Active shooter situations have unfortunately become a consistent threat over the last few decades, and in light of several recent shootings at various workplaces and religious sanctuaries, the list of potential targets only continues to grow. At a broad level, these tragedies can be mitigated through an effective blend of security accountability and consistent education of those impacted by the protocol.
That said, depending on the situation, reactionary measures must occasionally transcend broad protocol to reduce immediate injury; one crucial component of this approach is continual retraining on the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and proper off-duty training for police officers. Active shooter incidents can occur almost anywhere without warning, and ideally, those with the skills to stop them should take necessary measures to handle potential blindsides with poise.
For example, Governor Ron DeSantis has taken serious steps to hold the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) accountable for missteps taken in their response to the deadly active shooter attack at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. One major component of this was the BSO’s orders to set up a perimeter and await SWAT before entry, a Columbine & Beslan-era approach to what would have been a siege; not an active shooter incident requiring immediate entry to stop the shooter by first response and off-duty callout officers. Today’s approach to off-duty response is the product of immediacy, independence, and above all else, adaptation to an ever-changing threat.
Instilling a the Proper mentality
When approaching off-duty training, facilitators must aim to override a “wait for back-up” mentality, which, in some cases, may directly contradict officers’ prior training. In reality, this approach is mostly outdated in the context of mass shootings, invoking memories of the now antiquated immediate action rapid deployment (IARD) protocol. IARD had been developed as a potential middle ground between SWAT team dependency and total autonomous officer response, but it was deemed ineffective as shooting casualties continued to mount.
Today, with mass shootings occurring almost every month, values have begun to shift, encouraging off-duty or solo officers to now act at their own discretion when addressing a sudden shooter.
The easiest way to make the distinction between past and present is to highlight active shooter scenarios as special circumstances warranting improvisation; while this may seem obvious at surface level, it is easier said than done in the moment, when many officers are focused on not only neutralizing a threat but also doing so in a manner consistent with what they may have been taught for lesser circumstances.
Immediacy, in this regard, is an objective point of emphasis, and luckily this paradigm shift is becoming more widespread across different departments.