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Oops, a cop just shot me ... twice in the back

RUSSELL FISH | 8/3/2015, 11:49 a.m.
A cop “shot” me last week. He didn’t mean to. I was unarmed, but he put two rounds into my ...
The Dallas Examiner Logo Photo by Robyn H. Jimenez

Special to The Dallas Examiner

A cop “shot” me last week. He didn’t mean to. I was unarmed, but he put two rounds into my back.

The same week a Muslim shot up the Chattanooga Marine recruitment center, I was an actor in a multi-department “active shooter” training exercise. An active shooter scenario is an event with one or more armed individuals shooting random individuals. Often the event takes place in a school, office building or shopping center.

Despite their rarity, most police and sheriff departments in the Metroplex train for the active shooter. As recently as two years ago, active shooters were solely handled by SWAT teams. However, the experiences of Columbine, Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech illustrated that most victims died within 15 minutes of the first shots, so rapid response was the most important factor in saving lives. The fastest that SWAT could arrive was about an hour, long after most victims had been killed.

Until recently, the 911 call of a shooter in a building would be received and the nearest officer dispatched. The first officer would usually arrive in a minute or two and secure the building, roll out crime scene tape, and wait for SWAT. In the meantime, the shooter roamed the facility unchallenged, killing at random for an hour or more.

After several years of vigorous debate in the law enforcement community, a new protocol was proposed. This new plan has been adopted by several Metroplex departments. The first officer on the scene goes for the gunfire.

This protocol depends heavily on one single factor, bravery of the beat cop. Breaking down a door with a half dozen of your fellow SWAT officers is far different than single-handedly walking through a building toward an unseen shooter or shooters when you have been previously writing traffic tickets. SWAT officers train up to a dozen days a month. That is not possible for beat cops who normally patrol streets or write up burglaries, yet they are now being asked to engage in gunfights.

Most police officers that are not SWAT will go their entire careers and never draw their weapon except to annually qualify on the range. Asking these individuals to engage an active shooter in a life or death struggle is an immense request. However, the statistics from recent shootings strongly indicate that engaging the shooter quickly is the most important factor to reducing loss of life.

Just a little bit of training can significantly improve the chances of a positive outcome for both the potential victims and law enforcement. The most important element of training is mental, learning to handle the huge adrenaline rush of operating under fire in a chaotic situation.

Under such stress fine motor skills are significantly reduced, vision tends to collapse into a tunnel, and the ability to reason is impaired. Training can improve the performance under stress which is why departments are now running active shooter drills.

The practice in which I acted was set in a local high school. The environment was made as realistic as possible with actor victims, actor shooters, live (non-lethal) ammunition and even included the radio call of “shots fired” and “active shooter.”