POLICE Magazine

JUN 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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30 POLICE JUNE 2019 ing focused on an immediate tactical response by the initial officers on scene. Post-Columbine training consisted of instructing responding officers to immediately enter the threat area in a "diamond" formation that consisted of one officer facing forward, with three or more officers taking up positions with various areas of coverage. e team would then move down the hallways in that diamond-shaped formation. Un- fortunately, the diamond formation did not allow officers to move swiftly, and officers were often unable to locate the shooter until he challenged the team, ran out of bullets, or surrendered. Once the diamond formation proved less than effective, agencies started to train their officers to move directly to the threat. is allowed officers to surprise an active shooter, defuse the threat quickly, and reduce casualties. e tactic of having responding of- ficers move directly to the threat has helped limit the body counts in some active shooter attacks. For example, in 2012 a suspect opened fire on a the- ater full of people waiting to watch the premiere showing of "e Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, CO. e first officers arrived on scene within two minutes of the 911 call, and they were able to take the subject into custody five minutes af- ter their arrival. While improved tactics are now be- ing used in active shooter response, recent mass shootings have revealed additional areas of weakness in law enforcement reaction to such attacks. Last year when a former student at- tacked the Marjory Stoneman Doug- las High School in Parkland, FL, there was a school resource officer (Broward County Sheriff's Deputy Scot Peterson) on scene. But the officer remained out- side the campus, allowing the gunman to move freely, killing 17 students and staff. e actions of the Broward County responding officers in Parkland have been publicly scrutinized by the media. e sheriff blamed the SRO for not con- fronting the shooter, though the me- dia claimed that there may have been several officers who remained outside the campus as shots were being fired. Days after the shooting SRO Peterson resigned after being placed on admin- istrative leave. He told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper he felt that his actions were justified, as he claimed to have taken a tactical position. ough the actions of the responding officers at Parkland are still being de- bated, agencies around the country are using this tragedy as a teaching tool to improve their active shooting response training. As other law enforcement agencies have modified their policies and train- ing for active shooter response, so has the Phoenix PD. Historically the de- partment's policy and training restrict- ed a solo officer from engaging an active shooter. Officers were required to wait until more units arrived on scene; then they would move to engage the threat as a three-officer team. e policy was specific: officers would wait until the team was complete, then move to locate the threat. is policy has now evolved. Phoenix PD says now that the idea of waiting to act must be weighed careful- ly against the possibility of preservation of life. SENDING IN THE MEDICS e important role of EMS and fire- fighters is often overlooked during ac- tive shooter response training. Timely emergency medical response is critical to saving lives. At Columbine the first paramedics were not brought in to assist victims for more than three hours. During the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting, medical personnel did not enter into the club. Instead, officers carried victims out for the first four hours, while the suspect was barricaded in a bathroom with oth- er potential victims. In 2007 at Virginia Tech, the local Emergency Response Teams (ERT) hap- pened to be in close proximity, allow- ing for a fast response (within 10 min- utes of the initial calls). ese teams had trained with local tactical medics. As the ERT teams moved through the buildings, the medics were able to ren- der lifesaving aid to the victims. Un- fortunately, it is still not common for agencies to have a medic readily avail- able. And even with emergency medics on scene at Virginia Tech, it still took 29 minutes before law enforcement would allow further medical responders in to treat and triage victims. THE ACTIVE SHOOTER THREAT (Top) The City of Phoenix holds detailed active shooter response training exercises for its public safety personnel. (Left) Phoenix police officers are trained to respond to active shooters as a group or alone, depending on circumstances. PHOTOS: DAVE MENA

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