How local law enforcement responds to an active shooter situation

Tragically, an active shooter situation can occur at any time, any place.

Tragically, an active shooter situation can occur at any time, any place.

On Tuesday morning, a gunman went on a mass shooting spree in Tehama County about 15 miles southwest of Red Bluff, leaving five people dead and at least 10 injured. Tehama County Undersheriff Phil Johnston said the victim toll may rise. He confirmed two children were shot and wounded and officials were processing seven or more crime scenes. 

Tuesday's incident is the most recent of the mass shooting phenomenon Americans are seeing on a more frequent basis. 

Although shootings vary in circumstance, at times, the damage done by a shooter can be minimized through quick law enforcement response. 

So, how do local law enforcement agencies respond to an active shooter?

Following the tragic events of the Columbine High School in 1999, law enforcement agencies across the country began to train their teams on how to respond to an active shooter, according to Placer County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Troy Minton-Sander.

In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill which requires collaboration with local and state first responders in handling an active shooter situation. The law requires all agencies -- no matter how small -- to have basic ongoing training and education on active shooter response. Protocols must be reviewed annually to make sure plans and training are up to date.

California law describes an "active shooter" as an individual who is actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people.

ABC10 talked with Minton-Sander about how the Placer County Sheriff's Office responds to an active shooter and he explained, the main goal of law officials is to stop the threat as fast as possible, by any means necessary.

The "any means necessary" depends on the specific circumstances law enforcement finds upon arriving to the scene.

While the department follows standards set by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), Minton-Sander said, every agency has a different training budget and not all departments have the money to conduct extra training.

POST only requires officers receive 24 hours of Perishable Skills and Communications -- which includes tactical firearms training -- in a two-year time period.

Every agency is responsible for training their staff on how to respond to active shooters and for their rescue task force. But every agency's first task during an active shooter event is to neutralize or eliminate the threat to keep the shooter from harming others. During a shooter situation, every official available has boots on the ground.

"It's all hands on deck," said Minton-Sander.

Placer County Sheriff's deputies prepare for active shooter situations with training on ranges, scenario-based training and other practices, according to Minton-Sander.

In the case of an active shooter on school grounds, the Placer County Sheriff's Office has floor plans of every school within county limits uploaded on the agency's computer system and in patrol cars, according to Minton-Sander.

The office also has floor plans of other major venues in the county available for use in case of an emergency. Minton-Sander stressed that while the priority focus for officials is to stop the threat of an active shooter, the floor plans were uploaded for use by the department for tactical purposes.

If a shooter cannot be immediately neutralized and is for example, barricaded in a classroom, the floor plans would help create the best tactical response plan to the situation. The floor plan would help law enforcement officials understand where the shooter is located and how to best get to the shooter.

Like Placer County, the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department also trains regularly to be ready for an active shooter event. The sheriff's department teamed up with the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District (Metro Fire) to train and create the Rescue Task Force.

The training is an effort to improve public safety during events involving an active shooter, officer down and intentional mass casualty incidents. The sheriff's department and Metro Fire have developed the program to improve the collaborative abilities during one of these incidents. It's the first agreement in Northern California to standardize training for all officers and and fire personnel, according to a press release from the department.

The two agencies have been regularly training together since 2016. Officials attend classroom lectures and full-scale scenarios which simulate real-life events. Training includes command, combat casualty care, team movement and patient care while using communication to work together in dangerous situations.

Shaun Hampton, spokesperson for the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department, echoed Minton-Sander's words when explaining how their deputies respond to an active shooter.

"We stop and isolate the threat," he said and later added, "We respond to where the shots are coming from. It's instant-- we don't discuss it-- we just go."

The response is quick and spontaneous because there is often no time to discuss specifics. Officers have to react with the training they know.

Hampton explained, the department not only regularly trains for active shooter situations but also talks frequently about the possibility of the situation. The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department also has floor plans of every school in the county. The floor plans include every building in all the schools. Just this year, the department uploaded 32,000 floor plans into their system in addition to the plans they already had. 

The floor plans are in high-resolution and match the exact same maps the fire department has, making it easier to work together. 

Most of the schools in the department's jurisdiction also have crisis response boxes available for law enforcement officials to use in case of an emergency, according to Hampton.

The boxes contain master keys, floor maps and anything law officials may need in an active shooter situation.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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