The Columbine (Colorado) High School shooting in 1999 changed the active school shooter response forever. Fifteen people, including the perpetrators died in that event. The shooters, students at the school, committed suicide after killing 12 students and a teacher. Previous to that incident law enforcement typically assembled the available personnel and made a tactical entry of some sort. As we have studied school shootings since then, it has become apparent that shooters often attack until stopped with the intent of killing and terrorizing as many people as possible. Our tactical response must consider these realities and adjust the law enforcement response accordingly.
What is the future of school safety? Many have suggested “hardening the target” by installing shatterproof glass, metal detectors, arming teachers, and banning backpacks. Still others want the focus on gun control measures and mental health considerations. School safety has morphed into a $2.7 billion industry in 2019. While school officials admit that simple measures such as lockdown drills, evacuation strategies, and easily secured doors are the most effective measures, fear often drives the school safety process. Without a doubt, we need to provide a safe environment for our children to learn and prepare for their lives, but there is little agreement on how that will be accomplished. Ultimately, the law enforcement response must support the goals of school administrators and promote safety for responders as well as students.
In a 2014 report, the Police Response to Active Shooter Incidents, the authors examined 84 active shooter incidents between 2000-2014. In roughly half of the incidents, the police response ended the crisis. The attacker committed suicide in just under half of all other events. In the wake of recent school shootings, notably in Parkland, Florida, the law enforcement response is often scrutinized closely. Discuss the idea that solo entries should be initiated in all school shootings. Over 50% of the time when an officer makes a solo entry, the scene is still active. Further, nearly one-third of the officers who made solo entries during an incident were shot. Consider whether this is a viable option to mitigate injury and loss of life or if it is madness and needs to be avoided at all costs.
1. What are the critical issues related to the law enforcement and EMS response to active shooters?
2. Should officers be trained in triage and immediate lifesaving techniques to avoid the necessity to clear a scene prior to permitting EMS to respond?
3. Should academy training be revamped to include more specific actions related to active shooter situations in schools, including solo entries?
4. Justify and support your positions and arguments from the literature.