But having those plans and it actually happening that way--you won't know it until you try it or you actually train towards it. It's not easy."

The tape that played sounds of children screaming was used to pump up the deputies. Major Mike Toney got the tape to raise the adrenaline level of the police in training. Additionally, blank rounds were fired during the drill.

On April 18, 2018 East Ascension High School was evacuated due to a bomb threat. Earlier, on February 16, an EA student was arrested for making a threat, although Gonzales Police reported no weapon was found.

On Monday, February 19, Superintendent David Alexander said in a statement that a former Dutchtown High School student and their parents were contacted by law enforcement officials in Texas over a social media threat.

A statistic showed in February that since 2013, there have been 290 school shootings. That is nearly one each week.