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Travis County sheriff hopes active shooter training helps agencies work side by side in a crisis

Hundreds of law enforcement officers from municipal and county agencies will be trained in how to respond to active shooter situations at a former school in Central Austin.

A law the Texas Legislature passed last year requires peace officers to complete at least a 16-hour program developed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. Lawmakers approved the measure during the first legislative session since a gunman shot and killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary in Uvalde in 2022. A U.S. Department of Justice investigation into law enforcement’s response to the shooting released last month found “cascading failures.”

“We want officers across the county to be trained all the same, and we want them trained in real-life scenarios," said Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, whose agency is leading the training at the Austin ISD facility. "A lot of places here in the state of Texas — they're doing their training online and that doesn't help with the cohesiveness."

Hernandez said the training would be 20 hours rather than 16. She said the location — the former Rosedale School — will prepare officers for a variety of environments because of its many rooms and hallways.

"It's the same way if you're in an office building or a hospital or any other place where a situation like this might occur," the sheriff said.

Hernandez said people living in the neighborhood may hear simulated gunshots during the training, which will be held on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez wears a tan uniform and is standing next to Austin ISD Superintendent Matias Segura, who is wearing a grey suit, and speaking into a microphone at a news conference outside the former Rosedale School.
Patricia Lim
KUT News
Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez and Austin ISD Superintendent Matias Segura speak during a news conference outside the former Rosedale School about active-shooter training for law enforcement agencies throughout Travis County.

Members of the Austin ISD police department are participating in the course.

“One of the things we often say in Austin ISD is our core function is education, but our number one priority is safety,” Superintendent Matias Segura said during a news conference last week. “We need to make sure that our staff, our community and our officers are all prepared, and we view this as a critical partnership.”

Segura said training helped the district respond to a shooting near one of its high schools in December. A gunman shot and wounded Sgt. Val Barnes as he was arriving at Northeast Early College High School one morning.

“Only weeks prior, we convened a group of individuals to go through a simulation," he said. "There were things that we learned in that experience and through that training that we actually applied two or three weeks later."

Segura said all law enforcement agencies within Travis County were activated in some way in response to the incident. Hernandez said one of her goals with the training is to improve how local law enforcement agencies work together.

"We do work together but not as well as we would like. We back each other up and we do support each other’s agencies," she said. "But this, it's going into the training, hands-on, working side-by-side with a different agency, getting to know the people that work in that agency … and just becoming more cohesive."

The advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety found there were more than 130 incidents of gunfire last year on school property in the U.S. So far this year, there have been at least 29 incidents.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office's goal is to train 800 officers by 2025.

"I hate that we live in a day and time when we have to do this kind of training, but if we have to do it, let’s do it right," Hernandez said.

Becky Fogel is the education reporter at KUT. Got a tip? Email her at Follow her on Twitter @beckyfogel.
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