FBI agent: The Bureau’s “Active Shooter” program must evolve with the times

In a New York Times guest essay on Monday, Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who also organized and oversaw the bureau’s active shooter program, asked introspective questions about the program’s evolution — just six days later. the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which resulted in the deaths of 19 children and two adults.

Here are some excerpts from Schweit’s guest piece:

“I wonder what I might have missed when I was asked to start the FBI’s active shooter program 10 years ago. Did my team focus on the wrong issues? Did- Am I spending my budget wisely to find ways to save lives?Each shot is rated in three parts:

  • “How could we have prevented the shooting?
  • “Did we react effectively to save lives?
  • “How do we help the community recover?”

Citing Schweit’s article, the FBI designated 61 shootings in 2021 as active shooter attacks – up from 40 in 2020 and 30 in 2019.

As such, Schweit initially determined that federal officials performed better in terms of responding to a potential shooting incident.

“But if the 78 minutes Uvalde police waited before confronting the shooter at Robb Elementary is any indication, the answer is: We’re not. To wait that long,” the Department of Justice director said Friday. Texas Public Safety, ‘was the wrong call. Period.'”

So what caused the long response time from Uvalde police officials? This remains a vital question, says Schweit.

“Over the past two years, the Uvalde School District has hosted at least two active shooting practices,” Schweit said, while citing a Times report.

“[One training session] that was two months ago. Current protocol and best practices indicate that officers should constantly pursue their efforts to neutralize a shooter when a shooting is in progress. This is true even if only one officer is present. This is definitely the right approach.”

Schweit added: “We need to understand why this protocol was not followed at Uvalde. I am still convinced that the FBI’s emphasis on training to this standard was right, but I am less confident in its execution. Responding officers may not have been prepared Law enforcement officers need to be mentally prepared before arriving on the scene, so they can respond immediately.

“Repetitive training builds practice and confidence. Large training gatherings every few years are more expensive and less effective for muscle memory. Instead, departments should consider more virtual exercises on table they can complete in an afternoon.

“Ask officers to walk around schools and talk to each other about how they would react. Ask officers to check all their gear before starting a shift.”

Schweit later wrote:

“[Today’s] schools, at best, only say lip service … [to fleeing]. Most schools training for a shootout urge students, teachers and other staff to lock in or hide from a shooter, but almost never to run for their lives if they can.

“My friend Frank DeAngelis, a retired principal of Columbine High School in Colorado, told me he wishes his students and teachers had learned to run away. At Sandy Hook, nine first graders survived when They were able to flee their class, thanks to their brave teacher Victoria Leigh Soto, who was shot as she stood in front of the killer.

“I still have nightmares about the details of the school shootings where survivors told me they huddled under their desks, hoping against all logic that the shooter wouldn’t see them. It’s hard to shake off images of the bodies of the victims found huddled under plastic tables, behind sheet partitions or together in a group against a wall.

“I remember telling my children that if someone approached them in a car while they were walking, they should run as fast and as far as possible. Yet in many schools we have mistakenly discouraged students from doing their best just to stay alive.”

Schweit summed up his article with one final thought:

“We are told that the best way to learn is from the mistakes we make. According to FBI data, in recent years the average number of casualties per active shooter attack has declined even as the number of attacks I think it reflects better policing and public awareness.

“Yet the police are unlikely to be there in the critical first minutes of an attack on a school. In the aftermath of the heartbreaking tragedy at Uvalde, it is clear that, nearly 10 years after Sandy Hook, we must ask ourselves if the training designed to protect us from the killers in our schools, it’s the training that works.”

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