At least three times a month, officers with the Houston Independent School District Police Department can be found at the northeast substation, training for emergency events they hope never happen.
The department’s Emergency Response Team trains diligently to prepare for high-pressure situations, such as hostile traffic stops, agitated individuals, barricaded subjects, and active shooters.
HISD Police Chief Paul Cordova said the need for the training is greater than ever before in light of recent school shootings across the country.
“As a result, HISD PD has taken on bold proactive initiatives to ensure the safety of students, staff, and the communities it serves,” Cordova said.
During the active shooter training sessions, officers are given minimal information and asked to respond to a specific area. They practice several scenarios, using bullets made of colored wax to help them determine which side fired each shot.
“We fight like we train, and we train like we fight,” HISD Police Sgt. Karl Brown said.
HISD Police has also conducted smaller-scale active shooter drills at campuses throughout the district this year to prepare students and staff in case of such an event.
For the drill, officers pair with campus administrators to log any infractions. This helps the campus administrators understand and address potential issues because they have witnessed them first-hand.
“We would like the kids to do the right thing, but the adults are expected to do the right thing,” Brown said. “The district expects every single employee to do their part to mitigate any harm.”
The department has finished drills in all district high schools and in more than half of all middle schools. Next year, they will focus on remaining middle schools and elementary schools.
Campuses are graded on a pass-fail basis, only failing if there are many rooms unlocked or groups of people who are not behind closed doors. If a school fails, HISD Police will work with Risk Management to get any safety-related work orders expedited.
“I’ll show up unannounced a second time and do any work necessary to get that school up to standard,” Brown said.
Cordova said the active shooter training and drills are necessary to help the department serve its purpose.
“Our mission is to ensure an environment where students feel safe to learn, employees feel safe to work and the community is confident in the safety of the district,” Cordova said.