The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery
- Harold Wilson
Like all areas of society, law enforcement has to keep abreast of current trends and activities that present themselves to us. Our profession is one of only a few however, (the military, fire, and EOD communities being some of the others) that must constantly adapt to stay ahead of human foes that are bent on devastation. In 25 combined years of military and law enforcement experience, I have seen positive change almost on a week by week basis. Now in this ever changing world of 4th generation warfare and Active Killer Response, the mantra adapting and overcoming has become almost standard marching orders for us in countering this nationwide/worldwide contagion of violence.
As we all know, the actions of Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine High served as the impetus for change in modern law enforcement response to active killers. The four-man contact/ rescue team concept with an Ad-hoc incident commander concept that was created in the wake of this incident is solid doctrine. There is NO DOUBT in my mind that if performed correctly and aggressively, and under perfect conditions, these tactics will achieve flawless results and the desired effect of the prompt and efficient neutralization of the active killer will be accomplished. This tactic and the tactical mindset that comes with it are taught in one form or another, with minor adjustments, all across the country now.
I want my readers to know that the spirit of this article is not to bash or replace the four-man contact team principle. I write this article not to attack or denigrate these tactics, as I still instruct and advocate them where agencies mandate as required practice. I instead write this to hopefully add momentum to an upwelling of thought and tactical doctrine being brought about by some, such as Ron Borsch and myself, who are seeing how even a strong tactic can be improved upon when situation dictates that we must.
Alternatives to the 4-Man-Contact-Team Concept
Four; Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg
- Abraham Lincoln
- 90% of police departments nationwide are staffed by under 50 officers*. It's a common public misconception that agencies this size have adequate staffing to handle any and all situations and crises.
- The fact is that agencies of this size are going to have a difficult time deploying to an active killer incident using standard 4 man formation tactics in a time period that is short enough to severely limit the shooter's rampage and total victim count.
- If a police department is normally staffed by a patrol force consisting of one to six single officer patrol units, the Ad-Hoc I/C - diamond, or any other 4 man contact team formation system may be too "heavy" a task force to form and utilize within the time constraints that these incidents take place in.
- Force feeding of force fitting even good tactics is unrealistic and bad practice.
- Active Killer incidents are over in less than 10 minutes almost 100% of the time.
- In a large percentage of these events, the massive loss of human life takes place in seconds rather minutes or hours.
- By Colonel Cooper's color code; the spontaneous, ultra violent, ambush-style of these events catches everyone involved completely in condition white and law enforcement resources well behind the OODA loop from the onset of the occurrence and fraught to catch up.
I have worked in my current agency for 21 years (40 sworn) and we have been proactive in our training and planning for any type of school or workplace assault for some time. Every officer from the chief to the newest patrol officer is trained to standard and other practices (patrol rifle programs, school resource officer positions, etc.) are on par with most agencies across the country. As with all other agencies, we strive to provide the best police services and protection we can to our jurisdiction and its people. But as Einstein once stated "Reality is merely an illusion". The reality that any size minimum mandatory patrol force patrolling our communities, or every school staffed by a full time SRO effectively and quickly neutralizing an active killer attack is folly.
As we all know, there are tens of thousands of situations, and combinations of those situations, that confront us in our day to day operations as police departments. We can go hours without a call for service or we can get slammed with calls waiting queued for hours. We can have a shift stacked with competent, pro-active officers, or we can run with the minimums of officer quality and staffing. I personally am not willing to go "all in" on the idea or argument that I can get 5 officers to a grammar school or a shopping mall instantly at any random time. There are just far too many variables that we face in our day to day operations as police departments to bank on that.
I conceived the idea of the Active Shooter Action Plan (hereinafter ASAP) after researching national policy and merging existing philosophies in my lecture circuit discussions. I was concerned about the smaller departments with 1, 2, or 3 officers on patrol, or agencies with such large patrol posts, or such busy patrol posts, that response times are out of the question for successfully mitigating the loss of life at an on-going active killer incident. ASAP predicates itself on the following equation of Available Manpower + Time/Physics = Appropriate Tactic. The basic premise of the tactic is to get an officer to the shooter as soon as possible to stop the active killing.
The ASAP method training course is built on the foundation of instructing on the merits of the intelligent and aggressive tactical mindset, and then intensive training on the skills and tactics necessary to defeat an active killer within the time parameters that they always dictate.
The active killer incident at the Pine View Nursing Home in Carthage, N.C. showed us as a law enforcement community that a single officer assault on an active killer can be successful. The ASAP Method predicates that same concept of an initial response of solo or paired up officers assaulting directly at the active killer and neutralizing the murderous acts. ASAP does not preach suicide-style tactics but rather close quarter combat skills and tactics for the single and paired up officer. We must realize that to mitigate the loss of life during an active killer incident, there must be an absolute exigency to our tactics and our response. Once the officer is in the building and moving towards the shooter there can be no deviation or momentary halt for support or rendering if aid. The officer must, in military speak, "close with and destroy" the active killer threat.
It is common knowledge that active killers, especially in the school attack scenarios, are very prone to avoidance of a law enforcement response and almost always commit suicide (most commonly by self-inflicted gun shot wounds) just prior to being engaged by a police reaction. Officers using ASAP will no longer need to hold at a certain ad-hoc meeting spot or objective. ASAP officers will still use many of the same tactics taught to officers using 4 man contact team concepts such as moving past victims, and explosives. They however, will not be tethered to a team or group of officers who they have waited for to join them in the fight. ASAP officers stayed focused solely on the fact that an active killer is murdering unarmed, non-combatants at a rate that is as fast as the shooter can employ. Single officers responding directly to the threat without pause is the fastest way to disconnect that active killer from his task of murder in quantity.
The ASAP method works by sending trained officers directly at the active killer to interfere on his assault and end it or curtail any further unanswered gunfire on innocents. 3 or 4 man contacts team tactics, or some other method of aggressive assault can be launched in conjunction with ASAP entries as manning and equipment arrive.
ASAP works to get into that 180 to 480 second window of shooting and mayhem in a fashion faster and more aggressive than any other response method to date.
So how does a police department know if it needs to employ a tactic such as ASAP? If a police department can put its collective ego and perceived competence to the side and truly look at its geography, manning, and response tactics and know with complete certainty that it can deploy with the amount of officers needed to satisfy the tactic or tactics employed, travel to the killer, and then successfully engage the shooter stopping the rampage in under 3 to 5 minutes then you are OK. If the answer is no then what would be the harm of an initial attack on the active killer by ASAP trained officers who are immediately on scene and immediately advancing on and engaging the shooter in so doing throwing his OODA into chaos and in doing so stopping mass homicide?
The ASAP method certification is a two day course designed around multi-media, practical exercise and live fire range training. Officers are taught many of the skills necessary but seldom taught to rank and file officers that are not SWAT or assigned to a specialized unit. Breaching, Self-Aid/Buddy-Aid and enhanced marksmanship skills are some of the cornerstones of the program. Because a man is "no more a gunfighter because he carries a gun than he is a musician because he owns a piano," in extremis marksmanship is a major training point that is mastered by officers attending the program. Officers not able to successfully deploy with the weapons availed to them on a daily basis (pistol, shotgun, patrol rifle) are at an even more distinct disadvantage than the norm and must be brought up to standard and beyond. Officers need to possess the skills to put effective fires on an active killer adversary out past typical maximum distances (usually 25 yards). The ASAP method instructs officers that their assault on the active killer must be intelligence driven as you cannot afford to lose an officer when you only have one or two officers responding for the first 5+ minutes or so after the incident starts. The ASAP method works in concert with the 4 man contact team concept and can be taught along with it.
In closing, I leave you with these following facts:
- Active killers practice attacking - THEY DO NOT PRACTICE BEING ATTACKED (Attacking "Sheep" not "Sheepdogs")
- They WILL NEVER be truly prepared for a law enforcement response to their actions. They may play video games, watch movies, shoot guns in the woods, etc. but they will never receive formal training in countering a law enforcement response to an active shooter.
- Your hesitation, however slight, will cost lives.
*according to FBI UCR reports