New Approaches to Campus Active Shooter Training

NOVA Police Lt. and CSC presenter John Weinstein discusses the need to think beyond active shooter tactics when developing comprehensive, long-term plans for response.

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Over the years, active shooter response has evolved from establishing a perimeter and waiting for SWAT to resolve the incident, to the four-officer diamond formation, to the current immediate entry of a one- or two-officer contact team. While immediate entry is still required, training must go far beyond honing entry team tactical skills, according to John Weinstein, District 3 commander for the Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) police department.

Weinstein will be presenting New Perspectives on Active Shooter Training at Campus Safety Conference East and West, which will take place in Washington, D.C., July 25-26 and in Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 9-10.

Weinstein, who oversees police operations on two campuses with more than 35,000 students, is his department’s lead firearms instructor and is a certified active response trainer, making him responsible for training NOVA officers in this crucial area.  Weinstein also heads the NOVA police department’s community outreach program. Additionally, he is a member of Campus Safety magazine’s editorial board and is a regular editorial contributor to the publication

In this Q&A, Weinstein discusses the need to think beyond active shooter tactics when developing comprehensive, long-term plans for responding to such incident

Campus Safety:
  Why is there so much focus on active shooter training right now?

  In the last couple of years, active shooters have become a much more important topic because of the frequency of events. According to a recent FBI study, these incidents have been increasing both in terms of frequency and lethality. As a result, schools and police departments must focus on potential threats.

Campus Safety:
What are the shortfalls of focusing solely on active shooters?

My concern is that oftentimes entities focus too narrowly on tactics – as in, how a contact team forms, how the contact team moves throughout the building to neutralize the shooter and so forth. This is all very important, but it overlooks a number of other important considerations. At our agency, for example, we have a 24/7/365 dispatch manned by a few people, but our professional dispatchers would be hard pressed to handle the scores, if not hundreds of responders, parents and media who would arrive on campus.  Few agencies realistically incorporate dispatch into their tactical training.

Campus Safety:
  What other issues are campuses overlooking?

Weinstein: Obviously the contact team is an essential response to this problem, but the question is, what can we do about prevention? And, are we thinking about responding to new and evolving threats? Are we exercising all types of active incidents? For instance, people normally focus on shooters, but we’ve seen instances where people use cars or knives to attack a group of people. Are departments prepared to deal effectively with the media? And how will schools handle everything from traffic to officer rest, psychological counseling and crime scene management? These are among the very important questions for which schools need to plan and ensure capabilities.

Campus Safety:  What else goes into good preparation for possible incidents?

Weinstein:  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be looking at the actual tactical response of officers, but I am saying that the enormous totality of the active shooter incident is so broad that departments need to be exercising a whole array of different response capabilities that go far beyond just the active shooter tactics themselves. In my briefing, I’ll cover 10-12 such points and I’ll help attendees take the preliminary steps necessary to be able to address these key points. 

The third annual Campus Safety Conferences are education and training events for anyone who has a stake in ensuring the public safety and security of our nation’s schools, universities, and colleges. Taking place in Washington, D.C. July 25-26, and Long Beach, Calif., Aug. 9-10, the conferences provide full-day training workshops, a campus police chief and a K-12 safety panel, dozens of conference sessions, and more than 35 companies showcasing their products, services, and technologies.

To register for the Campus Safety Conferences, visit John Weinstein will be speaking at CSC East and West, Higher Ed Track, on July 25-26 and August 9-10.

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