Law enforcement is facing the reality that a lone gunman can create havoc anywhere and at any time, and that the attack can be over in six minutes.
The FBI’s Special Agent in Charge of South Carolina Dave Thomas said officers — especially in rural areas — now have to drastically change the way they prepare and respond.
“The old traditional way that law enforcement would handle things is contain, negotiate and wait on the SWAT team to get there,” Thomas told South Carolina Radio Network. “Well, you can’t do that anymore. It’s going to be over in six minutes and 60 percent of the arriving officers are shot on the scene, so it’s very devastating. We’ve really got to re-tune the way we look at how we do stuff with active shooter situations.”
The FBI in South Carolina is holding “active shooter” training in different parts of the state this week to help local law enforcement prepare.
On Monday and Tuesday, officers will be using malls in the Greenville area to quietly train and work through tactics for attacks like those that happened at a school in Newtown, Conn., and a mall in Nairobi, Kenya.
“It’s a possibility anywhere, when you have people who are angry, ” Thomas said. “We actually had people tied to the Newtown shooter in South Carolina, so we are actively investigating people that are tied back to the shooter.”
South Carolina also experienced a near-miss in Charleston in February when Alice Boland tried to shoot staff at Ashley Hall school and her gun jammed.
Thomas said he has learned that smaller departments in South Carolina often do not have some of the equipment they need. He gave the example of a shooter locked or barricaded inside a school.
“You have to take a breaching shotgun to open those doors. Departments here don’t have them. I was shocked, ” he said. “It’s a money issue.”
There are other vulnerabilities, Thomas said, including schools being open to the public on Election Day.
“Should we do polling in schools when the children are there? Send them home for the day, change to another location, but if you are talking about securing schools, that is a huge, gaping vulnerability in my opinion. All of a sudden you have all these people on school property, coming in and out all day long.”