Patrick County Sheriff Dan Smith and several of his officers recently participated in an intensive advanced active shooter training class, with the goal of savings lives.
“All of the training that we have received always begins with focusing on mental preparation, being able to have that survival mentality, keeping your mind clear, and having a plan so that you can save lives by eliminating the active shooter threat … is the ultimate goal,” Smith said.
The week-long Exterior Response to an Active Shooter Event (ERASE) instructor course training was conducted by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training group (ALERRT), the sheriff said. Instructors have special weapons and tactics backgrounds, whether in law enforcement or the military, he said, and added that many have experience in both areas.
In addition to Smith, other participants included Major Garry Brown, Lt. Rob Coleman, Sgt. Eric O’Connell, investigators Brian Hubbard, Steve Austin, and Terry Mikels, as well as Master Deputy David Haymore and Deputy Dustin Foley. Smith, Brown and Coleman supervise the sheriff’s office’s tactical response team.
“It is my responsibility to ensure that all of our deputies, me included, are prepared for a gunfight, because ultimately, a citizen’s life or the life of a fellow officer is at stake, and that preparation requires constant training and mental conditioning,” Smith said.
Additionally, all county patrol deputies and most investigators are sent to special weapons and tactics (SWAT) training within two years of being assigned to the law-enforcement division of the office, Smith said. The Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy, the Roanoke City Police Department and the Chesterfield County Police Department all have hosted week-long training events for deputies.
So far, the tactical training attended by Patrick’s deputies has been tuition-free, Smith said.
The recent ERASE training was “intense, realistic, and practical,” Smith said. “I have no doubt this will save both civilian and law enforcement lives,” he said, and added the class was among the best training courses he has attended. “The hours are long, the conditions are rough and the training is intense,” he said, noting the training conditions are “part of the mental preparation.”
The class was prompted by increases in the number of active shooter events nationwide, coupled with escalating ambush attacks against law enforcement officers, particularly in rural areas, Smith said. Patrick County is not immune, he said. Similar incidents “often happen in places like Patrick County. We owe it to the citizens we serve to be prepared.”