School resource officers in Liberty County are trained to respond to threats within the school as well as threats that might come from outside the school, according to Liberty County Sheriff’s Office incoming Chief Deputy John Long.
He said the LCSO has assigned one resource officer to Liberty County High School while the Hinesville Police Department has a resource officer at Bradwell Institute. Resource officers are not assigned to elementary and middle schools, he said, however, an incident at these schools would be responded to by the Hinesville or Midway police departments.
“(Resource officers) are mostly there to help maintain order,” Long said, explaining the officers respond to threats inside the schools, such as drugs or weapons on campus and especially fights. “They’re also trained to respond to threats from outside, but usually they would call for backup.”
He said all Liberty County deputies are trained to respond to an active shooter, and they have the floor plans for most schools in the county if they had to respond to a threat. He said the police department has access to floor plans as well.
“We don’t have a (special weapons and tactic team),” Long said. “However, every deputy has received some level of active-shooter training. If we’re needed, we can answer the call and eliminate the threat as quickly as possible.”
He explained how the strategy for responding to emergency situations has changed over the years, from full confrontation with an assailant to negotiation and prevention. He admitted, however, that sometimes the situation doesn’t give law-enforcement officers time to wait for a professional SWAT to arrive.
“At one time, the trend was to gather the cavalry together and retake the fort,” said Long, a former Georgia state trooper. “The focus today is to prevent the threat, but if one develops, we may have to eliminate that threat as quickly as possible. There are a lot of risks involved if we send in a two or three-man team to confront the threat, but sometimes it’s necessary to save lives. If a hostage situation develops, we would probably call in a SWAT from the (Georgia State Patrol), but an active shooter situation is doesn’t always allow for that.”
Liberty County deputies and GSP troopers all are trained to perform SWAT duties if needed, Long said. While commending the level of training these troopers receive, he especially praised the skill level and professionalism of the state’s full time SWAT, comparing them to a “first string” of football players.
If time allowed, you’d want the best trained team you could get, he said. However, he said time doesn’t always allow for the state’s full-time SWAT to arrive or a SWAT to be formed from available troopers in the area. When time is critical, he said his deputies are prepared to confront a shooter to save lives.
Long said he does not know whether city or county leaders are considering increasing security at all Liberty County schools or providing resource officers for all school. He surmises there might be a lot of discussion about school security in upcoming meetings.