Author: Richard Fairburn
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has now joined the list of schools forever linked to school attack massacres. Sadly, this school shooting in Florida was COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE!
The police response to such events must be better, both left and right of “bang” when the first shot is fired. In the book “Left of Bang” by Jason A. Riley and Patrick Van Horne, we learn how the U.S. Marines have trained to better prepare their pre-attack awareness.
Left of Bang: We already know exactly how to stop these attacks.
Media pundits and politicians have been on TV non-stop since the Parkland shooting, crying that we need to figure out how to stop such events. Hell, we already know how to stop them. The evidence for my argument comes from the hundreds (maybe thousands) of student-planned attacks that have been prevented by local law enforcement agencies.
Nearly every school attack has been preceded by many warning signs.
PoliceOne.com contributor Dan Marcou’s list of 5 phases leading up to these attacks defines the process these shooters follow left of bang. One notable exception to this was the Sandy Hook Elementary School attack. The killer at Sandy Hook was possibly the most disturbed individual we’ve seen so far where his pre-event planning wasn’t discovered until the follow-up investigation.
The recent event in Parkland was completely preventable. So many people knew this teenager posed a threat that two different tips were called in to the FBI.
The list of examples where the FBI has failed to connect the dots in both school and terrorist active shooter threats is long. I am not an FBI detractor, I have friends there and no organization is better at large-scale, complex investigations. But few FBI agents come from a local police background. They aren’t cops, don’t think like street cops and are not conditioned to do things in a hurry. Slow, thorough and deliberate describes FBI investigations. I believe that had those two tips been called into a local police or sheriff’s agency, the massacre in Parkland would have been prevented.
Rather than figuring out how to stop such events, we simply need to collect and analyze the hundreds of events U.S. police agencies have already prevented. That analysis will identify the investigative and intervention techniques common to the many success stories. It will give us a checklist of preventative actions and possibly identify specific changes that will (can) enhance the steps police can take. It will also identify any additional authority police agencies can be granted via legislation to further their effectiveness in preventing school shootings.
Some of the stopped events allow criminal charges, putting the planners in custody. Others are interrupted so early that agencies must utilize “emergency detention” authority, where the mental health system often finds the perpetrators not to be a significant threat and they are released. This aspect of the mental health system may be a huge beneficiary of our prevented-incident analysis, by getting laws passed which give the police more authority. After all, we see these incipient killers at their worst, when they cannot maintain their “mask” of normalcy. By the time mental health professionals get them, they have calmed down enough to again seem normal.
Right of Bang: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
After the Sandy Hook shooting, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
Various media and liberal politicians predictably condemned and ridiculed the statement. Police officers know the statement was exactly on target, if you’ll pardon the pun.
While most communities have School Resource Officers (SRO) in their schools, the positions are not adequately staffed, although their presence has helped prevent many incidents.
A couple of incidents have been minimized by SROs, right of Bang, but there are simply too few SROs for them to be reliable fight stoppers.
In the 20-officer agency I lead (city population just under 15,000), we have one SRO for the entire school district, who moves between all the schools throughout the day. With a uniquely marked patrol car, the students know when the SRO is in their school. Neither my budget, nor that of the school district, can afford more SROs.
After the Newtown shooting, I posted an article on PoliceOne.com suggesting a way to quickly put more good guys with guns in our schools. This plan could provide hundreds of thousands of volunteer “Minutemen” as armed protectors near every unsecured entrance at every school. I include armed and trained school personnel in my plan to bolster the defense even further.
We already know how to stop most of these massacres before they occur (left of Bang). My proposal provides a quick and inexpensive plan to provide many, many good guys with guns to serve as sheepdogs for the ones we can’t prevent (right of Bang).
This is my two cents on how to reply to the public’s righteous demand for law enforcement to “Do something!” Add your thoughts to the discussion below.