Staying on Your Toes
All the architectural safeguards in the world can be for naught if red flags are ignored, notes Alwes.
"Unfortunately, look at how many people are in condition white," Alwes explains. "In some places, they'll even take off their guns to prevent scuffing furniture or tearing up the chairs. That's crazy. It always comes back to mindset."
Brian Muller of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Emergency Operations Bureau echoes Alwes' concerns, particularly as they relate to officers coming onto and off of shifts.
"Just because you punched out on the clock doesn't mean kings x (time out)," Muller notes. "Your day's not over until you're secured and locked in your house. When you're walking in the parking lot and you don't have all your gear on, you're a little more vulnerable. Cops have a tendency to let their minds shut down a certain degree. But you're not off the playing field, so to speak. Just preplan and think about it."
Thinking Outside the Box
In 2005, a full year before he opened fire at the Fairfax County (Va.) Police Department, killing Officer Michael Garbarino and Det. Vicky Armel, Michael William Kennedy told friends that he planned to shoot up a police station.
But whatever value such intelligence might have afforded was squandered: No one thought to communicate it to authorities until after the tragedy.
Perhaps a series of public service announcements could speak directly to recipients of such information, educating viewers on the import of taking such threats to heart and encouraging the alerting of authorities of prospective attacks on law enforcement, workplaces, public schools, and universities. Friends, families, and relatives of those identified as having made such threats should be encouraged to exhibit vigilance with their firearms, and edified of any prospective liability that they might incur otherwise.
Officers also have to remain vigilant for potential red flags and act on them. This may include conversations initiated by people asking them what they would do if they suddenly came under violent attack. "Unfortunately, we tend to do better looking back on situations in identifying markers or red flags than we do in the moment," says UM-St. Louis' Klinger who served as an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.
"Police intelligence has to be up to speed in terms of what threats are out there," Klinger adds. "When someone says, 'I'm going to kill you,' that needs to be logged and documented. Some agencies have hazardous persons files or databases with people who might fight officers that respond to their residences or businesses. You might want to extend this notion to keeping track of those who might be inclined to go out of their way to take on the police with gunfire."
Today, threats may be communicated through various media and social networks such as Facebook and online video sites like YouTube. Before its removal, the Facebook page of McKinney, Texas, gunman Patrick Sharp showed a man holding a number of firearms and a caption that read, "I love guns more than toothpaste." A caption accompanying the image of a shot-up steel plate read: "What if that was your face?"
Never Say Die
Should officers find themselves under attack, they have to have the presence of mind to successfully fend off such attacks by exploiting cover, taking the fight to the suspect, and exhausting every possible means to prevail.