Police Psychology | Active School Shooter Drills: A Reflection; A Request
By Paul Cech
When I first heard about active school shooter training from a colleague who had attended a training session, I quickly formed a cautious opinion.
In the year since then, I have been sorting through journal articles, books, and other resources to formulate an informed opinion with a plan to synthesize the information and write a literature review.
Active-shooter training is about practicing response mechanisms to remain calm and safe while following a protocol. The mechanisms are to run away and bring nothing along with you. Second, it is to hide in an area out of the shooter’s view. Block the entry to your hiding place, block the doors and silence the cell phones. Third, is to fight as a last resort and only when your life is in danger. Attempt to incapacitate the shooter and throw items at the shooter. The reasoning behind the protocol is that an active-shooter is running wild without any direction, only desiring to kill as many people in a short period of time that he can. But is that all there is?
Show Me the Data
Some months ago, I contacted members of the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology and asked them a simple, informal question about their knowledge of the training behind Active School Shooter programs. I discovered that very little if anything is known about these training programs. I ask the same question to my former advisor and criminology teacher; again, very little was known.
I began to suspect that I would have some trouble finding specific information about Active School Shooter training. I would have even more difficulty finding scientific research about the topic. It is mostly an intuitive approach and although it may work if trained right, we need to know more about how we get people to take the right steps in these situations.
The writer/independent researcher within wanted to produce something about the topic, but I could not put my finger on what I was trying to say.
I labored on. A week or so ago, I received an email message from a former Penn State –Fayette Campus English professor. Her message included a comment about modern journalism. To make her point she talked about journalism during the Viet Nam war. My former teacher wrote: “Instant reporting without proper research has not moved the United States ahead.” Her statement fit nicely with something that I include as part of my gmail messages, it is a quote from A. Conan Doyle’s Scandal in Bohemia: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.” There was the inspiration that I needed to figure out what I wanted to say to the readers of Inside Police Psychology about Active School Shooter training.
In a nutshell, there is very little information on the topic. At this time, it appears that no scientific research about Active School Shooter training exists. We need more information and more testing of the process.
As an independent researcher, I am limited by a lack of resources and limited working space. So, I have found that I can make scholarly contributions by doing literature reviews and synthesizing data bout various topics. But, in this case, the literature is sparse.
This brings me, finally, to the focus of this article: This is a call for criminologists, educators, social workers, and many others to consider doing research about Active School Shooter training programs and even some of the assumptions behind active shooter models.
How Do We Know What Works Best
I would not be surprised to learn that somewhere between the warrior culture, which appears to be dominate within law enforcement, the concepts of “to protect and to serve” and community oriented policing that facts about Active School Shooter training will provide a clearer picture of what works best when dealing with this specific type of violence in our schools and in our communities. For example, are schools that only have one type of lockdown procedure more likely to have failures. There are a variety of codes used in school and under pressure codes can be misconstrued. So they may go into an active shooter lockdown when a tornado code is called and that may cause problems. There has to be a way to moderate that. Who should initiate a lockdown and what problems can that cause if someone is not there that day they are need? Also, what areas can a lockdown be called from? MANY OF THE LOCKDOWNS DON”T HAPPEN AT THE FRONT OFFICE NEAR THE LOUDSPEAKER. What is the most effective communication pattern in these types of situations. What happens if the loudspeaker is taken out of the picture. These are all examples of things that need to be researched and not rely on intuitive assumption.
School shooters don’t fit a profile and don’t kill in a pattern that is why is is difficult to research. How do you research when someone is totally irrational and not likely to follow a pattern in their killing? That and many questions need to be looked into before we say we have something definitive. Right now the intuitive is the best we have, but that shouldn’t keep people from looking into it and this is a call to action.
Site editor: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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