The Zero HourThe single most dangerous thing the public will ask law enforcement officers to do is to respond to an active gunman alone.

Law enforcement professionals agree that responding to an active gunman who is moving through the halls of a school, corridors of a local shopping mall or the aisles of a supermarket is a tough assignment to prepare for. The challenge is against precious time.  On average, an active shooter takes a life every 15 seconds once the shooting begins. It is critical for officers to effectively intervene/interrupt as soon as possible to stop the loss of life.

Active Shooter response training is not a new concept within law enforcementLaw enforcement theorists consider the Columbine High School’s mass shooting on Littleton, CO, is as the impetus for Active Shooter Response Training, which became a major focus within law enforcement due to this unfortunate new trend of violence.  Post Columbine era agencies focused more on preparation of a pre-planned attack.

Local agencies, for the most part, are prepared with policy on paper and group tactics to deal with an active gunman on patrol.  Whether it’s a standard, old school “Diamond”, “Modified T” or “Linear” type response, at least some plan is in place.  Most of these older plans include 4-plus response, restricting officers to engage when there are less than 4 officers on scene, or a very complex 8-12 group response designed for tactical teams who have the luxury of working with the same group of officers on a regular basis.

These situations are not routine domestic violence calls, DUI arrests or lost foot pursuits.  There are no do-overs!  How an agency responds to a situation as intense as Columbine will be scrutinized and highly visible for years to come.

Modern Lone Wolf Training focuses on an immediate single / two officer interdiction or interruption, because slower, complex, manpower restrictive responses won’t be quick enough or effective when an average police officer is tasked to execute under extreme pressure.  Modern Active Gunman: Lone Wolf training focuses on simple tactics that provide officer’s with some baseline tactics that will increase their probability of survival and success.  The new concepts in effective training prepare an officer with the right mindset to respond alone or with a partner to active gunmen.

It wasn’t until the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and The Jefferson County Regional SWAT team’s response to the Platte Canyon High School incident in 2006, that critics finally quieted their opinions about the Columbine response.  The Platte Canyon incident involved a single gunmen entered the Park County High School, barricading himself in an English classroom holding several students hostage.

The incident ended when the Jefferson County Regional SWAT Team and bomb techs executed a dual explosive breach upon entering the classroom. Officers on the scene held their heads high, because it proved they were prepared.  Along with Park County Sheriff’s deputies, the Jefferson County Sheriff command staff, and a former SWAT team leader, Sgt. Grant Whitus, were responsible for the positive outcome that day.

Grant made it very clear his team would be well prepared for mass shooting and hostage rescues, and he insisted on training inside school buildings with bomb techs honing their explosive breaching skills. Everyone on the team knew what was expected, they possess the confidence that only comes from preparation and being surrounded by skilled professionals ready to perform under extreme circumstances. A true warrior mindset was instilled in our Jefferson County Regional SWAT Team operators.

TAC*ONE CONSULTING, is a law enforcement consulting company, dedicated to providing quality, challenging and aggressive training, such as the “Lone Wolf”. TAC*ONE has never lost sight of the importance of being truly prepared with scenarios that tested not only tactics for, but also the individual officers’ use of force decision making skills.

An officer’s actions during various isolation drills within the course provide good indication of the type of thoughts, social upbringing, values and the many theories taught during their previous trainings.

One exercise in our Lone Wolf training tests this mindset, and measures whether the officer will respond appropriately to a 100% shoot scenario.  Typically only 20% respond immediately, and shoot the gunman, the way they should to save lives.  Whether the student is a veteran officer, straight from the Academy, from an agency of 10, or an agency of 400 – predictably, less than 20% will inherently act correctly with a shoot to kill response.

This is a scary indicator of the amount of improving needed for “old school” training. We focus on rewiring Officers for immediate aggressive actions in an Active Shooter Scenarios, which will NOT be the same response for regular/daily patrol duty.

After completing the Lone Wolf experience, a deputy in his 40’s approached the instructor, Joe Deedon..  He said, “I have to be honest.  When you walked in here I thought – ‘what is this young punk going to teach me?  I owe you an apology. This was the best class I have been to in my 20+ ears on the job. You should be proud of yourself.”

Receiving a comment like that from a seasoned veteran gives me goose bumps.

Joe Deedon is a former LEO who served with the Jefferson County (Colorado) Sheriff’s Office for 8 years.  He served as a tactical operator with the Jefferson County Regional SWAT team for 4 years.  He is a Kaminsky-certified field training officer.  He taught building searches RAID, Traffic Stops, and Crowd Control at a POST-certified Regional Academy.  Joe received the Distinguished Service Medal and the Park County Sheriff’s Commendation for his actions during the Platte Canyon High School incident.   In 2007, he received the Medal of Valor for his actions during an officer-involved shooting with a barricaded gunman.  In 2008, he received the Distinguished Service Medal following his service in a high-speed chase and apprehension of a shooting suspect.  Joe completed served with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan as an embedded mentor.   Joe teaches Active Shooter and SWAT courses for agencies in 11 states as the owner and lead instructor of TAC*ONE Consulting.