CAPE CORAL, Fla. – As students plan on returning to the classroom for the start of the new school year on Wednesday, police officers have been preparing to keep them safe.
The term “summer break” doesn’t apply to the 30 School Resource Officers that fill Cape Coral schools. While students enjoy a break from the classroom, these members of the Cape Coral Police Department (CCPD) hit the books, training with state-of-the-art technology to prepare for whatever might happen once those kids return to school.
One of those tools they use is a simulator. Think of an interactive video game. Officers stand in front of a huge projector with their controller being a replica gun that’s hooked up to the simulator. When the trigger is pulled, it uses pinpoint accuracy to show exactly where officers fired in real-life scenarios.
“We really want them to start thinking about how they’re going to respond to something before it happens, not after it happens or during it happens,” said Sgt. Brain Kearney of the Cape Coral Police Department. “In order to be able to handle that type of stress, you have to practice it many times.
Just like the old saying goes: practice makes perfect.
Oasis Middle School Resource Officer Jamie Bungard has years of experience under his belt; in training and in real life.
“Where’s he at,” said Ofc. Bungard during a scenario on the simulator. “Which room is he in? Which room is he in? Let me see your hands! Charlie 102 Cape shots fired. First floor. Oasis Middle.”
The actions, the movements and even the language are just as they would be in real life.
“We try to get them to deal with more than just an active threat,” said Sgt. Kearney. “We want them to deal with other victims that they’re going to come across in situations like this. You have to mentally prepare yourself, physically prepare yourself. You have to practice what you’re going to do is a situation like that arises.”
To really understand how in-depth this training is, they geared me up and put me in the shoes of a School Resource Officer.
Simulator: “Officer, there’s a guy with a gun in there and he’s in one of those rooms. My hands! My hands!”
Gage: “Which room? Which room?”
For about an hour, CCPD coached me through more than dozen scenarios that officers could face any day.
“You did good with the decision-making,” said Sgt. Kearney.
Just like with real police officers, they’re always looking for things to improve, making every action and every second count.
“We would want more verbal commands. We would want more moving around,” Sgt. Kearney said.
It’s preparation work these officers hope they never have to use in real life. However, if that does come, they’ll be ready to do whatever it takes to keep their students safe.
“They’re family and they want to protect their family, just like anybody else would,” said Sgt. Kearney.