Monday, April 06, 2009

There's always one that doesn't get the word.

In the wake of Columbine, the law enforcement community did a lot of soul-searching and arguing and seminar-convening over the proper response to an "Active Shooter" scenario. The general consensus that emerged seemed to be that when innocent lives are at stake, first responders should saddle up and roll in on the psycho, hopefully putting him on the defensive and thereby minimizing the body count. Mark Steyn points out that maybe that memo didn't get circulated as widely as it should.

Let me get this straight: You don't want me to be able to bust caps to save myself, but you're not going to do it for me, either? Thanks so much for the concern. What am I paying y'all to do, again, exactly? As Marko is so fond of pointing out, the only thing that stops a spree killer is a gun. The body count is determined by whether the gun is already on the scene or needs to be carried there in the holster of a cop.

38 comments:

Noah D said...

I think I remember Lawdog saying something about this, to the effect that 'everybody goes home, officer safety is paramount' is terribly corrosive and encourages bad policing, especially in emergencies.

Problem: Given an Active Shooter situation, and given that my only reasonable course of action is to shoot back (retreat is physically or ethically restricted (unarmed innocents left behind)), how do I signal to the first responders that I'm an armed citizen acting in self (and other's) defense, not the psycho?

Or worse - given again an active shooter, but this time it's easy for me to barricade myself...however, if I do, Shooter gets to walk through the nursing home blowing away residents. I don't know about anyone else, but I can't not go look for him.* Again, how to signal Johnny Law that I'm not the Bad Guy?

*Well, I hope that I would be so brave.

Don Gwinn said...

Might have been Matt at Better and Better who actually wrote about that, but I doubt 'Dog would disagree.

I noticed this myself, but it made me think of an article in the latest SWAT magazine. I think it was Brent Wheat, but it might have been Scott Reitz. He was talking about an ongoing debate about whether to go in immediately or wait for "proper personnel" to reach the scene. It surprised me because I, like you, had thought the debate was more or less settled, but apparently it's a big topic of discussion.
His thesis was that there's room for both. If you have no idea what's going on and the response team is three minutes away, you might wait. If you *know* people are being hurt or killed inside and the team is 5-10 minutes away, you might cowboy up and go. Like the aforementioned blogger, he made the point that everything can't be about officer safety because police work is inherently dangerous and you can't do it right if you don't accept the dangers, but his main point was that officers on scene should be allowed to use their best judgment and not forced to wait or to rush in against their judgment.

The line that keeps coming back to me is, roughly quoted, " . . . . but I don't think we've got a handle on this active shooter thing." I doubt he expected to have his point illustrated so quickly.

the pawnbroker said...

might have to modify the old line...

"when seconds count, we're just minutes (or an hour or so if it's, you know, dangerous in there) away."

the cops are necessary and good at dealing with after the fact bad guys...it's up to you to handle the before and/or during part.

jtc

Anonymous said...

Some years back I suggested to gun class students in a rural area that, based on response time, if there's an intruder in the house when you call 911 ask for the fire department first, then the PD. There wasn't anyplace in that county where the FD took longer than 3 minutes to get on scene. Average police response time on Code 3 calls was just over 8 minutes. Getting loud vehicles with flashing lights and lots of people on scene ASAP offered the best way to get the bad guy out of the house quickly.

Sending the FD guys into an active shooter scenario isn't fair to them, so I wouldn't recommend that, but - theoretically - if you called 911 for FD and reported people trapped I'm betting the guys on the big red trucks wouldn't stand around outside for an hour waiting for someone with gold on their collar to tell them what to do.

jimbob86 said...

"Police said they arrived within two minutes...

Police heard no gunfire after they arrived but waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers."

So much for that "Golden Hour" for the wounded. "Sorry... you'll just have to bleed out, Ma'am. The scene is not safe for our Public Safety Personel......

..... Ummm.... er.... Lemme git this straight- Them fellers (Some of 'em, anyhow) with "Pertect n' Serve" writ all big on the side of their cars 'n got all this fancy shoot'n stuff 'n fivepoint whatever gear don't want me to carry a J-frame 'cause I ain't a Policeman...... 'n come time to DO the pertectin' 'n actually use all that gear.... they wanna have a debate about whointhahell is got the "right" trainin' and gear.... while folks is bleedin' to death under a desk, they's on the phone waitin' for the word "Go!" .....

..... Somehow, I d'tect a whiff of "Elite Team Fighter" in that, somewheres.....

"When seconds count, help is only 3 levels of bureaucracy away. "

elvistheoriginalterminator said...

As ted Nugent says.... 'The more people packing, the less people will die'

Robert said...

It's been a while since policing was about "protecting and serving." These days they are about maintaining and growing their own bureacracy and power. That perimeter secure and cordon and control stuff comes right out of keeping them out of court and controlling the crime scene. They don't care how many folks die, in fact, the more the merrier- bigger crimes mean bigger budgets.

Anonymous said...

Civil servants DO NOT endanger the community investment in their training and career. After all, dead victims are easily replaced from the shee...er...population pool.

John the Red

the pawnbroker said...

anon: "...loud vehicles with flashing lights..."

nice, but if it's loud and flashy ya want, ya just can't beat .38+p from the muzzle of my old colt snubbie.

jtc

TJP said...

Hey, if this question is too tough to tackle, we can always pursue a career as an expert in the fields of Rectal Acquisition Statistics and Political Psychiatry.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09095/960750-53.stm

"'For some time now there has been a pretty good connection between being sucked into this conspiracy world and propagating violence,' said Heidi Beirich, director of research at the Southern Poverty Law Center and an expert on political extremists. She called Mr. Poplawski's act, 'a classic example of what happens when you start buying all this conspiracy stuff.'"

Heck yeah! All I have to do is become a lobbyist, so I can state absolute fact such as this!

Because we all know that this wasn't any kind of behavioral indicator worth considering:

"
Among his ambitions: 'to accumulate enough "I punched that [expletive] so hard" stories to match my old man.'

...

Court records show that on Sept. 14, 2005, Mr. Poplawski attacked Miss Gladish...Miss Gladish said she had gone to Mr. Poplawski's house 'and he began to argue with me...When I argued back he grabbed me by my hair and said, "Do you think I'm going to let you talk to me like that? I don't let anyone talk to me like that."'

...

He threatened to kill her, the records show...Less than a month later, police sought Mr. Poplawski for violating a protection-from-abuse order."

Divemedic said...

Anonymous-
As a firefighter, I have waited for up to an hour for the police to show at a scene where there was a violent suspect. As much as I hate it, I am not equipped to deal with a person with a firearm. All I would accomplish would be to increase the body count.

Just because I work for the city does not mean that I am obliged to be cannon fodder. I do not run to the sound of the guns, nor will I. That just isn't my job.

We don't use emergency vehicles to transport more victims to the scene, risk versus benefit, and all that.

With that being said, the police ARE supposedly equipped and trained for such scenarios, and should have entered.

The problem is that most police agencies concentrate on legal issues instead of protection issues. That is due in large part to the legal climate: Since the court has ruled that the police do not have to protect you, but those same courts routinely hold cops liable for violating the civil rights of certain minority groups, where do you think PD training priorities lie?

From a legal standpoint, the cops are safer standing outside not doing anything, than they are taking a chance violating a critter's rights through unlawful force.

This is why it is so important for people to provide for their own safety.

Dan said...

I saw the following commercial while checking for traffic and weather one morning...

http://abcnews.go.com/2020

But... Diane Sawyer says that I have a toxic attraction to guns! From the look of the commercial, she'll probably tell us that we would get in the way of the killer, thereby interfering with his right to pursue happiness by killing innocent bystanders. Or we will interfere with the police getting to stand outside and wait for a lawyer to clear them to enter the building.

WV: kingenv - a feeling of insecurity / inadequacy over the length of one's monarch.

Anonymous said...

"You don't want me to be able to bust caps to save myself, but you're not going to do it for me, either?" Also in some cases they want to enact a "lockdown" so you can't run away.

pax said...

In our rural area, if you told the 911 operator you wanted the fire department, you would get a double handful of our volunteer teenage firefighters on-scene as quickly as they could get there -- in private cars, wearing turnout gear and ready to set up the scene and direct trafic while they waited for the trucks to arrive a few minutes behind them. Is that really what you want to accomplish? Keep in mind, that's *MY* unarmed teenage son you just called to the scene of an active shooter because you lied to the 911 operator about what you needed. "Unfair" seems slightly too mild a word for it.

As for the rest, dead cops don't save anyone.

Neither do cowardly cops.

Somewhere in between those two extremes, something worthwhile might get accomplished.

Anonymous said...

I'm remind of the "joke" about what to do if you have righteous shooting issue at your home and you off the intruder.

Call the cops, teh ambulance and the pizza guy, inthat order.

That way you can share the pizza with the paramedics while you wait for the cops to show.



The word of the day is blitzkrieg. It works on disturbed shooters as well as on the French Army and Poles.

Anonymous said...

Well, it is obvious that you can shoot back at the crazed killer all you want. As long as there is shooting, the police won't enter. After you kill the P.O.S., you can put your gun down and have a coffee and a sandwich while waiting for the "protectors of society" to screw up enough courage to peek in the door.
We're on our own, folks, the cavalry ain't coming.

Lorimor said...

We were put on notice long ago:

"fundamental principle of American law is that a government and its agents are under no general duty to provide public services, such as police protection, to any individual citizen." -Warren vs DC 1981

perlhaqr said...

What am I paying y'all to do, again, exactly?

You're paying them to keep you from smoking weed, and to keep you from driving across the country at a reasonable rate of speed, and to use you as a human ATM for the city budget if you happen to have a tail light go out, or your window tinting is too dark.

WV: "aftshot" What happens when you're trying to run away from an active shooter because the cops are haning out outside waiting for the situation to "stabilise". Most probably at room temperature.

reflectoscope said...

Funny how life was roses when we held onto the guns.

Jim

mariner said...

I don't think anyone here expects firefighters armed only with turnout gear to oppose criminals armed with, you know, firearms.

I interpreted the suggestion to call the Fire Dept first as getting sirens near the scene to encourage miscreants to stop/leave sooner.

mcthag said...

The volunteer firemen who would have turned out in their private vehicles when I lived in a rural area would have had their hunting guns with them, not just their turn-out gear.

atlharp said...

This whole debate reminds of the "Redeker Plan" in Max Brook's book "World War Z." His plan was to leave civilians behind so the zombie hordes would be distracted by the free buffet of innocent civilians, so that the civil/military authorities would have time to retreat and regroup.

One thing to remember- in the eyes of your government (any government) You are nothing more than a number on a spreadsheet. You do not exist as anything else but a resource. Police are nice, but when the SHTF. Know that your ass is on your own!

pax said...

I interpreted the suggestion to call the Fire Dept first as getting sirens near the scene to encourage miscreants to stop/leave sooner.

Mariner, yeah. And my point was that lying to the 911 operator in a rural area will cause unarmed teenagers without body armor to be on the scene BEFORE any sirens ever show. Lying to 911 doesn't get sirens there any faster. It just makes sure that the shooter has more civilians to fire at while waiting for the sirens to arrive.

Rabbit said...

My team at work has always stated collectively (tongue in cheek) that if anything happens here in Prairie Dog Town, the building we work in, they're going to all come hide in my cubicle and toss me out to 'go deal with it'.

After all the layoffs here last week and the news of the last few days, they've gotten a lot less 'tongue in cheek' about it. Several have come over and (quietly) asked about AR's and where to go for handgun training/CHL classes. Somehow, the big sigil on the door doesn't seem so comforting any more to them.

Regards,
Rabbit.

Mark said...

It's your life, it's your responsibility. Whether you accept that responsibility - and live or die up to it - is up to you.

You cannot pass on responsibility for your continued existance to someone else, any more than you can hand your soul over in a box. You just can't. It's not anyone else's to take care of, and they wouldn't know how to if you asked 'em.

Your life is your own - and taking care of it is a responsibility that comes with that.

Beginning, middle and end of statement.

Legality? Well. Better to be guilty than dead.

Ed Foster said...

I was home with back spasms, and heavily medicated, back in the early 90's. A neighbor called me because I was the only firearms owner he knows (a nice man, but a Democrat),saying an escaped prisoner broke into a woman's house in New Haven, raped her, knifed said lady with her own kitchen knife, knifed to death an elderly gent next door, torched his house, then took his car (and the knife plus bleeding woman)and drove the length of the state before crashing around corner. Hmmm...

I wandered downstairs, unlocked the gun cabinet, loaded the .22 Colt for daughter #1 (home from school) and Mr.1911 for me (Black Talons). I cleared the garage, locked up, and went back to sleep. My neighbor caught him six doors up the block, in his garage.

Several hundred cops, National Guardsmen, dogs, plus helicopters, and the job was done by a 75 year old former MP. Please draw your own conclusions.

For reference, son #1 is an inner city narcotics detective with a frightening number of gunfights, several of them quite fatal, three medals of valor, and lots of scars.

Nobody I know is more in favor of armed citizens. He has simply met too many cops who have had their lives saved by some shopkeeper with a shotgun.

I know it's a cliche, but if you live outside a built-up area, call for a cop and call for a pizza. Who gets there first?

Divemedic said...

I think the Pizza analogy is unfair.

The more people who call for Pizza, the more money the pizza place has to hire more help. The same is not true of the cops.

The cops also prioritize their response. Call them for a dog barking, you may wait an hour. Call for a man robbing a 7-11, and you get three of them in about 4 minutes.

Pizza calls are always 20-50 minutes, no matter how dire your hunger.

I am sensitive to that complaint ever since there was a politician who said, "Only in America can you get a Pizza to your house faster than an ambulance." Not true, since we have a response time of 4 minutes 80% of the time, and less than 10 minutes 99% of the time.

None of that excuses anyone from taking steps to protect yourself.

Anonymous said...

"Legality? Well. Better to be guilty than dead."

Sometimes, the result is the same.... most law abiding people wouldn't last a day in prison ...... and in many places, guilty of crimes against the state=death, our own country included. Doubt me? Don't see a difference in sentences for killing John Q. Public and killing Freddy Federal Agent in a fight?

jimbob86 said...

I also take offense to the pizza delivery/ EMS response jab.

'Round here, EMS response is 10 to 15 minutes, and we are a RVFD.... you can't get pizza delivered at all.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, my now-ex-wife had occasion to call the Travis County, Texas SO about a man with a gun at the house, threatening to shoot. She calmly gave the address (on a primary rural road) and our phone number and waited.

Twenty minutes later she got a callback, "Now, where was that address, again?"

Art

Matt G said...

I am FURIOUS about this. Have been since I read it a few days ago.

We DO have a handle on this.
It IS settled.

When the bullets are flying, you form up a strike team, and assault the position. By strike team, I don't mean wait for SWAT. I mean you grab one to 4 other first responders with guns, and go in, deliberately-but-quickly.

If the shots have been fired, you do NOT wait. Shots mean people are perforated, which means people are dying. Negotiations are NOT an option. A hostage situation is NOT allowable, because people are dying already.

I don't want to take a bullet any more than the next guy, but I can think of worse ways to die, if I must die.

The problem is that this training is relatively new. When I went through academy in 1994, this was definitely NOT the standard. Frankly, if anything good came out of Columbine, it was to mobilize the new protocol on dealing with active shooters. Just because you're not hearing the shooting when you arrive doesn't mean that it didn't happen. If it's worth setting a perimeter and calling SWAT for a shooting, it's worth sending in a fast response team. That's why I keep a tac vest and a carbine ready. That's why I train. Really? That's why I'm paid the Big Bucks. :rolleyes: There are certainly some other guys who could do it better.

But if I'm the first responder, it's MY DUTY to go, and go now.

But I will tell you-- if you're armed and there's an active shooter situation? Get your shooting done before the cops arrive, and put that gun down and away from you. Because the new protocol doesn't call for challenging the shooter when we arrive. One more reason to watch your back. I'm all for good citizens stopping the threat immediately, but I must warn you to be ready to disarm yourself (at least apparently) pretty quickly. Don't let the tragedy be compounded.

Anonymous said...

Pax and Divemedic: If you read my comment I said based on response time the FD would be there first. I also said Sending the FD guys into an active shooter scenario isn't fair to them, so I wouldn't recommend that.

FD and PD do different jobs, so they have different tools and different training. The point I was trying to make, both to that class and with the comment, was that you are very much on your own in that rural county when the poop hits the fan, so establish response protocols and do your training before that occurs. That happens to be true everywhere, not just in Bumpkin County.

And, while it is possible that a common burglar would be scared off by sirens and flashing lights, and there may be some benefit to that tactic, knowing one's environment is a key component of situational awareness. If one knows - and one should know if they've done reasonable planning - that the first FD response will be a bunch of adrenaline-jacked 18-year-olds in pickups, that, first, would not be fair to the responders (which I mentioned in my comment), and second, it wouldn't have the desired effect since the loud vehicles and flashing lights wouldn't be there.

The other point I was trying to make was that FD responders, be they 18-year-old volunteers or 50-year-old paid professionals, are the guys who run into burning buildings; they daily place themselves at no small risk, albeit from different sorts of risks than police face, but when trapped in a fire or crushed under collapsing debris they're no less dead than a cop shot by a criminal. Yet, facing that risk at every response they still charge into the battle, not hide behind the trucks until someone tells them it's OK to go in.

Matt G's response is what I'd hope to hear from every cop on duty. The job is high risk, and everyone knows that. It's certainly reasonable behavior to minimize those risks, but when minimizing risks is the first priority of management, rather than fulfilling the mission, those who depend on the mission being fulfilled will suffer.

The strike team thing is very new to police work, and not many cops nationwide have trained in it. It's different enough from daily routine that it requires a LOT of training and mental conditioning. It also requires agency management to adopt new ways of doing things and to accept that it's a higher risk proposition than waiting for SWAT.

the pawnbroker said...

we can all hope that matt or officers like him would respond in a situation involving us or our loved ones...but based on thirty years of close interface with many cops on many levels and many departments, the chances are about the same as having sullenberger at the controls if the jet you're in has to ditch...it is highly unlikely.

most road patrolmen (the ones that will arrive first when called) are young and inexperienced and have never faced a shooter; the guys with the experience generally get moved up the chain of command and will arrive well after any chance of saving civilian lives...and actually will be more focused on preserving those of their men.

matt also makes an excellent point for those who are prepared to do what they have to do and then do it in the (unlikely) event that they face the elephant. be damn sure that when the cops do arrive, that they don't mistake the "man with a gun" who has just preserved his life and/or others' as their target...if the threat has been neutralized, do not have your gun in your hand, keep hands visible, and identify yourself as soon as possible. as matt says, don't die after the fact at the hands of the cavalry.

jtc

Anonymous said...

Ironies of terminology: the term "First Responder" was coined in Indiana, in the 60's, for a program that outfitted police with first aid kits and fire extinguishers to take the place of rescue squads at "minor" emergencies. I don't recall the firemen getting guns and batons as part of that experiment, but the line-blurring began there.

In my area, younger police get saturated with relationship-evaluation, conflict avoidance, and other people skills training. It hasn't hurt their image any, but it also resulted in me being lead element in the search party when a stolen-car chase ended in my driveway. The cops I drew were ready to engage diplomatically, but hadn't been briefed on night-season encounters with armed flight. Good enough cops, but not ready for "strike team" status, and perhaps that's as it should be.

Our VFD, on the other hand, has a heavy overlap with Guard and Reserve. No, I don't call the FD first, but as a matter of tactical training, outside the balaklava squad, my money is still on the firemen. Useless in a domestic dispute, though, at least until the candle gets knocked over.

Matt G said...

Hey, PawnBroker?

I haven't "seen the elephant." Not really. I've disarmed felons and put bad guys in jail, but I've never had to exchange gunfire with bad guys. And most cops haven't. And most cops won't, just as Sully the pilot had never ditched a jet with two dead engines before.

Success in these areas comes from preparing one's self for it when it happens, by thinking ahead to what it will be like, then placing one's self in the situation, and playiing the "how do I solve this?" game. This is a very valuable technique that creates surprisingly effective mental experience, so that when the first responder / pilot / what-have-you first meets the situation, he says, "Aha! I recognize you! You're that problem that I dreamt up last May, and figured out how to beat, if I quicky move to respond thusly."

Decent training at least makes you do that. We ALL can do that. Ever come up on a scene with heavy bleeding, where those on scene look on helplessly? They had never been taught that immediate direct pressure saves lives. If they simply had fantasized ahead to think, "Now what do I do when I see heavy bleeding?" they might have sought out the answer, that would make them slap a pressure bandage, or their hand, over the bleeding when they see it. Such a little thing, but people fail to do it all the time. Same with the Heimlech, or slightly more complicated but in the same vein, CPR. And shock. And snake bite. The list goes on and on. It takes surprisingly little training to do the right thing, even in an active shooter situation. First thing you do to treat a snake bite: kill the snake.

Andrew said...

The police department is now defending their decision to wait for 45 minutes, because they didn't hear any gunfire:

Associated Press story

When police arrived at the scene, the gunfire had stopped, so they believed there was no "active gunman" in the center and decided to wait for the SWAT team to arrive, [Binghamton Police Chief Joseph] Zikuski said.

The SWAT team entered the building until 11:13 a.m., 43 minutes after the first call to police.

the pawnbroker said...

matt said: "It takes surprisingly little training to do the right thing, even in an active shooter situation. First thing you do to treat a snake bite: kill the snake."

close. what you really want to do is kill that f'n snake before he bites. but you're right of course about mental preparedness and training; since it is extremely unlikely that an individual will face a shoot or be shot situation, the whole concept of personal carry is based on scenario.

unfortunately, carrying the analogy further, the scenario training of professional snake handlers focuses on securing the scene after the fact, checking the vicinity for more snakes, and waiting for more handlers to arrive to discuss and plan the killing/capture of the first snake without risking getting bit themselves...not much help to the guy who got bit to start with.

but as you say, planning ahead for what might but probably won't happen is the best advice, whether that means being ready to pull your weapon, stopping a bleedout, disgorging a hunk of steak from your buddy's throat, or riding your motorcycle next to the q-tip changing lanes in her cadillac right next to you (nail the brakes and get squashed by the 18-wheeler behind you or try to lay it down in the grass median?).

to finish mangling our analogies, just don't expect to be rescued by the popo if, God forbid, the elephant charges. there're some sully's with badges, but most of the first responders are going to be commuter jockeys with a low flight time.

jtc

Firehand said...

Has anyone else considered that in the nasty old days of inconsiderate of someone's self-esteem, non-pc-trained lawmen, the first one or two that showed up would have called in, grabbed the shotgun or rifle and gone in? Because they had considered, knew, that their job was, in the extreme, to put their life on the line to save others?

Some progress, ain't.