In light of so many recent tragic shooting incidents, police departments are now encouraging civilians to take a more active role in trying to protect themselves and others from dangerous gunmen.
Before Virginia Tech, Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn., police departments usually instructed bystanders to remain passive during attacks. More recently, the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) said during a meeting in Washington, D.C. that police departments have shifted their advice and are now encouraging civilians threatened by a shooter to attempt to flee, hide, or fight in order to survive.
Though police departments usually respond within 3 minutes of a 911 call, the death toll that can occur within the first few minutes can be catastrophic, as recent events have illustrated.
“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,” PERF executive director Chuck Wexler said.
“These incidents are becoming a fact of life,” University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Chief Susan Riseling told PERF. “If there is no other option, take the shooter out.”
The suggested change comes from recent studies that show more people survive a shooting when victims take an active role in protecting themselves and others, as well as helping to take the shooter out as soon as possible.
Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center conducted a study that looked at 84 different shootings and the outcomes by comparing active or passive roles the victims took during the attacks.
According to Professor Pete Blair, the director of the training center, half of the attacks are over before the police have a chance to arrive. Also, a closer look at the Virginia Tech shooting showed that the victims who passively attempted to hide or play dead were shot and killed, whereas others who actively attempted to block the door were more likely to survive.
Riesling told PERF that she started to vocalize the importance of taking an active role 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.