Do not let dangerous training get innocent people killed and officers sued.
One of the best known training programs for responding to an “active shooter” was developed by the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Center (ALERRT) at Texas State University. Undoubtedly, this program is needed and it is credited as playing a part in changing the mindset as to whether first-responding officers should enter a school building or wait for backup. The University and Dr. Pete Blair are to be credited for developing this program for Texas law enforcement officers. That said, there is reason to be concerned, very concerned.
On October 28, 2015, the KSAT station in San Antonio posted an article titled Law allowing guns on campuses could affect officer response to active shooters. The title makes sense as Texas law will allow the carrying of self-defense concealed handguns in buildings at Texas colleges and universities as of August 1, 2016. This fact most definitely should change the law enforcement approach to “active shooter” responses. However, a statement attributed to Dr. Blair is troublesome and should be of concern for law enforcement officers and agencies. Dr. Blair is alleged to have said:
“If there’s an active shooter event and you're a person with a gun, you look like the active shooter,” Blair said. “You need to know that. You need to be aware of that. You need to know that if police see you with a gun, there's a high probability that you will be shot.”
No Dr. Blair, one does not “look like the active shooter,” they look like a person with a handgun. This warning by Dr. Blair is not the idle rambling of an alarmist; he knows of what he speaks. The ALERRT training program teaches officers to treat everyone on campus with a gun as a “hostile.” One would be hard put to think of another situation where law enforcement officers would be trained to use deadly force against a person who was engaging in a lawful activity. The law has a word for that – murder.
Other than the ominous statement by Dr. Blair, his warning to concealed handgun licensees (CHLs) who choose to carry concealed handguns in college buildings is well-stated. The dangers he describes are very real and the CHL must take care not to do anything that makes it appear that they are the “bad guy.” Running around with a gun in your hand is not a way to achieve this goal! CHLs must consider the fact that emotions and adrenalin will be pumping like Texas crude in 1901, both in students, COPs and the real “bad guy.”
It is equally important that every ALERRT instructor and every Texas peace officer who has had, or will have, ALERT Training understand that Texas law has changed and they are more likely to encounter armed “good guys” in college buildings. (Texas law has always authorized all schools to allow people to carry handguns, but few if any colleges have done so.) In fact, it is far more likely that an armed student will be a CHL, a “good guy,” than a would-be mass-murderer. Officers need to understand this fact and trainers need to emphasize it. Any officer that attends a class that teaches him or her to shoot anyone and everyone with a gun needs to walk out of that class. Any trainer that uses material that teaches that concept needs to throw that material in the garbage.
Citizens can take comfort in the fact that law enforcement officers are trained in dealing with armed subjects and they have an excellent overall record. Otherwise, every person they encounter with a gun would get shot and that is certainly not the case. However, “active shooters” on school grounds generate a greater sense of urgency and emotions will run high for everyone. Do not make the COPs’ jobs harder by doing, or teaching, something stupid.
The ALERRT training is well-respected and there is every reason to believe that its training material will be amended to reflect the fact that so-called “campus-carry” is now legal. Otherwise, it will be a course that teaches officers how to get indicted, and sued along with their agencies.