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Home  >  Topics  >  Active Shooter

October 12, 2009
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Rick Armellino Outside the Box
with Rick Armellino

The audacity to attack

Military historians have used the term audacity to describe a bold life — threatening action that is beyond the norm, with an apparent higher level of risk, almost always associated with a devastating attack that follows swift movement and surprise.

Obligation versus policy
All law enforcement agencies are cognizant of their obligation to serve and protect their citizens’ safety. How different agencies perform this duty varies widely. Generally, the larger the agency, the more risk adverse their policies, and the greater chance for delay and inaction during fast — breaking mass murder events.

Providing unequivocally clear and distinct policy that grants full discretion to any law enforcement officer to launch an attack against imminent or active killers is considered very audacious, and for good reason.

Allowing first responders the individual authority to make entry and attack a deadly threat is completely dependent upon the fortitude and caliber of leadership within their respective agency, and the leadership's ability to manage, train and equip an autonomous patrol force tasked with swift and aggressive action.

Risk — adverse law enforcement agencies usually place controls on any activities that could appear audacious to the public at large. It's unfair to place officers in the moral quandary of having to decide to use aggressive tactics or deadly force in order to save lives, and then run the risk of having their employer condemn their actions when the results turn out to be less than perfect.

Judgment calls
Don Alwes is a well — recognized law enforcement instructor that has been instrumental in the evolution and implementation of the latest version the National Tactical Officer's Association’s (NTOA) active shooter response protocol, which now includes solo officer.

Alwes teaches tactics and imparts his students with the aggressive mindset required to enable the first available responder to confidently attack armed and hostile threats to the public.

Explains Alwes, "Everything we as police officers do everyday is a judgment call. Our job is to help save lives. If it is deemed in the best judgment of the individual officer to immediately enter a dangerous situation alone, without waiting for backup, then there should be no departmental policy preventing it. Choosing to risk one's life to help another is a moral decision between you and your conscience. The decision to act should not be regulated or discouraged by police administrators."

Hostage job — by the book
On October 2nd, 2006, ten young females were taken hostage following an armed invasion of their one — room schoolhouse in the rural farming community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.

The first state troopers to arrive cautiously approached the small building and were warned by the invader that if they did not immediately leave the premises, he was going to shoot all the children. Audacious behavior? You bet.

Policy and training dictated a traditional police response, and as such, a perimeter was instantly established, and the SWAT team notified.

More help arrives, more on the way
The appearance of calmness that the officers sensed from waiting outside the school could hardly compare with the terror occurring just inside the simple wood — framed building.

Unbeknown to the growing group of officers outside, the invader was diligently arranging the scene of the pending massacre. He busied himself man — handling the little girls, threatening their lives, restraining their limbs with wire ties, and positioning the girls side by side along the back wall, just beneath the blackboard.

The continuous sounds of sirens and radio chatter, including a trooper's amplified voice emanating from a vehicle’s PA system undoubtedly provided some level of comfort — these little girls knew they were not alone, and that help had arrived.

After approximately thirty minutes of preparation, the final scene for the pending massacre was set, and the girls realized this monster was ready to kill.

Shaking and profusely sweating, and speaking incoherently to everyone, or maybe just to himself, he began pointing his trembling firearm directly at the girls. It was very obvious to those trapped inside that their terrible ordeal was soon to end.

Out of time
Two of the young hostages were sisters, named Marian and Barbie Fisher, ages thirteen and eleven. Marian and Barbie seized the moment and negotiated more time to live. Marian engaged the monster in conversation, asking him about God, family, and why?

The forced conversation did not go well, and the sisters valiantly attempted to buy more time for the group with the most desperate of delay tactics — “Shoot me first”, bravely offered Marian. Her little sister played into this impromptu delaying plan to buy a few more precious moments of life and softly answered, “No, no. Not her. Shoot me first.”

One of the younger girls began screaming and the older girls valiantly tried to quiet the noisy one. The girls sensed, correctly, that their time in this world had run out.

The child’s desperate screaming was heard by the active shooter response team positioned just outside a wooden storage shed, near the rear wall of the schoolhouse.

Ten officers were standing ready, lined up alongside the shed, and crouched behind a large ballistic shield. Upon hearing the screaming, the brave officers requested permission to immediately make entry — the answer came back, permission denied.

The sound of rapid gunfire was heard shortly afterwards.

Random observations following the massacre
One trooper later shared his personal observances at an information sharing seminar attended by law enforcement, and recalled his feelings just prior to the massacre. He stated that after waiting for a period of time following no contact with the invader, in his opinion, the situation seemed to have calmed down, and a peaceful resolution appeared likely.

Another trooper was quoted by the local media recalling that when the gunfire began, his reaction was total shock and disbelief, “He’s shooting into the air. Ain’t no way he’s shooting those kids”.

One Amish man, a local farmer who arrived following the invasion and prior to the murders, shared his simple observation — "they came, but they didn't do anything."

Most people have difficultly assimilating the magnitude of such an evil plan – including those who write the policies, calculate the odds, and budget for the costs to prepare for the unspeakable, or not.

Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) for citizen rescue
The definition of IARD is: An emergency response that provides swift deployment of law enforcement resources to developing or on — going, life — threatening situations where delayed deployment of emergency personnel could otherwise result in death or great bodily harm to innocent persons. The innocents are likely to be incapable of self — protection or escape to a safer environment owing to duress, time and/or other logistical restriction.

IARD is the appropriate law enforcement first response activity specifically designed for law enforcement rescue of citizens in grave danger, when a proactive entry and pursuit is tasked to the very first responder(s), and not a second, or later wave of response.

Not surprisingly, broad differences of opinion and various interpretations exist relating to what is, and what's not considered an appropriate response to “developing or on — going life — threatening situations.”

Many agencies consider the “rapid deployment” of patrol officers to the proximity of an event to gather information and establish an outer perimeter as fulfilling their “swift deployment of law enforcement resources” obligation in order to prevent “death or great bodily harm to innocent persons”. Although “rapid deployment” to the proximity of the invasion is a popular and common emergency response, it is not IARD.

IARD tactics dictate that an almost immediate pursuit begins upon arrival and the pursuit pauses into a temporary perimeter only when appropriate resistance is encountered. Once resistance disappears, so does the perimeter.

Pursuing officers constantly probe and apply enough pressure so the invader’s attention is always focused on the pursuers, and not onto the endangered citizens.

Agency requirements for IARD

• Automatically authorized and used whenever citizens' safety is in question
• Clear policy that supports independently initiated IARD activity
• Indemnification of IARD actions (when legally possible)
• Initial and recurrent realistic scenario based IARD training and equipment
• Appropriate vehicle housed equipment including shields and CQB weaponry
• Communication expectations as time and situation allows

Close quarter battle (CQB) — A military concept
CQB is a military term that closely describes the type of dangerous and dynamic environment police officers may operate while conducting IARD in the pursuit and neutralization of armed invaders.

Although politically incorrect, military terms are appropriate to describe tactics used by police to rescue citizens from violent and deranged members of society. Homicidal and suicidal predators having the audacity to capture, attack and kill innocent citizens are conducting mayhem comparable to an “act of war”, and must be considered a “weapon of mass destruction”.

IARD trained and equipped officers use military style CQB combat survival tactics that require the use of speed, aggression, surprise and most of all, a healthy dose of audacity.

Probing, diversion tactics, and any impromptu maneuver or activities that allow the officer to gain a safer entry and make steady progress towards the threat are examples of actions that may be considered useful within this multi — faceted rescue concept.

Officer confidence and increased capability grows from a solid foundation of training and support. The familiarity and comfort derived from use of individual initiative, dynamic tactics and newly acquired skill — sets are vitally important for the survival of the officer, and the innocents in need of their life — saving services.

Mindset training
Longtime trainer Sal Mascoli, working in Las Vegas, has almost six years experience as a US Marine Corps FAST Company instructor, and has accumulated nearly fourteen years training within law enforcement. He knows the challenges of training LEO's to be forceful and aggressive, especially younger officers having what Mascoli considers, “limited life experience”.

Mascoli shares observations and teaching style, “Today’s kids are overly concerned about legal issues, worrying about offending people or breaking policy. Many of them have never been in a fight. We train them that during a life — threatening attack on themselves, or innocent victims, they need to instantly react; right, wrong or indifferent. Something needs to be done to become a catalyst of affecting a change in the suspect’s aggressive behavior.”

“I have developed a training technique I consider ‘mindset drills’, and introduce ‘mayhem moments’ into the class. An instructor conducts a surprise preplanned attack onto a member of the class, and the first attack is always met with inaction. By the end of the training block, these same new officers are jumping over desks, diving at the aggressor, and properly handling the realistic situation. It’s not exactly active shooter training, but it’s a good beginning establishing the proper mindset.”

Learn from military history
Much can be learned from the past experiences of our military, including the need for quality leadership. Without true leadership and support to the officer tasked with the mission, IARD is likely destined to fail.

Police trainers don't need to look very far for useful information to encourage the leadership, training philosophy and skills that impart the audacity required to conduct IARD — one of the most successful military leaders in history is an American Army General named George S. Patton, Jr.

Patton’s letters, speeches, press conferences and personal diary afford a unique view into the philosophies of a leader that exhibited the superior abilities to train, motivate, and nurture personnel that repeatedly won battles against a well — trained and equipped enemy.

Patton and his men formed a strong bond based upon mutual respect, admiration and ability to win. He frequently expressed awe and gratitude towards the courageous actions and accomplishments of his troops, and was revered by his men who knew he supported them implicitly and did everything in his power to assist their brave efforts.

Patton’s legacy includes a compilation of his writings and speeches; The Patton Papers 1940 – 1945, complied by Martin Blumenson, is available in the Library of Congress. The following are excerpts from Patton’s writings – bold text, clarifications and comments in parenthesis are added by the author of this article:

General George S. Patton, Jr. (GSP) on Policy
• "The chief value of Armored forces is to develop initiative and imagination. If we tear such down (initiative & imagination) with "Standard Operating Procedure", we vitiate (invalidate, corrupt) our purpose."

GSP on Mindset
• "Things are shaping up pretty well now but I wish we had more of the killer instinct in our men. They are too damned complacent — willing to die but not anxious to kill. I tell them that it is fine to be willing to die for their country but a damned sight better to make the German die for his. No one has ever told them that .... The British have suffered and are mad, but our men are not ..."

• "We are attacking the Siegfried Line. I know that there are many generals with my reputation who would not have dared to do it because ... They are more afraid of losing a battle than anxious to win one .... I do not believe that any of these lines are impregnable ... If we get through, we will materially shorten the war — there is no if about getting through; I am sure we will!" (he did)

• "On the way, I was appalled to find an American infantry battalion miles behind the front digging 'tomb — like slit trenches.' I told them to stop it, as it was stupid to be afraid of a beaten enemy ...." (cowards who kill unarmed innocents plan to die and are not warriors, but a beaten enemy)

• "Leadership ... is the thing that wins battles. I have it — but I'll be damned if I can define it. Probably it consists in knowing what you want to do and then doing it and getting mad if any one steps in the way. Self confidence and leadership are twin brothers ..."

GSP on Training (1941, prior to combat)
• "Owing to the fact that all of us have been, so to speak, going to school for almost a year, we have to a degree acquired the student complex, that is, we have a tendency to await instructions rather than proceed at our own initiative. People must try to use their imagination and when orders fail to come, must act on their own best judgment. A safe rule to follow is that in case of doubt, push on a little further and then keep on pushing ....."

GSP on Tactics
• "It is my earnest effort to keep it from becoming static because that is a poor way of fighting. The best way to defend it is to attack, and the best way to attack is to attack. At Chancellorsville, Lee was asked why he attacked when he was outnumbered three to one. Lee said he was too weak to defend ...." (Confederate General Robert E. Lee won this civil war battle)

• "The only way you can win a war is to attack and keep attacking some more”

• "Remember this: no set piece of tactics is of any merit in itself, unless it is executed by heroic and disciplined troops who have self — confidence and who have leaders who take care of them."

At the close of the European theater of operations during the Second World War, French General Giraud visited General Patton, and offered his opinion that the remarkable and historic success of Patton's 3rd Army was, "chiefly due to luck" — Patton replied, "No, to audacity".

The case for a strong patrol offense
It is fair to say that in the overwhelming cross — sections across America's law enforcement agencies, SWAT is no longer considered the primary responder to armed invasions in public places. And for good reason, outside of a handful of full — time on patrol tactical teams, gathering a SWAT team takes too much valuable time, and an armed invader must never be allowed to control the clock.

The increasing occurrences of swift, unprovoked attacks against innocents during homicidal and suicidal mass murdering events are changing the way law enforcement administrators view the duties and expectations of their current patrol assets. A well — trained, confident and self — motivated offense is needed to counter today's homicidal and suicidal predator.

The unmitigated audacity to attack and kill innocents must be met with an equal or greater level of audaciousness by the first responders having the best chance of offering rescue, the brave front line troops called patrol officers.


About the author



Rick Armellino is the Director and Chief Executive Officer of Baker Ballistics, LLC., the manufacturer of the Baker Batshield® personal ballistic shield. He has over thirty years experience in the body armor industry, including Director of Research and Development and President of American Body Armor and Equipment, Inc. Rick's body armor designs have saved over forty American LEO's from death or serious injury during attacks by gunfire. Recently, Rick has partnered with noted ballistic shield trainer, Lt. Al Baker (NYPD, ret.), to advance the concept of Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) tactics for use by first responders in the approach to armed and hostile individuals in public places.





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