What are the guidelines for an active shooter situation?
“A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field.” Those are the words, from an active shooter training manual used to train Uvalde’s school police on 21 March 2022, that have been repeated again and again since the shooting on Tuesday.
They refer to the lessons post-Columbine, the high school shooting in 1999 that led to the deaths of 15 people (including the suicides of both shooters). Before Columbine – which was the most deadly US mass shooting in history at the time – officers had been taught to form a perimeter around the school and wait for backup in the event of a school shooting, not unlike what allegedly happened at Uvalde on Tuesday. But after Columbine, law enforcement officials learned that not going in and directly confronting the shooter costs precious minutes and possibly lives.
The training materials encourage officers to confront the attacker in an active shooter situation, driving them away from victims, isolating and distracting them, even when it means putting themselves in harm’s way: “If they are engaged with the officer(s) they will be less capable of hurting innocents,” the manual says.
If officers are at the scene alone, they must go in alone, it says. “Time is the number one enemy during active shooter response … The best hope that innocent victims have is that officers immediately move into action to isolate, distract or neutralize the threat, even if that means one officer acting alone.”
The manual makes clear that not doing so will cost lives. “The number of deaths in an active shooter event is primarily affected by two factors: How quickly the police or other armed response arrives and engages them; How quickly the shooter can find victims,” it states.