LPD officers practice active-shooter scenarios in most realistic training the agency has ever held

LAKELAND, Fla. - Lakeland police officers are going through active shooter drills that are real enough to get your adrenaline pumping.

The department is stepping up its training in response to the increasing number of active shooters. In this country, the number of active-shooter cases has tripled since 2009.

In the training at the Lakeland Center, officers respond to a report of at least one gunman inside the building.

When the arrive, officers will hear the sounds of screams that are pumped into the hallways. They also have to dodge fake bodies scattered on the floor.

"Realism in training is by far the best way to get the best training," said Lakeland Police Sgt. Bryan McNabb. "I want them to see this first in training, kind of learn how to cope and deal with it and then continue on."

Every LPD officer must go through the training, which is the most intense the department has ever had.

"We've needed to do this for a long time," said Officer David Waterman, who went through the exercise Tuesday afternoon. "Both of the bad guys are down, so I think it went pretty well."

The training is designed to help officers make one of the most difficult decisions they'll face in their careers: To shoot or not to shoot.

"By far it's one of the greatest threats that we're faced with as law enforcement," McNabb said.

The decision to pull the trigger is made instantly but may stick with officers the rest of their lives.

During the training, they can make mistakes. Their guns are loaded with paint pellets.

"It's a split second decision. We don't have time to look back, go read our books, or read our general orders, or make a lengthy decision. It's one of those things you have to make immediately," said Lt. Eric Harper, who is playing one of the bad guys in the training.

It's great practice for an event they hope they never see.

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