Local police train for worst-case scenario at schools

PORT ISABEL — Police officers converged on Port Isabel High School with drawn weapons. However, the guns weren’t real.

They were blue and orange fake handguns and assault riffles. Local officers were engaged in training courses to help staff and students stay safe in the event of an active shooter scenario.

Point Isabel Independent School District officers and nearby police departments attended a two-day Active Shooter Response Training held last week.

“We’re trying to promote more active shooter response training courses to ensure that our staff and students are safe,” Point Isabel ISD Police Department Police Chief Adrian Cabrera said in a phone interview. “We’re also trying to inform our parents about the type of training that we’re doing, especially after the situation in Santa Fe.”

This is the first time the Port Isabel High School campus has been utilized for this type of police training. The Brownsville Police Department hosted the event. Nearby police departments in Los Fresnos, Port Isabel, Point Isabel ISD and South Padre Island were invited to participate in the training. In total, about 20 officers attended.

“By utilizing our schools, nearby police departments will be more familiar with our layouts. In case we did have a crisis situation, they would be the ones that would normally respond for our assistance,” Cabrera said.

The alert program trained officers how to respond to any type of active shooter scenario, but was geared more toward a school setting. The training taught police departments how to approach and respond to active shooter situations.

Officers were able to go through live exercises and different scenarios that were set up in classrooms. These scenarios also included “good guys and bad guys.” Cabrera said “officers used actual ammunition that is utilized for practice scenarios.” However, officers didn’t use “live rounds.” The chief described them as “soft target bullets.”

Most of the chief’s staff has already experienced this type of training. However, he said this was a beneficial learning experience for some of his other officers who have never been to any type of active shooter response training.

“By them going through this type of course, they can work together as a team and know how each other will react or what will technically need to be done like when entering a building or a classroom,” Cabrera said.

“It is a plus for an agency when they have officers that already have an idea of what another officer’s responsibilities may be when they enter an active shooter situation,” he said. “It’s very helpful and a great tool for them to have and be able to gain that experience.”

With this new training experience, officers “can respond a lot quicker and be more alert to the situations they’re running into.”

Members of the community posted their praise for the training on Port Isabel High School’s Facebook page when photos of the event were posted.

Saul P. Ochoa posted this response to photos of the event: “Glad to know local men/women in blue have a game plan in case of an active shooter. Proactive rather than reactive strategies will certainly protect our children in our schools. Great job Chief Cabrera.”

Bri Michaels shared the school’s post and commented, “YES!!!! Great job to the men/women in blue for taking extra precautions to protect our sweet babies.”

“It definitely was a very successful training,” Cabrera said. “Now that we learned that Brownsville PD is able to offer this type of training, we’re going to continue as much training as possible and work with our local counterparts to try to host different trainings in our areas. So, we can all work together and be more prepared in case we do need to work and respond to a crisis situation.”

“This is very proactive and something that hopefully we can continue to expand and do more scenarios or workshops together in this area in the future. That’s our goal,” Cabrera said.