Decades ago, if a caller were to report a "man with a gun", one officer would be dispatched to figure out what was going. Reports of "shots fired" may have elicited a two officer response. Should the situation have been a yet untermed "active shooter scenario", a perimeter would have been set up, a request for additional back-up would have been issued, a negotiator may have been thrown in for good measure, and a SWAT team may have been (eventually) sent if necessary (and if the incident was in a suburban or rural area, the SWAT team may have had to be sent in from the nearest large city).
Fast forward to the most recent mass shooting in Connecticut. Within moment of a report of a school shooting, multiple agencies were dispatched and within a half hour (obviously a response still too slow to save lives although the immediacy of the response has been preliminarily credited for stopping the slaughter of even more people), the place was crawling with local police, state police, FBI, SWAT, and a myriad other agencies.
The response to an active shooter event has evolved so precipitously because of a number of findings from previous incidents, namely:
- Most active shooters aren't in it to take hostages, they want the highest body count possible.
- Most active shooters have the means to do a lot of damage quickly (semi-auto or full-auto firearms take only seconds to take out a wide swath of people).
- Most active shooters don't care if they die at the end of their spree and many will even commit suicide when they are finished or confronted.
- Most active shooters target places that are physically isolated (schools, buildings in suburban or rural areas, etc) which means a longer period of time before law enforcement arrives.
- Most active shooters target places where they are fairly certain their victims won't be able to defend themselves (hence the element of surprise and the choice of "gun free zones").
With these findings in mind, planning has now turned toward an immediate and coordinated multi-agency response featuring:
- Education of people who may be targeted for a mass shooting event (with training, planning, and info like this provided)
- Collaborative planning between law enforcement and public entities is now a given (example here).
- Training, planning, drills, and exercises between multiple response agencies is now a given as well (info here).
- Training and consulting on the topic of active shooter incidents is now a cottage industry (example here).
- Of course the debate on the most effective strategies for active shooter response continues (example here).
- The current trend is for immediate action rapid deployment tactics when it comes to active shooters.
- And there is a massive amount of information on the topic which can easily be found online.
- Of course the best response is an immediate response (as in this case).
- For more on this topic, check out this podcast.