Police officers scoured the dark and foggy halls of Lodi High School last week, preparing for an array of emergency situations. With alarms blaring and surrounded by actors imitating panicked students, officers had to stay calm while attempting to detain armed intruders.
The Lodi Police Department and Lodi Unified School District held the active shooter training scenario on Friday. Officers from University of the Pacific and San Joaquin Delta College also participated.
Lodi Cpl. Roger Butterfield organized the training, which prepared roughly 60 officers for eight different emergency scenarios on a school campus, including an intruder with a knife, grenade, gun and more.
And in order to create a chaotic environment for officers, the scene replicated an intense movie set, Butterfield said.
"What we try to do is use fog machines and alarms in various places to make it like a system overload for the officer," he said. "That's what happens. When you show up to an active shooter situation, you have people grabbing you, people screaming, you have people down, and we have to overload the officer's mind to put them in that situation."
The training also incorporated students and teachers in order to better create a realistic scenario.
Teachers joined police as they moved through the halls. The high school's drama department acted like fearful or wounded students, painted in red to imitate blood, and instructed to scream and grab onto officers.
It was a situation that benefited teachers and students as well as officers, said Lodi High School Vice Principal Erin Lenzi.
"We all now have a better idea of the type of noise and chaos and split-second decision-making that will occur," Lenzi said. "We now know we need to communicate with the police as they make their way on campus, tell them what we saw, where the gunman went, get our hands up in the air, and make it clear that we are not the problem."
San Joaquin Delta College Police Sgt. Mario Vasquez said his department has placed an emphasis on active shooter training within the last seven to 10 years. Two Delta College officers were sent to Friday's training, and both said it was the best training they have ever experienced, Vasquez said.
"When training for various types of scenarios, it's almost a real-life experience," Vasquez said. "It gets the adrenaline pumping, puts stress on the officer to see how he'll respond. So this was a huge benefit to our officers."
Lodi police last held active shooter training two years ago. Soon after the department began planning this month's training, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. unfolded last December.
As the department and the school district planned this month's training, they were frequently reminded of its importance.
"Should the unthinkable happen, we need to be as ready as we can," Lenzi said. "The more we practice, the more we talk about it, the more we become familiar with our response tactics, then the more lives we will save. After participating in this training, I am confident that the Lodi Police Department is prepared to respond and protect our students.
"I can only hope that we are preparing for a day that will never come."
Butterfield said the training cost the department roughly $200. Lt. Chris Jacobson, Sgt. Val Chaban, Cpl. Sierra Brucia, and detectives Mike Manetti and Carlos Fuentes organized the different scenarios.
For officers, the training also reinforced the fact that that they'll enter the school in the event of a shooter, whether the officer is alone or not.
"You're paid to come in here and put your life on the line and put other peoples lives ahead of yours," Butterfield said. "Our training is basically to make the officers think about what's going on ahead of time so they have all the tools in their head to deal with the situation."
On Wednesday, the Lodi Police Department will hold another active shooter training in Stockton. The all-day event will incorporate all the same scenarios, with the addition of responding to a bomb on campus.
Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org.