Rapid Mass Murders
The Response Reality.
Current news reflects trying times for law enforcement working to address very difficult situations, all the while maintaining public and officer safety. Creating training and skills for complex problems like clearing schools or darkened movie theaters, and often having to do so in a timely manner, is tough. And timing couldn’t be worse considering many police agencies are reeling from personnel reductions, and other major budget issues. We really should be focusing on the smaller departments of 25 officers or less; they make up about 80 percent of US law enforcement agencies. Coming up with what’s needed, on extremely limited budgets — sound familiar? — I call it, “the thousand-dollar show for ten bucks” syndrome.
The vogue trigger acronyms, RMM (Rapid Mass Murder) are grabbing the headlines. We all know the more hype and press these acts are given, the more likely there are to be copycat incidents … those few crazy people looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Interestingly, a bit of research shows this type of incident is not a new thing in America, despite what the mainstream media screams. And with the current 24/7/365 mindset and modern communications, the news, rather, gossip about these crimes is affecting many things in our society.
A pipe dream? How long would it take to assemble this team
while a madman is killing innocents?
While the glamour and focus is often on SWAT, the reality is we need to start focusing just as much on individual officer training when responding to a RMM or other active shooter.
SWAT is a good thing. I did it for years as a cop, I liked it, it’s cool and it looks pretty awesome in play. I also know SWAT is almost always late; they’re often called after the fact in many of these RMM incidents. Active shooter diamond formations are also cool, look good in concept, but they too are often late and after the fact.
Both concepts have their merit, and I’m not here to demean or bad-mouth either SWAT or active shooter diamond formations. If a guy is barricaded in his house, SWAT is your best answer. If you’ve got an active shooter in a school, the diamond might work. But in places like where I live — an 8,000-square-mile county with a prison and three schools, often without even four cops on duty within 100 miles of one another — sometimes it’s: “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” I live in a place that falls under the 80-percent rule previously mentioned.
After 40 years of training and prior experience as a police officer and SWAT member, today Clint feels strongly it’s still the individual officer who must have the skills to go toe-to-toe with a shooter.
When you only have four officers covering an 8,000-square- mile area, chances are slim you’ll even have a 2-officer response to an active shooter. How do you train?
If there’s an active shooter in a school and a single officer arrives, for example in Lake County Oregon, the officer will need to go forward to address the shooter — and it’s dangerous. Going into a school to find a shooter is like going to the ocean; the further you get from shore, the more the food chain changes. Moving into the school is just like the ocean; the further you go into the facility, the more you are surrounded by the problem. It becomes deep water very quickly.
Communications will be critical and the officer’s tactical skills will be at a premium. And these are individual skills, remembering that the officer cannot save anyone if he cannot save himself.
In reality, two officers would be better than one, and I personally prefer two rather than four, or some other cluster hump of whatever. Then again, in this scenario we don’t have two officers; we only have one. There are no bones about one officer going forward. He or she is in deep crap and better be wired up pretty tight to get this job done.
A big problem, among the many problems, is to understand that a hallway is clear until the officer goes into a classroom to search it. When that room is clear and secure, the hallway they’re about to go back into needs to be re-cleared. And this will go on from hall to room to hall, because if you don’t see it, or another officer does not occupy it, the room is not clear. In this problem any information, i.e. the number of shooters, clothing descriptions, anything, will be helpful. In talking with a friend of mine who was at, and inside Columbine, part of the problem for arriving officers was that many of the students and kids fleeing the school were similar in appearance to the information they had received about the possible shooter(s). What a goat rodeo!
This is where our focus must be — the single officer response.
The brutal reality is an officer may be forced to clear a stairwell by himself. Are you prepared?
Focus On Single Officers
I strongly advocate that as much energy, time and resources available are spent on training individual officers sound tactical skills. If this training is not currently available, it sure as hell might be the moment to make them available! It’s time for law enforcement to stop being so protective of SWAT and active shooter programs, and make individual officer tactical and marksmanship skills a real priority.
I’m intrigued by the hue and cry for an armed police officer in every school. How many of you know officers you’d like and trust shooting in the school where your kids attend? Now throw in a hallway full of running, screaming kids and a hostage situation. This isn’t a personal affront; it’s just a fact. Tell me the number of officers you work with you’d want shooting down a hallway full of kids? We expect the bad guy to kill kids, but what if the officer everyone wants in schools, protecting our kids, starts dropping them with a miss or a through and through (bad guy) shot.
For those of you who know me or who read what I write, you know I’ve taken the active shooter effectiveness concept to task on many occasions. It’s not personal; it’s an honest and well thought out opinion. I stand by what I say. It’s time for great emphasis to be placed on individual officer skills. We’ve always needed these skills — and we need them more so now than ever before.
By Clint Smith