New Strategies To Stop Active Shooting Situations Quicker

January 9th, 2014

In addition to finding that the number of active shooting situations has increased over the last decade, (in contrast with mass shootings which have remained the same), a new report in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin offers new thinking on the fastest and quickest ways of stopping active shooting situations.

Here is the summary:

In addition, though officers responded quickly (i.e., median time 3 minutes), shooters inflicted devastating damage beforehand. This adds to the growing evidence that citizens must have insight on how to respond. The FBI’s support for strong citizen awareness, detailed in the “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol, is endorsed by all other federal agencies.[2] The data establish that when prepared, the potential victims themselves can stop the shooter. 

The report continues to suggest that the quickest way to stop the carnage is for solo officers moving quickly, rather than waiting for teams to assemble.

Initially, training programs and departments instructed their officers to form teams before entering a structure to seek out an attacker. Teams offer the responding officers a variety of advantages, but they also take time to assemble. As time went by, agencies began to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of smaller teams and even solo officer entry into the attack location. Many departments now authorize officers to make solo entry into locations where an ASE is occurring.

The authors also sought to assess how events that included solo officer entry unfolded. In many cases, solo officer entry was a difficult item to code. Police and media reports often did not contain enough information to determine whether a solo officer entry was conducted; nonetheless, the authors identified 18 cases that they confidently believe involved solo officer entry. The resolution of the cases is presented in figure 8. During solo officer entries, the event likely would be ongoing, and the officers probably would use force to stop the attacker. This most likely was a product of these officers arriving on scene and entering the attack site quickly—the median response time was 3 minutes for all events and 2 minutes for those involving solo officers.

In total, 13 of the 18 events (72 percent) still were ongoing when solo officers arrived on scene. Of these 13 incidents, law enforcement personnel either shot or physically subdued the shooter 12 times. Solo officers were also more likely to be injured during the event. Three of the 18 solo officers (17 percent) were shot. If only cases ongoing at the time of solo officer entry (13) were considered, officers were shot 23 percent of the time. Solo officer entries provide faster response, but also increase the danger to the officer.

In the end, it is the people on the scene who serve as the first line of defense.

The five highest casualty events since 2000 happened despite police arriving on scene in about 3 minutes. Clearly, fast and effective police response comprises only part of the answer to limiting the damage done during these attacks.

Also important are the actions that civilians take to protect themselves during the 3 or more minutes that it takes the police to arrive. Civilians need to be trained about what to do if one of these attacks occurs. A variety of resources are available at no cost. Federal agencies, including both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, endorse the use of the teaching technique of Run, Hide, Fight to explain to civilians how they can protect themselves and others around them.[8] Police departments and the communities they serve should work together to implement this training.

The report makes no mention of the benefit of placing armed guards in schools, but does allude to armed people on the scene stopping the shooter.

Of the cases that ended before the police arrived, 67 percent (34) ended with attackers stopping themselves via suicide (29 cases) or by leaving the scene (5 cases). In the other 33 percent (17) of the cases that ended before the police arrived, the potential victims at the scene stopped the shooter themselves. Most commonly they physically subdued the attacker (14 cases), but 3 cases involved people at the scene shooting the perpetrator to end the attack.  

Relatedly, time is of the essence:

The authors have seen discussions on message boards—even in training classes—where officers suggest the only training needed to respond to ASEs is to get to the scene quickly. The belief is that most events will be over, or suspects will kill themselves. While it is true that 1) 49 percent of the events end before officers arrive and 2) suspects kill themselves after the police arrive 14 percent of the time, responding officers used force to stop the attack in 31 percent of the ASEs assessed. This 1 in 3 chance of having to use force makes it clear that simply training officers to show up is not enough.

I should note that in Arapahoe, an armed resource officer rushed towards the shooter within a minute after the incident began. He committed suicide.