The recent school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, has renewed the debate over prevention to what, sadly, has become a national "new normal" in criminal behavior.
As a candidate for sheriff of Lake County, I think it’s important to share with the electorate my training and experience related to "active shooters" and how these experiences would benefit my community.
One of the results of the Columbine High School massacre was that it forced law enforcement executives to take a look at their preparedness for this new form of mass murder. At that time, most law enforcement agencies were trained for armed/barricaded suspects and hostage situations, but these deployment models were unsafe responses to an active shooter. Continuing to use these tactics would have resulted in more victims. Active shooter(s) differed from most homicides experienced by patrol officers and Columbine taught the law enforcement profession they needed new training for criminal behavior committed to mass killings.
Columbine occurred during my five-year assignment as a full-time SWAT officer. As a SWAT officer, I had been provided the training and equipment needed to respond to an active shooter, but patrol officers (those most likely to first arrive on scene) had not. For nearly two months, I and my teammates provided training for nearly 300 patrol officers, teaching them how to respond to an active shooter. More than sitting in a classroom looking at a PowerPoint presentation, this training incorporated problem-based learning concepts with scenarios, simulated victims and suspects.
It’s been nearly 20 years since the Columbine massacre, and active shooter training has continued to evolve. Modern training now incorporates force protection for firefighters, tactical dispatchers and critical incident negotiators because these events can quickly become a hostage situation or armed/barricaded suspect(s). Contemporary policing now requires the vision necessary to confront this criminal behavior.
Disbanding Lake County’s SWAT (SRT) team is the complete opposite of what our officers and schools need. These actions show a lack of knowledge and experience needed of a law enforcement executive and a failure to prepare for a "new normal" public safety threat committed to mass murder.