Responding to Active Shooters

Sadly, I see that there was another shooting today at Lone Star College in Houston, Texas.  I can’t tell you why this seems to be the method of choice by people who want to make a name for themselves, draw attention to their grudges against the world or whatever reason.   I can’t tell you why people do it; or necessarily how to figure out who they are before they engage in murder.  I can tell you that we have a plan to stop them. 

The events at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 created a major shift for the strategy and tactics of police confronted by that kind of situation.  In those days we all were trained to draw a perimeter to control movement and engage tactical teams.  Those tactical teams can be slow to engage since they have to arrive on scene and develop a plan.  At Columbine, the killing and injuring went on while the teams were working to assemble.  Since that time we have moved into tactics designed to confront a killer and neutralize the threat in the quickest possible way.   Here in Auburn Hills we felt the need to shift our training and capabilities as soon as we possibly could after that event.  So we sent people out to learn the new tactics and trained our whole department in 2001.  We have maintained the training and equipment designed to meet just this kind of challenge since that time.  We are acutely aware that we have some unique challenges with our large public assemblies and work places. 

As of today we took yet another step.  Nine Oakland County agencies, including the Sheriff’s Office have resolved to train together in the techniques of confronting active shooters.  That means that the departments have adopted a “plug and play” strategy to quote Chief Gary Mayer of Troy.  Officers react the way that they are trained.  If they are trained to operate as a team, they will do just that regardless of their department affiliation.  That allows us to increase the size and capability of any response to this type of incident in any of our 9 communities.  We believe we can be quicker and more effective. 

The training will be accomplished using federal grant dollars and the first session for 50 trainers will begin in February 2013.  Those 50 trainers from a variety of departments will then go out and train all of the officers of the 9 departments.  Other departments are in various stages of joining and I expect that we’ll see more soon.  The officer training is planned as realistic training done in a closed school building so that special effects can be employed to give the officers the most realistic effect possible:  the noise,  the smoke, actors who will be injured and crying for help…as close as possible to what we believe will be the real thing.   We have practiced training of that type in our local mall where responding officers were met with crowds of actors crying for help, the sounds of shooting, fire alarms and other effects designed to heighten their anxiety and challenge their focus. 

On behalf our personnel, we are pleased to be apart of training with the larger group.  We all believe that the public wants us to work together closely and to share our personnel and resources in any incident of this type. I am proud that Oakland County police work together in daily activities and in crisis situations to achieve the best possible outcome for our communities at a reasonable cost.

We hope it will never happen here but we’ll be ready if it does.