Active Shooter incidents are affecting our communities in an unprecedented level. Proactive training for law enforcement in this arena is at a historic high. Unfortunately, the majority of training, as seen by this author, is geared for diffusing the Active School Shooter. This is an extraordinary credit to our law enforcement agencies throughout the country for taking a unified training approach, regardless of minor training differences. Although, law enforcement has created training tactics for Active Schools Shooter incidents, very few departments have altered this training for such incidents. Active Shooter incidents, as highlighted by the media, can and have occurred in shopping-malls, business offices, and even churches.
It is a continuing challenge for law enforcement to have omnipresence in order to prevent these types of events from occurring. Therefore, the reality of the perception that law enforcement will be the immediate saviors is hopeful idealism.
Police officers understand, regardless what they desire, that they cannot be everywhere all the time to prevent a crime. Strategies have to be utilized to deter crime. Community education is one of the most successful tactics in deterring crime. Police officers conduct burglar prevention analysis on businesses and residences to prevent crimes. They advise citizens on what to do if confronted by an assailant who wants to steal their car or purse.
Education seems to be a crucial element in deterring criminal opportunity. This is goes hand in hand with the Community Policing model. One thing that I have noticed in my experiences, both law enforcement and consulting, is how many people are at a total loss if you ask them the simple question of what would you do if an Active Shooter came into your work place? Better yet, what would you do if you were at the shopping mall with your family and a like incident occurred?
The expressions on these individuals' faces are that of terror, confusion and DENIAL; they have a hard time believing that it will ever happen to them. ChangingMinds.org characterizes DENIAL in their discussion as a form of repression where stressful thoughts are banned from memory. If I do not think about it, then I do not suffer the associated stress of having to deal with it. Repression and Denial are two primary defense mechanisms which everybody uses. Children find denial easier because, as we age, the ego matures and understands more about the objective reality it must operate within. This may be why the most common response from individuals who, like children, may have not been exposed to critical incidents is
I guess I would hide until help (Police) arrived.
I then ask them who the first responder is in an event like this and their answer - again - the Police. However, when I followed that question up with
You are expecting the police to respond and save your children in a shopping mall incident, when law enforcement's response, on average, is approximately five minutes?
Their response drastically changes to NO.
The average citizen realizes that they are responsible for their own fate; they in turn are the first responders. America's communities have been awakened after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Since then, arguably, 27 terrorist attacks have been stopped by law enforcement personnel; four of which occurred this past month September, 2009. This does not account for the escalating School Shootings. We, as law enforcement, understand that 4th and perhaps 5th Generation Warfare is manifesting itself in our country at an alarming rate; have we, as a society, adequately responded to overcome this threat?
Law enforcement has allowed for improvement in educating the community. Most departments stress Community Policing; however, is Community Policing incorporating anti-terrorism tactics? After all, the term COPs derives its acronym from Community partnership-Organizational transformation and Problem solving. Its strength stems from partnerships and problem solving techniques. These techniques are a proactive measure to diffusing crime in a systematic problem solving strategy. Community Policing is not about just attending community events and making sure that every business owner can call that one person when they have loiterers or loud music complaints. Community Policing encompasses education.
Ensuring that the community understands their role as a first responder is critical in today's post September 11th world. Just as the D.A.R.E. Program was the education piece for the War on Drugs, so should a Citizens First Responder course be obligatory for the community. Community Policing should educate the community on recognizing pre-incident indicators that may lead to an Active Shooter. This education should focus on target hardening, the survivalist mindset and actions to take when law enforcement arrive. This education segment should be ingrained in every citizens thought process, similar to that of Stop-Drop-and Roll if one is ever on fire.
As these threats to America increase, our vigilance must not sway. The days of traditional policing against the traditional criminal element have diminished. The community must empower themselves and not solely rely on the police as their first responders. America is in a unique war; one that demands its civilian citizens transform from what Lt. Col. David Grossman eloquently refers to as the sheep, to the sheep dog and defend against the wolf. America's communities, with the support of their law enforcement, must create an educational atmosphere in which the average citizen will become educated and transform from the sheep to the sheep dog. DENIAL is not the answer to defending America's population; education, preparation and training are the elements of triumph in this post September 11 era.