Law enforcement officers wrap up key training exercise


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ST. CROIX - Screams echoed from inside an apartment at the abandoned Ralph de Chabert housing community Friday afternoon, followed by a number of loud gunshots as law enforcement officers carried out a hostage situation scenario as part of an active shooter training exercise.

Frank Rawley, lead instructor from the University of Louisiana's counterterrorism program, said the training includes classroom instruction and hands-on role playing exercises. The drill is part of a program to ensure that law enforcement officers are prepared with the skills to deal with any live shooter incident.

"We are training these officers so that they would have the skills to function effectively in one of these situations at a workplace, schools, malls or anywhere else," he said.

Rawley said law enforcement agencies' interest in the live shooter training has spiked with the recent school and other shootings in the mainland U.S.

"These agencies realized the very real possibility of these kinds of incidents occurring anywhere and want their officers to be prepared," he said.

Lt. Arthur Hector, Territorial Training Director for the V.I. Police Department, said the department tries to take advantage of all training opportunities for its officers. The Virgin Islands Territorial Management Agency does the leg work to set up the training, and his job is to ensure all of the officers attend, he said.

"We have to get all of our officers exposed to these types of situations," Hector said. "With these shootings happening all over the country, even as recent as this past week, and while we have not seen it yet, it is not a matter of if, but when."

VITEMA's Training Coordinator Irvin Mason said the agency saw the need for the training and secured the grant and organized the training to ensure that the officers would be prepared.

"We are trying to push for as much training, not only for our law enforcement officers, but for all of our first responders, so that they would be ready to take action in any situation," he said. "They all need to be trained because you never know who will be the first to come upon any of these scenarios."

He said law enforcement officers from the Police Department, the V.I. Port Authority, the V.I. Corrections Bureau, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and some private security officers took part in the training program, which spanned four days and culminated with Friday's exercise.

A similar training was held in the St.Thomas-St. John district in August with mock hostage situations in a classroom at Ulla Muller Elementary School.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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