Active Shooter, Law Enforcement, and Citizen

This is not a discussion of the tragic event in Texas. This is a generic overview discussion about active shooter incidents, the every day carry citizen, and how it relates to law enforcement response- a rational and non-emotional discussion from 10,000 feet. Hopefully this provides context to what people see and why it occurs.

Public perception and media are rarely on the side of recognizing the totality of the circumstances and grasping things occurring that are beyond the scope of their understanding. Media creates outrage which people eat up and treat as absolute truth – it all makes money for media.

Columbine was a catalyst for change within law enforcement for active shooter response. Setting up and then going in has since been replaced with going in and then setting up. When I say setting up, I mean begin organization of the response to include (optimally) inner and outer perimeters, staging additional resources to include medical, setting up command and communication while officers are already inside working at stopping the threat. Part of this setup is organizing rescue efforts while the entry teams work. The command element does not enter the immediate scene, they are needed externally to ensure the entire operation and all resources are used effectively/efficiently to save lives.

Essentially first officers on scene (no specific number) are a hasty response and entry team who go where the threat is and neutralize it. Several types of tactics are used with fluidity and are influenced by the suspect and Intel they have.

There is importance of having a perimeter set. Optimally the perimeter is split into two parts- outer and inner. An outer perimeter stops additional suspects from entering the scene as well as keeping onlookers out. Allowing unknowns into the scene of an incident can create danger for all parties involved. It splits attention of the officers from focusing on the suspect to now keeping an eye on unknowns as well. These unknowns can turn into hostages or negatively change the dynamic or pace of the incident. The inner perimeter contains the threat and can neutralize the suspect if he presents himself to them. Inner perimeter can provide Intel to command and interior response teams.

The pace of the entry team is dictated by terrain, Intel, manpower, and actions of the suspect(s) (essentially METT-TC factors- Mission, Enemy, Terrain & Weather, Troops, Time Available and Civil Considerations). A barricaded suspect is treated differently than a suspect actively killing and these tactics change on the fly.

As specialized and additional units arrive they can be implemented as needed or held in reserve until called on. Not everyone runs in to respond to the suspect, officers are needed for rescue efforts to include pull security for responding medical entering the immediate scene. Establishing safe corridors for innocents to escape is a priority and officers are needed for that.

Now, let’s talk about non law enforcement involvement. A major recent theme of modcasts has been establishing your mission and letting it dictate your carry and actions. We have discussed in the past how leaving an incident and returning “kitted up” is asking to be killed by responding law enforcement.

Off the top of my head I can think of a few options someone stuck on scene can do. Any of these options should start with letting dispatch know who you are, what you are wearing, what you are doing, your location, and any pertinent information you can share about the incident. Your help can help direct LE response to where the suspect is, as well as direct rescue efforts to save innocents.

If you are intending on saving the day and you are already inside the incident, I hope you have trained well and understand the risks involved with this decision.

If you have a means of escaping and taking others with you, be prepared to face LE who will provide orders in how to leave the area and go to a staging area. Visibly carried weapons may create a danger to you.

If you plan on staying put and defending an area, use positive identification to determine if people you encounter are threats. You may run into fellow innocents trying to get away, you may run into a response team who may issue orders or shoot if they see a gun, you may encounter the suspect and you will need to use deadly force to stop them (throw away preconceived ideas of who the suspect is to include sex, age, appearance, etc).

This is a generic overview of an optimal response. There is far too much nuance to dissect incidents in this format as they have occurred or how they will occur. Keep in mind, media and the public do not have an understanding of the entire incident until long after it concluded.


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