St. Louis County law enforcement have active shooter training before school starts

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - School resource officers with 20 different departments within St. Louis County will have completed active shooter training by the time students return for the first day of school.

The two-day training, conducted by the St. Louis County Police Department's Tactical Operations Unit, has been held in small groups throughout the summer to maximize learning potential.

Officer Mike Schira has been a school resource officer going on six years. He works with students and staff in the Mehlville School District where he is known as "Officer Mike."

When a crisis occurs on school property, school resource officers are generally first on the scene. They are often alone, with limited knowledge and without extensive tactical gear.

"We're challenging them to make real-time critical decisions when they're by themselves which is an extremely difficult thing to do," said Officer Joe Sondag with the Tactical Operations Unit.

Sondag said school resource officers are also expected to manage countless students and faculty by helping them navigate where to go while also working to stop the threat.

The training is modeled after real-world incidents. However, when news breaks of another school shooting, Schira immediately begins to play out how he would respond to the scenario if it happened in his own schools.

"What would happen if it was in this hallway, or B hallway, or C hallway, or upstairs, or if I have children stuck in the elevator, or if it was in the gym, how would I approach the building?" he said.

Schira said much of the training is focused on awareness and communication, two areas that can often become clouded during a crisis. Sondag said they run through a variety of active scenarios as well as training using the county's virtual shooting simulator and at the gun range.

Schira emphasized school resource officers are more than "security guards" at the school. While these active shooter training sessions are important, he is proactive in getting to know and building relationships with students and faculty to help prevent the situations from getting to that point.

In addition to the school resource officers, the entire St. Louis County Police Department and several municipalities will go through similar active shooter training this year.