On Tuesday, May 24th, 18 year old Salvador Ramos entered Robb Elementary School, in Uvalde Texas, armed with a rifle and pistol. Reportedly carrying 1,600 rounds of ammunition, Ramos went on an hour-long shooting spree that left 19 students and 2 teachers dead, while also wounding over a dozen others. Ramos was eventually shot dead by Border Patrol agents who entered the school; of their own accord, while Uvalde police forces remained inactive in a nearby parking lot. The lack of police action on that day has left Americans struggling to answer certain questions, the main question being “What can we expect from local police if a similar event happens in my town?” However, to even start to answer those types of questions, it is worth becoming familiar with procedures currently in place within law enforcement entities.
Most state and local law enforcement groups take cues from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Shortly after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012, the FBI sought ways its personnel could help assist law enforcement groups across the country. One of its first initiatives was the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012, which permits the U.S. Attorney General to provide federal assistance during active shooter incidents and mass killings. However, this assistance must be requested by the appropriate state or local law enforcement.
In further response to the Newtown shootings, the FBI also partnered with Texas State University to develop the ALERRT training program. The Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training program has trained over 114,000 law enforcement first responders in response protocol that is now the national standard for special agent tactical instructors within the FBI. Most state and local law enforcement have adopted these standards, which ensures that those responding to mass casualty incidents are familiar with how others are trained to respond. Along with ALERRT, FBI field offices are focused on bringing law enforcement command staff together to discuss best practices and lessons learned from prior mass casualty incidents. Typically, these conferences are 2 day events that heavily focus on “pre-event indicators”, better known as behavioral analysis.
Closer to home, the Illinois State Police are also constantly evaluating their responses to mass casualty incidents. In 2018, Mike Chamness presented a study to then governor Bruce Rauner titled “Recommendations of the Illinois Terrorism Task Force School Safety Working Group”. The study comes with 14 main recommendations that are separated into 3 different groups: Behavioral Threat Assessment, Hardening of Facilities, and Response Protocol in Schools. These recommendations cover everything from mandated Active Shooter Drills in schools, proposed violent solutions to quickly end mass casualty situations, and helping first responders and communities manage and deal with the trauma afterwards.
The Mail has reached out to local law enforcement, local schools, and mental health professionals in search of the answer to the question “Are We Prepared?” This story is still developing, watch this space.