Active shooter drills are increasingly common in schools and other public places. However, after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary last December, the White House has issued a directive that local law enforcement agents across the nation will be required to take part in a training program run by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The Associated Press reported that the FBI was directed to launch a training program at a Texas-based recruiting center to teach law enforcement agencies across the nation best practices for responding to mass shootings.
What is the purpose of active shooter training drills?
Local law enforcement departments are always the first to respond to 911 calls about shootings. The goal of this training is to provide local branches with a standardized strategy to handle potential mass casualty events. Law enforcement receives the benefit of having a similar, shared background knowledge and protocol.
Local law enforcement departments arrive first on scene, and the first moments are the most crucial. Officials and nearby tactical teams must understand what role they play in a situation and that they can depend on their fellow team members. Standard training protocol ensures better cross-department cooperation in emergency situations.
Dual purpose of training
Federal agencies also train local departments to ensure that they know exactly how larger organizations can offer assistance and improve inter-department communication.
"It's not capability — it's capacity," said Katherine Schweit, an FBI official involved in organizing the training program, according to the news source. "Every police department, sheriff's department has the ability to do interviews and to do evidence collection … But we can bring capacity. We can bring 100 agents to a scene in a day and do hundreds of interviews, and have done that time and time again."
Drills reinforce standard protocol for engaging shooters directly instead of waiting for a specialty SWAT team, reported the news source. By standardizing procedures across the nation, every member of a local department should receive the same level of training.
While training is a crucial element in preparation, those in charge of the FBI's drill center realize there is no perfect way to prepare for an active shooter.
"In that kind of event, you can never get to the point where it's real life. Always in back of the officer's head, they know, 'I'm not actually going to die. No one's being killed,'" said J. Pete Blair, the ALERRT program's research director and an associate professor at Texas State University-San Marcos, according to the news source.
Past training protocol mandated that it was imperative for officers to gain control of the perimeter before engaging with a shooter, reported the news source. Local departments were told to focus on containing the scene and wait for specialty forces to arrive. However, data from mass shootings have shown that process was slow, ineffective and shooters often change tactics if he or she hears officers approaching.
"Now because of those lessons learned, because of the willingness to be introspective of what took place, tactics have evolved, and they're continuing to evolve," Arvada, Colo., police Sgt. A.J. DeAndrea, told the news source.
Evolving law enforcement training
Law enforcement training is not a stagnant operation. Officers are asked to evaluate processes, experts are called in to evaluate past processes, and research and data help determine how to better reduce fatalities and gain control of a situation faster. It's imperative that training data and certifications are readily available to those in charge of dealing with active shooter developments so that the right decisions can be made for everyone's safety.
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