Annual conference unites law enforcement officials

Special to the Star

A law enforcement training program that began at Texas State will unite officials from across the nation in San Marcos for its fourth annual conference in late October.

The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Program (ALERRT) will hold its national conference “Forging the Warrior” Oct. 20 to 23 at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Conference Center. 

Training Director John Curnutt said the ALERRT conference aims to bring responders closer together as they talk about experiences in actual events. It features specialized training classes and hands-on sessions specially designed for police officers, military and other law enforcement officials. Curnutt said a training component will be held Oct. 20 for teachers and workers where survivors of shooting incidents share their experiences.

ALERRT was started at Texas State in 1999 as a response to the Columbine High School shootings with the objective to train local officers, said ALERRT Director Don Montague. The program expanded statewide in 2002 and went national the following year. ALERRT at Texas State has been designated to train FBI agents. Other law enforcement branches such as the San Antonio and New York City Police Departments have used Texas State ALERRT to train their officers.

The Texas Governor’s Office and Bureau of Justice Assistance in Washington have provided financial support as ALERRT strives to meet vital demands, Montague said.

Montague said recent shooting incidents made people aware individuals need to be prepared to handle such large-scale events. Trainees go through a two-day course, which begins with lecture but is predominantly practical, providing real-life experiences, Montague said.

Although ALERRT’s target is to educate and train first-responders, other people have benefitted from the program as it has expanded such as school employees, Curnutt said. ALERRT teaches skills like how to approach, breach and scan buildings, he said.

“We live in a society where the only catalyst for change is a catastrophe, and that’s what draws attention,” Curnutt said. “Any place is as prepared as they train themselves to be, the key is in taking it seriously.”
Every member of the University Police Department has gone through the program, said UPD Captain Daniel Benitez. The department attempts to send officers through training at least once every two years, so they can be up-to-date on these skills, he said.

Buildings throughout San Marcos waiting to be demolished generally provide a training ground for individuals, Benitez said. In addition, officers get into the mentality the trainings are more than practice sessions, building skills that will one day be necessary for their survival, he said.

“If you’re never put in a situation you never know how you’re going to respond,” Benitez said. “(This) is as real as it gets.”

Benitez said having all the agencies training by the same standard allows for universal work and coordination that “runs smoother.” Apart from being a learning experience, going through ALERRT also helps build confidence and creates a sense of urgency for officers in case any emergency occurs at Texas State, Benitez said.

“Times have changed, we used to wait for SWAT to come in and take over the situation, now with the training we can actually go in and put our life before anybody else,” Benitez said. “I am confident in every officer we have, that they can go in and respond to any shooter situation, if it ever occurs here.”