FEATURED IN TACTICS AND WEAPONS
After the shootings in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., it’s perhaps not surprising that an LEO education session entitled “Contemporary and Controversial Issues in Law Enforcement and SWAT” would focus heavily on active-shooter situations. Led by Don Kester and Ed Allen of the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), the session, which was part of the Law Officer magazine-sponsored educational sessions at the 2013 SHOT show taking place this week in Las Vegas, covered a range of topics and predictions about the future of law enforcement, but the audience seemed to keep coming back to active-shooter situations.
Some of the elements to active-shooter situations that were discussed:
Changing policies—several audience members noted that their training or policies/procedures have changed as a result of the Sandy Hook shootings. Agencies have increased training and sought to improve communication with schools. “It’s becoming a shared responsibility,” Allen notes. Agencies are also starting to examine the traditional “diamond formation” method used to advance on an active-shooter scene, recognizing that they also need to train on single and dual-officer entry.
Off-duty response by LEOs—clearly off-duty officers can be a tremendous asset in active-shooter situations, but this “changes the dynamics of an active-shooter situation as well,” Allen says—creating the situation where the off-duty officer is mistaken as the suspect. “I’m not suggesting for a minute that off-duty officers shouldn’t carry and react, but we as an industry need to resolve this, to incorporate it into training and response plans.”
Civilian response—following the recent high-profile shootings, many civilians are eager to get involved as well, some volunteering to serve as security for their local church and others simply vowing never to be a victim. Although most of these civilians have the best of intentions, they, too complicate an active-shooter situation. “You need to get involved in these discussions in your community,” Allen says. “What may work in your town, what may work in your church, may not work for mine. But you opinion [as an LEO] matters. What’s often missing from these conversations about gun control is responsible gun ownership”—the skills and training you must obtain and maintain if you’re going to own a gun. “That’s why officers need to get involved.”
Schools as sheep—“The policies and the procedures at [many schools[ are pathetic,” Kester says. “it’s all about lockdown.” Kester believes LEOs need to work with schools to develop policies that are specific to the situation, rather than a blanket policy response to any shooter. Although lockdown is sometimes appropriate, schools should focus on barricading doors as well. In addition, “running often works,” he says, “or kick the guy’s ass if you can. We need to quit training schools to be sheep.” Kester also advocates all schools practicing active-shooter drills, scoffing at the idea that such drills will scare children. “We need to quit shying away from it,” he says. “A big part of the reason kids don’t die from fires in schools is because we practice fire drills.”
Realistic expectations—While working together with all partners—elected officials, LE/fire, school administrators, emergency management officials—there must be a focus on what a realistic outcome of an active-shooter situation looks like. “We can’t protect everyone,” Allen says. Communities need to be prepared for this reality.
All of these elements aside, some audience members were left with the $64,000 question: Are LE agencies taking on liability when they encourage schools, malls, etc., to develop active-shooter policies and procedures? Kester says yes, but adds unequivocally that he has no hesitation in doing so: “If this isn’t worth it, what is?”