POLICE Magazine

FEB 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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40 POLICE FEBRUARY 2019 ➔ ON FEB. 14, 2018, 17 people were killed and 17 more were wounded in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. e suspected shooter was a former stu- dent who walked out of the school hid- den in plain sight among the students who were evacuating. is highlights the importance of effective evacuation techniques during school shootings to keep students and others safe while offi- cers look for suspects. Law enforcement officers need to be ready to respond ap- propriately should such an incident oc- cur in their jurisdiction. Currently the executive director of the National Tactical Officers Associa- tion, or Eells retired as a scene com- mander in a large police department after 30 years in law enforcement. While response varies widely based on the spe- cifics of the incident, including whether it is dynamic or static, he says the foun- dational basics remain the same. "e goal of the incident commander is initial containment on the site itself, ensuring no one is coming in or getting out of that containment," says Eells. "is is twofold: provide protection for students so they are not exposed to addi- tional threats, but also to ensure you get people into an area for accountability." An incident commander's overall goals include coordinating the safe evacuation of students and reconnection with their families all while being on the lookout for the shooter or shooters. Receiving Area When evacuating, students and per- sonnel should be guided, preferably by school staff, to what is called a receiv- ing area. is needs to be established as soon as possible. A receiving area for students needs to be a secure area in a safe environment, but isolated from the actual incident and isolated from other external factors that could put evacuees in jeopardy or expose them to outside influences. If it meets these criteria, the school cafeteria or gym is a good option. It will likely be big enough to fit a large volume of people so you can manage them safely and provide care for them. "e balancing act for the incident manager and commanders is under- standing these are extremely emotional events," says Eells. "It's a psychologi- cal pull on anybody, whether they're directly or indirectly involved. So you want to create a support structure for them as quickly as you can." is sup- port involves triage for people with physical injuries and providing coun- selors for traumatized individuals to talk to. It also involves questioning ev- ery evacuee to determine their direct knowledge and involvement. is is to find out if they have any pertinent infor- mation as witnesses or not, as well as to discover if they are in fact suspects. Detectives are a natural fit for this task because they have so much expe- rience interviewing victims and sus- pects, and because they will likely be dressed in plainclothes. It's potentially dangerous to have non-uniformed of- ficers in the middle of an active scene because they could be mistaken for a suspect. ese support personnel are better utilized in places like the receiv- ing area, which is isolated. Ferreting Out Suspects Preventing a suspect from hiding in the crowd is difficult, Eells acknowledg- es. It comes down to the interviewing process in the receiving area. When questioning students, it's important to be thorough as well as to have security stationed around them in case an in- dividual tries to do something threat- ening or dangerous. en suspects can be stopped, instead of being let go or es- caping and possibly going to a different location and committing an act of vio- lence there. "A lot of times, you look at the me- dia livestreaming kids coming out of a building with their hands in the air, and they ask, 'Why is that necessary? Why are they treating them like bad guys? Haven't they been traumatized enough?'" Eells says. "Yes, but the great- er failure on our part would be to let a secondary suspect do more harm by not finding and addressing all threats." e safest for all is to ensure evacuees get into an area where officers can prop- erly interview, triage, and assess them. e sooner that is done, the sooner any outstanding suspects can be identified, and the sooner parents and students can be reunited. A Place for Parents Until students can be returned to their parents, arriving loved ones need a place to gather. It's best to set up this martialing area in a place that is not in the line of sight of the receiving area for students. If students and parents see each other, they might be overcome with emotion and run to each other, undermining the containment process and creating chaos. You'll need a large, safe place that can handle the capaci- PHOTO: GET T Y IMAGES MANAGING THE PEOPLE EVACUATING AND THOSE ARRIVING AFTER A SCHOOL SHOOTING REQUIRES A COORDINATED PLAN THAT INCLUDES BEING ON THE LOOKOUT FOR SUSPECTS AMONG THEM. MELANIE BASICH CROWD CONTROL

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