How Law Enforcement Tactics Differ for Active Shooters: ANALYSIS


A recent FBI report confirms what Americans have seen happening across the country, the number of “active shooter” incidents increased by more than 50% in 2021 compared to 2020.

During these incidents, we have witnessed disparate responses from law enforcement. There was Wednesday’s rapid response in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where law enforcement responded within minutes, reached the threat and ended the incident.

The response to last week’s shooting in Uvalde, Texas is being reviewed by state and federal authorities after police arrived on the scene for an ‘active shooter’ call before a commander on instead tell him to change tactics to a “barricade” situation. .

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a shooting on the campus of Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1, 2022.

Michael Noble Jr./Reuters

Generally, a barricaded subject is defined as a person or persons in a location where they avoid apprehension by law enforcement. While there are “planned” barricades that are more dangerous, the majority encountered by law enforcement are “unplanned” and, in short, trying to prevent law enforcement from stopping them.

The motivation of these suspects is usually self-preservation and they may become hostile if this self-preservation is in danger.

For decades, the “barricaded subject” tactic has been to slow things down and start talking with the subject. This tactic involves establishing perimeters around the scene and often employs the use of hostage negotiators.

In these situations, police will try to “talk” the subject out of the barricade and into safe custody, as was the case in Round Rock, Texas, this week. The suspect allegedly crashed a stolen vehicle and barricaded himself at a local business, according to ABC Austin affiliate KVUE. A perimeter was set up and a SWAT team was called along with a negotiator. Approximately 2.5 hours later, subject surrendered to police and no weapon was found.

Active shooter responses have been completely different since the Columbine High School murders.

During this response, law enforcement used traditional barricade protocols. The terrible end result was that the killers were allowed to continue killing people while the police waited outside.

Active fire tactics were later modified and reshaped on the hostage rescue model. Decades-old “hostage rescue” protocols were developed in the 1970s to deal with the emerging terrorist threat after the failed rescue of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. same: stop the killings and save lives.

Members of law enforcement stand outside Robb Elementary School after a shooting, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas.

Dario Lopez-Mills/AP

Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERT) Center in San Marcos, Texas, which the FBI has called the “national standard” for active shooter training, teaches that rapid response to an active shooter mirrors that of a hostage rescue.

In a hostage rescue operation, a team quickly responds to a scene, searches for the hostages and, if necessary, incapacitates the hostage taker(s) to save the hostages’ lives. The hostage rescue tactic was based on speed, surprise and violence of action in order to save lives – the same as the current active fire tactics are based on.

In the basic level course of law enforcement training, first responders learn how to isolate, distract and incapacitate an active shooter. This course covers shooting and moving, threshold assessment, team movement concepts and principles, set-up and room entry techniques, approaching and breaching the crisis site , secondary responder tactics, improvised explosive devices and post-engagement priorities.

What is also taught in this training is that with every sound of gunfire, a life is potentially lost.

The differences between an active shooter and a barricade subject’s response for law enforcement could not be more dynamically contrasted and the duty to save lives never more urgent.

Donald J. Mihalek is an ABC News contributor, retired Senior Secret Service Agent and Regional Field Training Instructor who has served through two presidential transitions. He was also a police officer and served in the United States Coast Guard.

Richard Frankel is an ABC News contributor and a retired FBI Special Agent who was the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division and before that, the FBI’s New York Joint Terrorism Task Force.


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