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Features

5 Gunfights That Changed Law Enforcement

In the past 25 years, American law enforcement tactics, procedures, and policies have evolved because of these horrific incidents.

May 04, 2011  |  by


Indian troops respond to the Mumbai terror attacks. In America, police will be on the front lines of such an engagement. Photo: Zuma Press.

Mumbai Attacks

Nov. 26, 2008: Mumbai, India

Why would we make an incident that didn't even occur in the United States our most influential gunfight in the last 25 years? The reasons are many, but here's a few. One, we face the same enemy as the Indians, and that enemy loves to copy successful operations. Two, America's cities and public gathering areas are extremely vulnerable to this kind of attack. Three, in India the military responded, but Posse Comitatus will not allow that here. You will have to respond. That's why the 10 coordinated shooting and bombing attacks by Islamist terrorists on a hotel, hospital, rail terminus, and other populated locations still keeps American law enforcement tactics instructors awake at night.

The attacks, which occurred over four days, resulted in the killing of 164 people and the wounding of at least 308. The lone attacker captured alive disclosed that the attackers were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant organization.

The attacks have triggered a rethinking of terrorist response strategies by police, and the emphasis on lone-officer engagement during deadly assaults. As with the attacks on Columbine and Virginia Tech, Mumbai also taught officers they must engage active killers to lessen the bloodshed, according to Alwes.

In recent years, lone officers and partners have engaged shooters at a nursing home in Carthage, N.C., in March 2009, and at a military deployment center at Ford Hood, Texas, in November of that year.

"An active shooter situation is not a tactical team problem, it's a tactical officer problem," says Alwes. "A tactical officer is anyone on duty."

The NTOA and other trainers have begun teaching a tactical philosophy known as Multiple-Assault Counter Terrorism Action Capability (MACTAC) that allows more flexible officer deployment when multiple locations are hit. Regardless of the deployment strategy, officers who arrive first at the scene must now take matters into their own hands.

"If we know the killers are active, our first priority above all else is to get in there and stop them," says Alwes. "We can't wait for SWAT. The officers at the scene have to stop it."

Related:

Shots Fired: Bloomfield, Vermont 08/19/1997

FBI Honors Agents Involved In Bloody Miami Shootout

Columbine: The Horror Writer

LAPD Faces Urban Warfare In North Hollywood Bank Shoot-Out

Mumbai: You Would Have Shot Back

Editor's Note: You've read POLICE Magazine's top-five gunfights that changed law enforcement. Now, please give us your choices by adding a comment below.

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