This past week I made numerous TV appearances to discuss the events in Colorado Springs. Most of the discussions focused on the difficulty of the operation and procedures that are appropriate from a Commander’s point of view. Unfortunately television seldom allows for detailed comment; remember it is a sound bite medium. The American people should be aware of the difficult task that faced law enforcement and the fierce conflict that was resolved with heroic professionalism.
Active Shooter calls for assistance are all too common in our society, and it is an officer’s most difficult call to duty. There is no time for a comprehensive plan. The officers must react in the face of grave danger, armed only with the weapons immediately available to them. Their response must be rapid and immediate to facilitate the neutralization of a determined killer who is slaughtering innocent, helpless human beings. Containing the situation is the first order of business.
The officers in Colorado, responding to an Active Shooter call were met with a hail of gunfire from unknown locations, directed at them and civilians. The shooter was well armed and not contained, an officer’s nightmare. Immediately casualties were incurred, yet the responding officers pressed on, engaging the subject with return fire.
Along with the law enforcement response, Emergency Medical Teams responded immediately, putting their lives in danger as well. Without their heroism and expertise, the casualty count would have been higher.
Ultimately they cornered the subject, isolating and containing him. The fact that the officers pressed on in the face of withering gunfire, is a testament to their courage, training and preparation. In some societies the responding officers would have pulled back and “assessed the situation” – not in America.
By tapping into the security camera system in the facility occupied by the subject, they were able to determine that the threat had subsided. In spite of the death of one of their comrades, they entered into negotiations and ultimately walked him out in cuffs to face the justice of our court system. The temptation to end the conflict with gunfire had to be overwhelming, but those officers decided to follow the constitution. They followed the law.
We must remember the actions of Officer Garrett Swasey who responded to the battle. Officer Swasey, a co-pastor in his church was one of the first on the scene, a testament to the Brotherhood of Police, and the courage and dedication of Officer Swasey. He lost his life trying to save lives of people he did not even know. We are blessed to have men and women like this who serve and protect.
The Colorado Springs event will be the subject of review and study for years to come. I believe it will be a hallmark of how this type of case should be handled. The Department should share with law enforcement how it prepared for this difficult event and how it handled the command and control issues in such a volatile and fluid situation. We can all learn from their experience.
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the brave first responders who serve us every day.
“Whenever I am in public, I make a point of addressing officers and thanking them for their service. I suggest you do the same.”