The first responders to an active shooter situation are trained to be hunters. They have the training, weapons, and protective gear to immediately engage a shooter and stop the threat. In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas shooting, where an 18-year-old killed 21 people at Robb Elementary School, the first officers on the scene should not have waited for backup or SWAT to arrive.
Law enforcement procedures for active shooter situations changed after the 1999 Columbine shooting, where police waited for SWAT and it took three hours to locate the shooters. Today, officers are trained on the Priority of Lives Assessment (POLA), which prioritizes stopping the shooter, followed by protecting bystanders, and finally protecting the police. If the shooter is barricaded, the first priority is to protect hostages.
Patrick Yoes, president of the National Fraternal Order of Police, said officers need to first contain and then engage the threat. He cautions that an investigation will determine if the response in Uvalde was proper and that all the facts need to be considered. The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety acknowledged that waiting for SWAT was the wrong decision and that there is no time to wait in a situation where a man with a gun is in a school.
Every officer is now trained on POLA and should be capable of engaging the shooter and if they are not, they shouldn’t be a police officer. The response of Scot Peterson, the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, who waited outside the school during the 2018 shooting, is an example of when officers do not follow the procedures and engage the shooter. Every situation is indeed different; however, an investigation will determine if the response at Robb Elementary School was proper.
Chris Grollnek, Active Shooter Expert
Read more about this topic in the article by Ryan Mills. May 27, 2022