FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Bob Parker

Bob Parker

Lt. Robert Parker served with the Omaha (Neb.) PD for 30 years and commanded the Emergency Response Unit. He is responsible for training thousands of law enforcement instructors in NTOA's Patrol Response to Active Shooters courses.



Jose Medina

Jose Medina

Officer Jose Medina is an active member of the Piscataway (N.J.) Police Department's SWAT team and runs Awareness Protective Consultants (Team APC) tactical training.
SWAT

Can We Stop School Shooters?

You bet we can. American law enforcement has historically met every challenge, and it will meet this one.

February 19, 2008  |  by Robert O'Brien - Also by this author

Once again, an active shooter has wreaked deadly havoc on another American campus. This time it was Northern Illinois University, where a gunman walked into a college lecture hall and without warning opened fire on students with a pump shotgun and three handguns. He killed five students and wounded a number of others, before killing himself. Campus police responded in 90 seconds, but they weren’t able to stop him.

The NIU massacre is the latest in a string of recent deadly active shooter tragedies. So unfortunately, it’s nothing new. But what is new and disturbing is the apparent change in shooter tactics—shooting as many victims as fast as possible then committing suicide— before police can intervene.

The active shooter threat manifested itself in the early 1980s. For a number of years, law enforcement was hard-pressed to come up with a viable solution, relying on SWAT instead of first responders.

That all changed after the 1999 Columbine shooting tragedy when police recognized that waiting for SWAT was costing innocent lives. This marked the first major change in police response strategy to high-risk situations since the creation of SWAT.

Since Columbine, virtually every police agency in the United States and Canada has trained (and often equipped) first responders (read: “patrol officers”) to immediately intervene in active shootings. This tactic has proven effective numerous times—as the only truly effective way to stop active shooters is to physically stop them—shooting them when necessary to save innocent lives.

However, last April, the alarm bells rang loud and clear after the deadliest active shooter tragedy in American history occurred at Virginia Tech University. The VTU shooter planned the “hit,” which included impeding responding police by barricading and locking building doors. This only briefly slowed police down. They were inside the building in force within nine minutes of the first reports. However, by then, the shooter had killed 34 people and himself, all before police could reach him.

At NIU, police responded within two minutes of the first reports. However, the shooter still managed to kill five people then turn the gun on himself before police could stop him.
It’s difficult to fathom how police can respond faster than two minutes or even nine minutes. They must first be notified something’s happening, then race to the scene, locate, identify, and engage the shooter. Frankly, time is definitely not on our side when it comes to active shooters.

Active shooters are not only law enforcement’s problem and challenge, but also one facing all of society. For whatever personal reasons, some of the disgruntled and disturbed of today’s society have decided that mass murder is their recourse.

Active shooters are engaging in a deadly “chess game” against society and police, generating fear and causing us to change our entire way of life. Make no mistake about it: Active shooters are “terrorists,” maybe not in the traditional political sense, but they are terrorists nonetheless. Regardless of the source or motivation, terror in any form, is still terror.

This brings me to the reason for this commentary. And that is what, if anything, can law enforcement do to stem the growing threat of active shooters? I refuse to believe that “police are powerless” as some police detractors believe. History has shown otherwise.  American law enforcement has always proven itself capable of meeting and tackling any and all challenges , no matter how daunting or deadly.

The more than 1 million law enforcement officers in America today represent a wealth of knowledge and talent, which if focused on a specific problem, should result in a viable solution to thwart active shooters. This means all who are in law enforcement—in any capacity—not only those in command.  

I don’t pretend to know the answer, but I am confident that if law enforcement puts its collective heads and capabilities together and brainstorms, the solution will manifest itself.
But we need to remember the “clock is ticking,” because like lightning strikes, “it can happen here."

 


Comments (8)

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

slammer @ 2/21/2008 2:04 AM

I have an idea...how about we let law abiding citizens go through training, and get a license to carry a concealed handgun. Oh, wait! We have that here in many states, but usually it is prohibited at State colleges. The ivory tower types refuse to admit that the best way to stop a gun toting killer before he kills people, is to shoot him dead! They'll just say we need better gun control.
Hell, just let professors carry concealed handguns...the only probelm there is that the only ones that probably would carry them are the criminal law professors, who are often police officers.
Or, we could put those special ultrasound video scanners at every entrance door manned by an armed police officer. Those video devices they were going to use at the airports to spot people with bombs strapped to them...then the liberal weenies said they couldn't use them because they got right down to the flesh and you could see an outline of the persons body...how horrible! Here's a link to an ariticle about it http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/22/eveningnews/main2506370.shtml , and here http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/02/24/MNGU8OAEDS1.DTL.

Discuss....

wjkuleck @ 2/21/2008 4:52 AM

The answer is clear, and simple: Self Defense. So long as there are "Defenseless Victim Zones" and restrictions on responsible citizens' concealed weapon carry, the victims at NIU, VT, and elsewhere will remain defenseless.

The "Active Shooter" scenario is one where the only way to stop the shooter in his or her tracks is by someone on-scene acting in self defence. Seems as though when this happens it's never mentioned, except for the recent CO church shooting, where an armed citizen (not a "security guard"!) stopped the shooter long enough for the police to arrive.

Respectifully,

Walter J. Kuleck, Ph.D.

shawnk98 @ 2/21/2008 7:40 AM

Sadly, if someone is intent on killing as many people as they can and then kill themselves, you can't stop them. Unless either they change their mind or you have a police officer in every room as they begin their rampage, your not going to stop them. That is why this form of terrorism is so effective. The mentalily of an individual like this is to die "in a blaze of glory" and/or to become famous. The best police can hope for is that they change their mind or hesitate at the "moment of truth". Once the killing starts, response is already too slow. I pray for solution.

Collegecop_wa @ 2/21/2008 10:59 AM

We also need to stop segregating the support given to institutions of higher education and treat ALL our campuses equally. Case in point: Washington State gives the 4 year universities campus police officers but only gives the 2 year community colleges unarmed campus security officers. What exactly are they supposed to do when a nut with a gun shows up on their campus? Their governor just got $14.3 million in "campus security" aid - but most was earmarked for the 4 year universities. The community colleges get a little money to map their buildings and grounds for the responding off campus police, the universities get the lion's share of the money for cameras, alarms, PA systems and improved locking systems for buildings. So I guess the message to all of the community college students, staff, faculty and most importantly public safety teams are "You don't matter as much to us as the universities do". Must make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside knowing they are the red headed stepchild of higher education. That despite the fact they have 34 campuses state wide and we only have 10 university campuses. So why should they get treated like 3rd class citizens?

tennesseelawdog @ 2/21/2008 5:23 PM

I think it is time to start thinking "outside of the box" here. I believe that there is an opportunity to provide the needed security at all our Colleges and Universities and the cost would be minimal with great benefits. If Colleges and Universities would begin a program for all active and retired law enforcement officers to enroll for free and allow them to carry their firearms (concealed) with them to classes. They could advertise this in the campus papers that this campus is patrolled by armed plain clothes law enforcement professionals attending classes. Then, these wackos would not know where they might encounter a police officer who would be there to take them out immediately. Also, Law Enforcement wins by having officers obtaining higher education and setting the course for our profession to having all officers with degrees. I am not saying that education is necessary to be a good police officer, but it helps make one a better police officer. It may just be crazy enough to set a new bar for law enforcement toward a new level of professionalism.

Hansen @ 2/23/2008 4:32 PM

The only solution is to let CCW carrying people carry thier damn guns with them. I haven't seen a CCW permit holder shoot up a school yet!!! Law Enforcement will never curtail this problem at all. They are NOT thier when it happens, I bet there were CCW carrying permit holders thier WITHOUT thier gun!!!!

School zones are GUN FREE zones, these shooters know this! Arm the school zones, I bet you will see a reduction then and only then!!!!

The Police con not and will not always be at a school when this happens. I see it this way, each and every individual is responsible for thier own safety (most Police agencys will even say it this way). Why NOT let CCW pemit holders help out. In fact many CCW permit holders have help police out before! Just a thought!!!!

PUNISHER @ 2/25/2008 1:11 AM

Went through the academy with a guy hired on as a campus officer. Exact same qualifications and certificates as me and every other LE person in the state. One exception, he was not allowed to carry a gun on campus. Sad. Would it help for an active shooter. Some. Even if an armed cop in uniform or not is in every room in every school or business in the world, an active shooter will still shoot someone. Its going to happen. It has happened. Police everywhere are doing what they can and learning what they can. Train hard and think harder. The bad guys adapt to how we operate and we must adapt to how they are changing. There is a difference between the regular citizen and cops. Citizens say things like "Isn't there some education or programs we can offer students to help them to prevent this again?" or "I am sorry that happened, but I am glad I wasn't involved." Cops say "I need to train more and shoot more," and "I wish I was there to help." Law enforcement will continue to fight this terror and we are winning.

PUNISHER @ 2/25/2008 1:11 AM

Went through the academy with a guy hired on as a campus officer. Exact same qualifications and certificates as me and every other LE person in the state. One exception, he was not allowed to carry a gun on campus. Sad. Would it help for an active shooter. Some. Even if an armed cop in uniform or not is in every room in every school or business in the world, an active shooter will still shoot someone. Its going to happen. It has happened. Police everywhere are doing what they can and learning what they can. Train hard and think harder. The bad guys adapt to how we operate and we must adapt to how they are changing. There is a difference between the regular citizen and cops. Citizens say things like "Isn't there some education or programs we can offer students to help them to prevent this again?" or "I am sorry that happened, but I am glad I wasn't involved." Cops say "I need to train more and shoot more," and "I wish I was there to help." Law enforcement will continue to fight this terror and we are winning.

Join the Discussion





POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Blog Posts

Just What the Hell Are We Protecting?
I do wonder to what extent the federal employees among our ranks ask themselves whether or...
Remarkable Statistics on Officer Response to Active Shooter Incidents
The author reviews the PERF report on police response and results from 84 active shooter...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of over 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Rank:
Agency:
Address:
City:
State:
  
Zip Code:
 
Country:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine