Police Recognize Need for Public to Take Proactive Role in Shootings

Saturday, 06 Apr 2013 06:33 PM

By Courtney Coren

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Police departments across the country are now recommending a proactive response to public shootings, including fleeing, hiding, or fighting.

After the deadly shootings over the last year in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn, it is becoming more and more clear that no town is safe from a massive shooting attack. As a result, police departments are reassessing their traditional advice to remain passive, reports The New York Times.

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At a meeting recently conducted by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in Washington, D.C., executive director Chuck Wexler acknowledged that the latest recommendation marks a shift by law enforcement officials.

“There’s a recognition in these ‘active shooter’ situations that there may be a need for citizens to act in a way that perhaps they haven’t been trained for or equipped to deal with,” Wexler said.

Police chiefs and executives across the country are echoing this change.

“These incidents are becoming a fact of life,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling told the gathering. “If there is no other option, take the shooter out.”

After the Virginia Tech University shooting in 2007, the Houston Police Department began training their officers to respond to shooters as soon as they arrived on the scene.

“We used to sit outside and set up a perimeter and wait for the SWAT team to get there,” explained Michael Driden, executive assistant chief of the Houston Police Department.

Recent studies have shown that the survival rate during these shootings increases when people respond actively as opposed to passively.

Professor Pete Blair, director of Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center conducted a study where researchers looked at 84 shootings across the country from 2000 to 2010, and found that it took an average of 3 minutes for police to respond.

“But you see that about half the attacks are over before the police get there, even when they arrive quickly,” Blair said.

Researchers looked at 16 cases where victims were able to stop the shooter, and found that the attacker was subdued in 13 cases and shot in the other three.

When looking at the Virginia Tech shooting, victims who tried to hide or play dead were all shot. In classrooms where instructors took proactive measures by blocking the door, all or most victims survived.

The University of Wisconsin’s police department and the Houston Office of Public Safety and Homeland security have both produced instructional videos that teach civilians to fight, hide, or escape.

Riseling said that she started to change her advice to students after the Virginia Tech shooting.

“If you’re face to face and you know that this person is all about death, you’ve got to take some action to fight,” Riseling said.

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