5 Phases of the Active Shooter Incident
The term “active shooter” is a perfect description for what happens in these increasing familiar incidents. One or more people begin shooting everyone in sight, either for a specific purpose or simply at random. As to be expected, when a new rash of crimes comes into being, law enforcement begins adapting and gearing up to meet the challenges the incidents present. Unfortunately, we have learned the hard way that to wait for a SWAT team to respond at the scene will not save a single person. An active shooter incident requires an immediate, effective and efficient act of courage. Whether a police officer is on or off duty, he needs to ride to the sound of the guns, and end the threat as quickly as possible.
The list of cities struck by the phenomenon of active shooters is tragically long. These incidents have occurred in places as diverse as Austin, Texas; Edmond, Okla.; Moss Lake, Wash.; Littleton, Colo.; Jonesboro, Ark.; Oak Creek, Wis.; Red Lake, Minn.; Montreal; Los Angeles; Nickel Mines, Penn.; Blacksburg, Va.; and Honolulu. Basically, they are not limited to one geographic or socioeconomic area. Therefore, law enforcement agencies all over the country are designing training programs to address the possibility that they might face similar threats in their jurisdictions. Their ultimate goal is to eliminate and minimize casualties in the event their officers are met with this unique challenge.
Police departments do not have to wait until bullets are flying and people are dying to stop the active shooter. Sometimes, officers are able to step between the shooter and his intended victims long before the screaming and bleeding begins. There are five phases of this type of incident.
1. Fantasy stage
Officers may come into contact with the suspect at this stage because of a citizen complaint, a traffic stop or something simialr. A thorough investigation can lead to an arrest of the suspect before he brings down a multitude of innocent people in a shooting or bombing. However dangerous the stop, an alert and armed officer has a final chance to intervene if he is prepared and aware during every street contact. This contact could become a lifesaver and may end in zero casualties.
The implementation stage
The sooner someone – anyone – effectively intervenes through an act of courage, the fewer funerals will result. In past incidents, active shooters have been thwarted by police officers, security guards and school teachers. In October 2006, Principal John Klang of Weston High School in Cazenovia, Wis., died wrestling an armed 15 year-old student to the floor. Klang saved every life in the school – except his own.
Responding officers will need to practice Quick Aggressive Deployment, also known as QUAD, in case the suspect goes on a shooting rampage. Law enforcement officers who respond will be able to utilize these following factors to their advantage:
The first responding officer should radio as much information as possible, outlining what appears to be going on and all other relevant data. This transfer of information makes it easier for follow-up elements to respond. Making an entry with four is better than three. Making an entry with three is better than two. Making an entry with two is better than one. Making an entry with one is better than none. Breathe, think and advance using the chaos as a diversion. Remember “long guns for long halls.” Officers need superior firepower. Officers may have to pass rooms and courtyards that have not been cleared in order to reach the shooter. Gather as many facts as possible. Move to a position of advantage that affords a field of vision and cover, as well as a clear shot at the suspect. Attempt to do this without alerting the suspect. Quickly assess the suspect’s actions. If he is shooting, do not advise, warn or request. Take the shot! Make the shot! Look for additional threats. Communicate the situation and location. Reload during the lull while watching the suspect and looking for accomplices. Secure the suspect. Assess his condition.
If you answered no to any of these questions, take additional action so you can answer yes.
Officers who do not carry a firearm while off duty should ask themselves the following:
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to consider carrying a weapon while off duty. Research your department’s policy and the laws in your area. Recent changes in federal law make it easier for a sworn police officer to carry a concealed weapon outside his jurisdiction when off duty. New laws have been enacted to allow retired police officers to carry concealed weapons, if they are trained and have a proper identification and authorization from their agencies.
Officers should ask themselves:
The active shooter is a very real challenge of our time. Any one or more of us reading this article may be faced with this situation. It doesn’t matter if you are a patrol officer, police chief, sheriff, deputy or school liaison officer, or whether you are on or off duty. Somewhere, someday, an active shooter may be a threat to you, your family and the people you are sworn to protect. When you least expect it, you may have to ride to the sound of guns. Be prepared.
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