The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducts active-fire training drills to prepare for real-life scenarios

WOODLAND HILLS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department held an active-shooter training exercise Thursday at Pierce College.

It was just an exercise, but MPs say functional training is essential for real-life scenarios.

It’s become an all-too-common scenario – an active shooter threatening innocent lives – and that’s why training like this is so important.

It was the first such training in two years, as COVID-19 precautions prevented large-scale exercises.

In one storyline, sheriff’s deputies rush to Pierce College when gunshots ring out.

“You’re literally going to see from start to finish someone shooting guns,” said captain John Gannon. “We’re going to take some people down. There will be a retreat in the library where I expect my people to actively pursue it.”

Training like this is essential for law enforcement. Getting different parts of the department to work together in a crisis takes practice.

READ MORE: Parents slam LASD response to Palmdale school shooting threat posted on social media

“It’s a perishable skill. You have to keep practicing it, so when something really happens, you react almost instinctively,” Gannon said. “You shouldn’t have to think about it. My people should immediately know exactly what to do and how to move in to pick people up and put them out of harm’s way.”

Deputies use simulators to practice how engaging with a suspect can make a bad situation better or worse.

Dealing with mental health cases is becoming more common, especially since the start of the pandemic, which makes training so important.

“I think it’s a combination of everything,” Lt. Anna Denise Briz said. “For sure the pandemic has been a trigger for a lot of people.”

For deputies and the police, speaking and understanding a suspect become essential tools of the trade.

Briz says the goal is “to treat anyone the way we would like to be treated, with compassion, with respect.”

But when shots ring out and people are injured, first responders need to shift into a different gear.

It takes practice, practice and more practice.

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Richard V. Johnson