A training exercise hosted by the Mobile Police Department Sept. 24-25 resulted in two stories of shattered windows at the historic Old Shell Road School in midtown Mobile.
The exercise was part of the 2014 National Tactical Officers Association’s conference and trade show, which has brought 700 officers from around the country to Mobile over the past week.
However, at the time of the training and immediately following the reports of damage, Mobile County Superintendent Martha Peek said she was unaware the facility was being used for any kind of training — a result of a failed communication.
“The department had gone through all the right processes for the use to be approved — it was just my facilities department didn’t share that information with me,” Peek said.
According to Peek, the department has a history of partnering with the school to train in its abandoned facilities, but she also said this is the “first time to (her) knowledge” this kind of damage has been sustained.
“We’re more than happy to do this, but this time I didn’t know about it, and of course, this is in a historical building and neighborhood — Old Dauphin Way,” she said. “We didn’t want to disturb the building or the neighborhood.”
Old Shell Road School hasn’t been in use since 2012, but the property was recently appraised because of new offers from developers and assigned a $571,000 value. The building itself however, has a current value of $0 because of continued deterioration, according Tommy Sheffield, executive director of operations for MCPSS.
Peek said there is some historic value to the exterior brick, older wooden window frames and the original glass used when the building was constructed, some of which is still intact.
However, Peek said the historic pieces of the building weren’t affected by the exercise and the window glass broken was added during later renovations.
Rains reiterated that all of the officers involved in the training had permission from the school board to use the facility for training that included “breaching doorways and making entry into buildings.”
She also said there were no live weapons used during the exercise.
“We had permission to use the building and surrounding portables for training and breaching exercises, to whatever extent that entailed,” MPD spokeswoman Ashley Reins said. “The training was provided for sworn officers by experts in the field, and at no time were any citizens in danger.”
Still, Peek said she went to the school last night to view the damage. She said she wasn’t exactly sure how the damage occurred but it could have come from “practicing maneuvers from one floor to the next.”
“I don’t think the group that used it or the facilities department any intention of harming the building,” Peek said. “The system’s maintenance crew has been there today board up the windows, securing the building and cleaning the campus so it won’t be distracting to the neighborhood.”
Alyson Stokes contributed to this report.