Robert Bauer JD
Are we prepared for Armageddon? The question has to be asked of the law enforcement and security community in order to see if they have examined their abilities to respond to situations that that are fueled by the feelings of helplessness, and hopelessness. These feelings of despair that has landed on the shores of the United States are bringing with it death and destruction that expresses itself in a scale that has only been witnessed during times of wars.
The anger and misery that is being fueled by differences in political ideology, poor economy, racial indifference and the threat of terrorism has created a ticking time bomb; only waiting for its detonation. It was over ten years ago that this nation experienced one of the most egregious acts of mass murder aside from an act of war; with the Columbine High School shooting; April 20, 1999, Erik Harris and Dylan Klebold, two Columbine High School Seniors executed a cold calculated plot of murder-suicide of their class mates. They shot and killed 12 students; wounding 23 others; since that time, over hundreds of school shootings have been committed in the United Stated according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Yet since the spring of 1999 we continue to witness many more acts of violence; such as shootings that result in mass casualties on college campuses, shopping centers, hospitals, churches and places we would never had imagined such carnage. These shooting rampages at Columbine were not the beginning of the active shooter scenario and it will not be the last. The bad elements in our society has reared its ugly head with very little respect for authority or the sanctity of life; we have witnessed police officers being gunned down arbitrarily as they respond for calls for police service from Florida to California and Texas to Montana. We witness on a 24 hour news cycle people being murdered in large shopping malls; shot and killed while they shop, disgruntled employees returning to places of employment to avenge a termination and a misguided individual that enters a nursing home in North Carolina to pick off and murder elderly citizens sitting in chairs or lying in beds or a misguided immigrant entering a community center to kill those seeking the distinction of becoming a citizen of the United States and the spurned lover that entered a church to not only execute the women he professed to love but those that accompanied her.
We are living in perilous times where people are afraid to travel to do normal everyday task, I do not think any of us can ever remember such psychological terrorism befalling on our communities; our economy is at an all time low since the early 1908’s; with millions of people unemployed, under employed; losing their jobs, homes, cars and respect. These exact circumstances of anguish are being ignited as reasons to fuel acts of violence across this nation. In the past few weeks we have witnessed stories where entire families are being wiped out by selfish acts of murder-suicide. We are a nation at war with threats being proffered by terrorist that they will attack on our shores again; we have a society disgruntled with the political process and ideology. We have people living on the edge.
The tenor of our society is stretched like a rubber band ready to snap at anytime. Places that we would have never dreamed of shootings and attacks are occurring. Shooters are choosing venues where they can maximize their kill ratio before killing themselves. The emotionally unbalanced individual who has been stretched to his/her breaking point are taken measures to maximize their pain and suffering on complete strangers by ensuing mass casualties.
n California, Florida, upper New York, North Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, and on and on, attacks in openingly accessible public places are happening. Police responses in most cases are swift and strategic, yet in one case effective; a North Carolina Nursing Home.
The question that has been presented lays in wait for those charged with protecting the public; Are they ready for Armageddon? Individuals who want to commit such acts of violence are preparing for their final stand, their acts of violence are not impulsive, they are cold calculated and strategic. They map out every step they are going to take in order to be effective. Those agencies that have taken steps to be proactive to such attacks will be prepared to stop the attackers in their tracks or at least reduce the casualty rates by an effective response. Those agencies that have adopted the ostrich head in the sand approach will only contribute to a negative outcome, and lasting questions for management.
On April 17, 2007 Virginia Tech Police officers received a dispatch of shootings on their campus; prior to that day, these officers had been training with area Police agencies for such a call. That day, April 17, 2007; Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 students and faculty before taking his own life. The quick response for the Campus Police Department and area agencies may have thwarted any further shootings by this emotionally dysfunctional individual. The training paid off.
On March 29, 2009 a single Police Officer in Carthage, North Carolina was dispatched to a call of shots fired in the area. Once arriving on the scene of a nursing home parking lot, the lone Police Officer observed evidence that shots had been fired through a park vehicle window; this officer then entered the nursing home alone only to confront Robert Stewart, the shooter, in a hallway as he was reloading his weapon after shooting and killing 8 senior citizens and wounded 3, this young officer who had been trained by his department to respond to such calls for police service confronted the shooter and eventually shot Stewart in the chest to end his carnage, but not before Stewart had wounded the Police Officer.
Many agencies across this country have taken steps to prepare their officers on how to respond to acts of violence, such as the active shooter scenario since the Columbine shootings. Training has been kicked in hire gear for many. Yet there are still agencies in this country that feel that there is not a need to prepare for such events, they sit on the sidelines thinking that it will never happen in their back yard. In my opinion those policy makers should find other careers. They not only endanger the lives of their Police Officers but the community they are charged to protect.
There are bad elements in our society that are currently scouring the landscape for soft targets to bring forth attacks that will shake the tranquility of this nation for political reasons. In addition, there are other elements that are present in our society that are emotionally unstable do to medical conditions, life situations and may be pressed by circumstances to take a final step towards acts of desperation; that is committing mass murder, in the hopes of being executed by the police do to the inability to commit suicide do to moral values or lack of emotional strength to end it themselves.
Law enforcement agencies and security professionals need to take a serious examination of their readiness plans for critical incidents. Personnel need to be trained to be able to respond in a timely and appropriate manner to all critical incidents that will reduce the potential of mass causalities.
Agencies need to examine their hiring practices. Are they hiring personnel because they have warm blood runny through their veins? When an agency has personnel on staff just because they have a pulse; this strategy will only contribute to the failure of any response.
All agencies need to examine their training matrixes; what do they want their staff to accomplish? What training does their staff need to experience? An agency that fails to train will only guarantee that failure and mass causalities will occur.
Time is not an element that can be bartered with preparing for such events, nor can it be during such events. Professional Law Enforcement, Security Personnel and policy makers need insure that their agencies are prepared for any type of critical incident from natural disasters to manmade incidents, inclusive of active shooters to acts of terrorism.
The hand writing is on the wall; as the story has been told for centuries; those that ignored the hand writing perished. What will your agency accomplish?
I wrote this article in the spring of 2009, there have been numerous other mass shootings since that time that have shocked the world. We have experienced the shooting at the Holocaust Museum June of 2009, weeks after I wrote this. There was a shooting at Ft. Hood, TX (2009), shootings in the malls in Oregon (2012) and in New Jersey (2013); a movie theater in Colorado (2012) an elementary school in Newtown, Conn (2012) and most recently, the Naval Yard shooting in Washington DC (2013).
Yet we keep coming back to the same issue; Are we ready? As we witnessed at the Naval Yard, the budget cuts and micromanaging by the Navy threatened the lives of the officers and the staff. They cut budgets resulting in staff shortage and no training. We also experienced during the Navy Yard shooting, a mutual aid police operation (US Capital Police) order their emergency response teams from the area leaving the high likelihood that that decision added to the danger of the situation.
There are other federal agencies with large footprints in the Washington DC area that continue to have their head in the sand. They arm their personnel with outdated sidearm; they take them to the range twice a year to make sure they are qualified to carry their weapon, but advise them that in the event of an armed intruder, to stand down and let other police agencies handle the problem.
The three biggest problems to public safety in Washington DC;
1. CONGRESS; the biggest problem; cuts funding and plays Russian Roulette with the economy
2. Leadership; placing people in charge of Police and Security operations that have no training, no experience and NO CLUE to police operations.
3. Training; there is little and no specialized training in many of these police and security operations.