POLICE Magazine Supplements

Special Report 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/977262

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Page 11 of 19

O 12 SPECIAL REPORT: KEEPING SCHOOLS SAFE 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 for- mer student who walked out of the school hidden 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 officers look for suspects. Law enforcement officers need to be ready to re- spond appropriately should such an incident occur in their ju- risdiction. Currently the executive director of the National Tactical Of- ficers Association, or Eells retired as a scene commander in a large police department after 30 years in law enforcement. While response varies widely based on the specifics of the in- cident, including whether it is dynamic or static, he says the foundational 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 protec- tion for students so they are not exposed to additional 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 fam- ilies all while being on the lookout for the shooter or shooters. Receiving Area When evacuating, students and personnel should be guided, preferably by school staff, to what is called a receiving 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 command- ers is understanding these are extremely emotional events," says Eells. "It's a psychological 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 support involves tri- age for people with physical injuries and providing counselors for trau- matized individuals to talk to. It also involves questioning every evacuee to determine their direct knowledge and involvement. is is to find out if they have any pertinent information 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 experience interviewing victims and suspects, and be- cause they will likely be dressed in plainclothes. It's potentially dangerous to have non-uniformed officers 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 receiving area, which is isolated. Ferreting Out Suspects Preventing a suspect from hiding in the crowd is difficult, Eells acknowledges. 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 individual tries to do something threatening or dangerous. en suspects can be stopped, instead of being let go or escaping and possibly going to a different location and committing an act of violence there. "A lot of times, you look at the media 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 greater failure on our part would be to let a sec- ondary 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 properly 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, undermin- ing the containment process and creating chaos. You'll need a large, safe place that can handle the capacity without interfer- 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. CROWD CONTROL MELANIE BASICH

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