Criminal BehaviorNewsOpinion

Columbine: The “Pearl Harbor” of Active Shooter Events


Evolutionary Event in Response Protocols

Just like the attack per­formed by Charles Whit­man in Austin, Texas from “The Texas Tow­er” in 1966, the attack per­formed by Har­ris and Kle­bold in Lit­tle­ton, Col­orado at Columbine High School in 1999 had a long term major impact on law enforce­ment response pro­to­cols.  In 1966, there were no exist­ing SWAT teams and the Texas Tow­er inci­dent helped jus­ti­fy the need, and even­tu­al devel­op­ment of, spe­cial response teams. With the devel­op­ment of those teams, quite com­mon by the 1970s across the coun­try, the response of patrol offi­cers at high risk events became reduced by pol­i­cy: respond, set up a perime­ter, feed intel, wait for SWAT. Things stayed that way, with refine­ments in perime­ter set up, SWAT response, and the addi­tion of mobile com­mand posts, until 1999.

On April 20th, 1999, some­thing hap­pened that the Amer­i­can peo­ple had nev­er expe­ri­enced before.  They saw an attack on a school, not as part of a Hol­ly­wood plot, but for real and live on nation­al tele­vi­sion.  Columbine marked the first active shoot­er event I can find where heli­copter news crews man­aged to broad­cast the actions and pieces of response out­side the school.  The Amer­i­can pub­lic saw police offi­cers and deputies tak­ing cov­er behind police vehi­cles out­side the school while gun­shots could still be heard inside the school.  When it was real­ized – and it didn’t take long – that those gun­shots meant stu­dents were being shot while the law enforce­ment respon­ders stayed in rel­a­tive safe­ty out­side, the pub­lic out­cry grew far and wide.

The Columbine attack drove the “active shoot­er response train­ing” (ASR) move­ment that forced aver­age patrol offi­cers back into respond­ing to high risk sit­u­a­tions. No longer were those patrol offi­cers going to respond, set up a perime­ter and wait for SWAT.  The pro­to­col was changed in answer to a jus­ti­fied pub­lic out­cry. Tac­tics were devel­oped for offi­cers to arrive and, if shots were heard, to make entry, move to the source of those shots and neu­tral­ize the shoot­er. ASR pro­to­cols even took into account the offi­cers who may not have suf­fi­cient courage to move toward the sound of those shots; they were advised to man the radio out­side.

Under­stand, the last para­graphs are NOT meant – in ANY way – to be crit­i­cism of the law enforce­ment response at Columbine.  Those respond­ing offi­cers did exact­ly what the pro­to­cols and train­ing pro­vid­ed to them required of them to do. But law enforce­ment, like every­thing else, is evo­lu­tion­ary. The way “busi­ness” is done changes grad­u­al­ly over time with the devel­op­ment of new equip­ment, bet­ter tac­tics, and in response to court deci­sions or insur­ance claims. The attack at Columbine and the news cov­er­age there­of just hap­pened to be a moti­vat­ing fac­tor for a major evo­lu­tion in response.

The aver­age offi­cer went from nev­er HAVING to enter a high risk sit­u­a­tion to being REQUIRED to enter a high risk sit­u­a­tion where inno­cents were being threat­ened.  There are those who would argue that it should have always been thus; many of those mak­ing that argu­ment nev­er wore a badge or car­ried a gun.  With Columbine 17 years behind us, the law enforce­ment pro­fes­sion today has ASR down pat and has stream­lined the response pro­to­cols to min­i­mize – as much as pos­si­ble – response times to con­tact with the shoot­er. (In Vir­ginia Tech, which we’ll ana­lyze in a lat­er arti­cle, two ful­ly equipped SWAT teams were on the scene of the attack in under two min­utes. You real­ly can’t beat response times like that unless you can put an offi­cer in every class­room every day.)

Full Sto­ry Here:

Mike Vanderboegh, of Pinson, Ala., mimicked holding a rifle as he spoke under a Capitol portico during a rally by gun-rights advocates in 2015 in Olympia, Wash. File photo by Elaine Thompson The Associated Press
Previous post

The Original #III%-er Dies At 64

Next post

First Look: Black Spider Optics Red Dot Sight 3 MOA

ER1C ☠

ER1C ☠

Dedicated Second Amendment Advocate, At-Home Gunsmith, Designer, Blogger, Video Guy, Author, Business Owner & ReloadOne Member.

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.