Mass Shootings and the Blame Game

The recent mass shooting in Florida has shocked the nation – again. And, again, we are hearing the same media outrage and posturing, political rhetoric and the game of placing blame. You can’t open Facebook or other social media sites and not be flooded with the complaining, blaming and armchair quarterbacking of every person with a computer and keyboard. Remember the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

I am not an expert on mass shootings. But I am extremely well versed in leadership and addressing deadly social and criminal issues. People who are filling the airwaves and Internet with their hateful, blaming and complaining narratives need to put down the laptop, step away from the comfort of their overstuffed chair and take a timeout in the corner.

What communities need is a thoughtful and collaborative effort by a number of groups and disciplines to come up with solutions to the increasing active shooter incidents in our schools and other venues.

Begin with the facts and data we already have accumulated over the last 20 years and define the problem. Active shooter statistics from a recent Law Enforcement Bulletin revealed some of the following information:

  • Active shooter incidents often occur in small to medium sized communities where smaller budgets and workforces limit police departments.
  • The average active shooter incident last 12 minutes; 37% less than 5 minutes.
  • 98% percent involve a single shooter, primarily male (97%); 40% of shooters kill themselves.
  • 43% of the time the shooting is over before the first police arrive; 57% of the time the shooting is still ongoing when officers arrive.
  • Patrol officers are most likely the first to arrive and in cases where a lone officer is first to arrive, 75% of these incidents the lone officer had to take action.
  • 33% of lone officers who take action are shot by the active shooter.

This is just some of the data, but it is a start for discussing and developing a strategy in communities most likely to face an active shooter incident. It is more helpful information than the rhetoric flying across the media and Internet today. It is a complicated but addressable problem.

So where do you start? First, identify your stakeholders that need to be at the table. Parents, students, school administrators/staff, law enforcement from local, state and federal agencies, mental health specialists, court representatives (adult and juvenile systems), probation and parole officers, social service providers and the faith-based community. All have a stake and input that can contribute to a viable solution.

It is not just a law enforcement problem, or a political problem, it is a community problem. The community needs to be a part of the solution. We cannot arrest our way out of this.

I commend the multiple agencies over the last week that have responded quickly and effectively to on line threats and arrested numerous potential threats. However, arresting is not not an effective and long lasting response to the problem. This criminal and social issue is not some one and done dilemma. It cannot be treated by a one or two-year program or initiative that we can wrap up and pat each other on the back and say, “We did it!”

The response to active shooters needs to be institutionalized as the way business will be done now and into the long future. The dynamics of an active shooter will change over the upcoming months and years. The responses and protocols developed now may not be effective in the future. There is no room for down time or relaxing our guard. Lives are depending on it.

So people, put aside the political agendas and snappy slogans and get to work on real solutions. Enacting more laws, holding rallies and chanting slogans may feel like you are “doing something.” You are – you are detracting attention from the very real work that needs to be done over the long haul to address this deadly issue.

Your slogans, rallies and appearing on news shows over the last 20 years have resulted in what? It’s time to get off the news shows and blogs and start the real work in your local community to make a difference. Learn the facts, collaborate with each other and come up with some effective solutions.

That is what we did in Dayton, Ohio and reduced gang related homicides by 64% in two years. No new laws, no more manpower, no new budget money – we identified the stakeholders, invited them to participate, had a collaborative and unified message and did what we said we were going to do. We were consistent and credible and had the results to prove it.

As the saying goes, man up and show up. People’s lives are depending on you.

Pat Welsh, a Best Selling Author of “Warrior, Servant, Leader: Life Behind the Badge,” Speaker and Trainer, is a retired Major of the Dayton Police Department. A graduate of the FBINA and Police Executive Leadership College, Mr. Welsh is also a member of IACP. Mr. Welsh specializes in law enforcement training, strategic work session, keynote speaking and leadership development for civilian law enforcement and USAF Security Forces personnel. Visit www.pjwelshllc.com to learn more.