4 key takeaways from the Active Shooter Update at SHOT Show

The most important thing Don taught the class was the value of time: time to educate and time to prepare

Every year, the SHOT Show is the most highly anticipated display of new law enforcement products in the nation. It wasn't that long ago that the LE section of the show was a minor player, dwarfed by the sporting displays, but nowadays the floor plan at SHOT is dominated by LE, military, and "tactically" oriented products.

With all this hardware on display, it can be easy to forget that the software — your mindset, awareness, tactics and skills — are far more important to the success of the mission and to your survival. That's why the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP), a series of seminars and classes taught by top notch trainers, is a highlight for me every year at SHOT.

Today I attended the "Active Shooter Update" session sponsored by the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), and taught by veteran cop Don Alwes, the NTOA's Patrol Section Chair. The two hour program was packed full of information and ran at a fast pace, but there's just so much to cover on this subject that we could only scratch the surface.

Police officers from the Omaha Emergency Response Unit conduct
Police officers from the Omaha Emergency Response Unit conduct "Active Shooter" training on the campus of the University of Nebraska at Omaha. (AP Photo)

Still, even a cursory look at the problem of active shooters (or "active threats," if you prefer, since not all of these incidents involve firearms) was enough to impress the crowd with the sheer magnitude of complicating factors which can make these events so difficult for LE to address.

Don took us through the process of identifying common characteristics of these attacks, the attackers, the victims, the locations, the weapons used, and the duration of the attack, giving us a basis of facts to work from, as we explored different methods and tactics for countering these assaults and ending the violence quickly.

Don presented various case studies that highlighted facets of these attacks and identified the challenges that responding officers will face. There were many takeaways from his excellent instruction — too many to list — but consider a sampling of items we discussed:

1. Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics indicate that roughly 36 percent of these attacks have a duration of 2 minutes or less, and 69 percent have a duration of 5 minutes or less. How many of you work for agencies that can put an officer on scene that fast, considering the delays inherent in the 911 reporting system and your dispatch system?

2. Consider the high levels of confusion and uncertainty inherent to these scenarios, and then consider how the presence of multiple attackers, multiple attack locations, or attackers wearing fake LE uniforms could exponentially increase the difficulty of dealing with them.

3. What are the desired tactics for combating these killers and shutting them down quickly? Do the tactics change, based on the number of responding officers available? Are your officers trained and skilled in these tactics?

4. The most important thing Don taught the class was the value of time. We have the time right now to educate our personnel and the community, to harden potential targets, to develop contingency plans and tactics, and to suitably equip and train our personnel. We need to take advantage of that opportunity now, while we can, because when the next flurry of 911 calls come in from panicked citizens in the midst of an attack, it will be too late.

Train hard, and be safe out there.

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