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Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.
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Patrol

Be Ready for School Shooters and School Takeovers

The massacre at Virginia Tech is a portent of things to come.

May 09, 2007  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author

All of the experts agree that America will experience more “active shooter” situations in schools in the near future. Anti-terrorist strategists will also tell you that Muslim terrorists are planning to take over American schools then rape and slaughter our innocent children.

Despite what you may hear from people who don’t believe the bad guys plan to destroy us, this is not paranoid obsession. Osama bin Laden himself has told us that our schools are next on the target list, and al-Qaida forces can be seen preparing for school massacres in their training videos. Worse, Muslim terrorists have a track record, and they tend to repeat assaults that work. They have successfully attacked schools in Israel, Turkey, Russia, and other countries, killing hundreds of children and teachers.

To counter this threat and the threat of vicious lone gunmen like the Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-Hui, law enforcement and military experts are pushing for the training of first responders in realistic active shooter scenarios.

This training should be undertaken by every department, regardless of size or location. Don’t think that it can’t happen in your community. If there is a school or college in your jurisdiction, then you have the potential for a school shooter or, God forbid, a terrorist attack.

Ask yourself this question: Who is going to be there if it happens in my sector? On my watch? Who will protect my kids? My brothers? My sisters? The answer is you, and you need to be ready to do the job.

And most American patrol officers, even many tactical teams, are not ready.

Yes, every department is talking about training for a Columbine, VTU, or Beslan, but few have actually prepared. Or if they have prepared, they have only prepared the SWAT team.

It takes time to assemble a SWAT team and get them to the scene of an incident. If an active shooter or a terrorist group attacks your local school, quick action by patrol officers may be the only thing that prevents mass murder.

On-Duty Preparation and Planning

What can you, an ordinary first responder, do to prepare a response to a school shooting or hostage situation at one of your local schools? Plenty. And you don’t have to wait for officially sanctioned training.

Take the initiative; contact the principals and any school security personnel yourself. Let them know who you are. Talk about what you and the school staff might do if such an incident did occur. Don’t scare them. Don’t talk about a massive assault by jihad-bent terrorists. Talk to them about your concerns regarding school shooters. They will think you’re nuts if you talk terrorists, but they will welcome your concern if you talk Columbine. Just remember, you need to worry about both.

Make up a plan. You can perfect it later, but get something together and start communication. Tell them that your goal is to develop a holding action strategy to buy time for SWAT to arrive. Best case scenario, that’s your plan. Worst case, you and some other patrol officers may have to go in as a group and try to stop the slaughter. (Specific tactics for use against active shooters will be discussed in an upcoming article on this site.)

Get maps and diagrams of the school and carry them with you in your patrol bag or box. Talk to the officers from adjoining areas who might respond to back you up. Talk about what you might have to do together before SWAT can arrive.

OK. This next step may sound creepy to you. But imagine yourself as one of the bad guys. Scout the school like a terrorist would if he or she were probing its vulnerabilities. Look for alternative points of entry. Find the possible high ground positions for oversight by a shooter with a long rifle. Ask yourself, where would I place the improvised explosive devices?

Ammo will be critical in any active shooter response. Make up your own personal re-supply bag. This bag should contain extra magazines and ammunition for your pistol, shotgun, and rifle. It should be easy to carry and readily available in your patrol box or war bag.

Besides the bullets, your bag should contain some batteries for your flashlight, compact binoculars, and bandages. I would also put in some QuikClot or something equivalent. I am sure you can come up with other necessities.

Prepare to Respond Off Duty

Carry a pistol off duty and be proficient with it. If you have one, also put a rifle or shotgun in the trunk of your car with an off-duty go bag full of ammo and spare mags for all of your weapons. Your go bag should also contain a flashlight and spare batteries.

If you are a parent, visit your kid’s school often. Meet the staff and make sure they remember you. Ask about active shooter training.

Find out if they expect to lock down or evacuate the campus. Maybe someone knows the local area patrol officer. Have them introduce you to the patrol officer and take him to lunch or a cup of coffee. Make sure he will recognize and remember you even in plain clothes. Win him over. Give him confidence in relying on you in such a situation. Talk about what you would do if a school shooter or terrorist came to your school tomorrow morning. Discuss the “what ifs.”

Teach Your Kids What to Do

Before the days of ATMs, I would rehearse with my toddler children regarding what to do if Daddy saw a bank robbery in progress. I taught them to lie on the floorboards of our vehicle as Daddy moved in the parking lot in a big circle away from the car. I taught them to stay down, no matter what, until I came back and gave the all clear.

We also rehearsed other situations where I taught them to hide or run to safety. We had code words for different situations. I taught them early how to break free from someone’s grip, and later how to use ordinary things as weapons in emergencies.

I’m sure that my friends and neighbors wondered about my “paranoia,” but I always felt that my children had a better chance of survival because of our rehearsal of what to do in emergencies. Today all of my children can shoot and fight and are well adjusted grown-ups and parents.

Think about talking to your children (or your young brothers and sisters) about personal safety and what to do when shots are being fired in their schoolyard. You don’t want to scare them, but that talk could save their lives.

Now maybe you are thinking that this kind of thing could never happen in my town, or ever happen to me. That’s denial and it kills people. You need to make school shooter response a priority both on- and off-duty.


Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Ofc.RachelT @ 5/25/2007 3:23 AM

I appreciated this article motivating law enforcement to plan and prepare for attacks on schools. The author is right on the money supporting the idea that we should teach our kids how to fight and protect themselves from violent attackers. It may sound "overboard" to some folks teaching kids such a thing, but it is really different than teaching our kids how to stay alive from wild animals out in the wildnerness? One can only shelter a child from so much. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world.

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