An army of one
February 7, 2013 By Michael Soden
by Michael Soden
There’s been renewed interest in active shooter training since the Sandy Hook school massacre, which is no surprise to those who teach it. Administrators, government officials and citizens only seem to gain interest in this topic after an event.
It is clear that something needs to be done, as the frequency and deadliness of these events is increasing. As police officers we are tasked with mitigating them in all stages; from pre-planning to execution. The number of incidents stopped in the pre-planning or action phases is dismal compared to the number carried out. This raises many questions and, unfortunately, few answers.
Many agencies train, though probably not as much as they or their officers would like. Active shooter training and mock exercises are expensive and major events. Tactics vary but are relatively similar – usually three or four person entry teams using a T, Y, V or some other letter formation. Some agencies advocate multiple entry teams, others do not – then along came Ron Borsch with his “single man” active shooter response.
Although initially skeptical, the more I researched, trained and read about the success of his philosophies, the more they made sense.
I know of 10 incidents that single officers have successfully ended but none that were stopped by multi officer entry teams. Law enforcement response times vary widely by region. The most critical factor in preventing the continued loss of life is time; on average once the killing begins a life is taken every seven seconds. Even with the most favorable conditions – the first officer right around the corner when the incident begins and back up 49 seconds away – that delay could result in seven lives lost.
The single officer entry is very sound and logical and has demonstrated great success, so why is it not the preferred method? There are risks – mainly the fear of an officer on officer shooting. If an event occurs and officers enter as they arrive, you have multiple officers and entry points. Even with good communications, again in favorable conditions, there will be some major issues in locating personal and coordinating the threat elimination. The fact of the matter is a mass killing scene is going to be hectic and chaotic and unfortunately things may not go in our favor but the primary mission is to eliminate the threat.
The reality is that it is highly unlikely that enough officers will arrive simultaneously so they can form a multiple entry team. As an active shooter instructor, I think every agency should train its officers in single person entry and tactics while continuing to train team operations for search and rescue and containment purposes. It is logical and has demonstrated its effectiveness.
Entering into the unknown with active killing going on is not a normal choice and probably defies all logic but we have chosen this role as protectors. Our agencies have given us the basic skillset and tools to perform this job, we get annual in service training and (perhaps) some additional active shooter training. Everything after that is your personal obligation to yourself, your peers, family and the community you serve.
A sense of entitlement about what your agency should provide may get you killed. There is numerous training available at little or no cost; take advantage of it. You can buy your own equipment and train with other officers who share your mindset for success. The most important thing is to develop the mindset of what you will do when faced with an active shooting situation. You don’t want your first thought to be “damn, I should have trained for this.”
You must develop your mindset and sharpen your skills. The odds may not appear to be in your favor but superior training and mindset will defeat superior firepower – an army of one!
Prince Georges County Police Cpl. Michael Soden is an adjunct instructor with Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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