The school was sponsored by the Mt. Juliet Police Department and was conducted in a abandoned elementary school in Mt. Juliet. The instructors were staff trainers from the Texas State University Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT) unit and active Hayes County, Texas SWAT team members. The first two days were Rapid Response to active shooter training and the last 3 were designed to teach the officers the tactical use of flashlights in low light/dark environments.
An "active shooter" as defined by the National Tactical Officers Association is "one who participates in a random or systematic shooting spree, demonstrating intent to continuously harm others. The subject's overriding objective is that of mass murder rather than other criminal conduct such as robbery or hostage taking."
Violent attacks such as those perpetrated at Columbine High School and in the Belsan, Russian school siege have increased dramatically in the last 8 to 10 years. We have witnessed a long progression and gradual increase of "active shooter" events at schools, businesses and public places since 1966, when a gunman started firing from the top of a Texas University campus tower. There have been at least 20 specific incidents in the last 30 years leading up to the Columbine incident and the most recent sniper attacks of last year, which have forced law enforcement to re-think the traditional response tactics of calling and waiting for SWAT, while the killing continues. A revolution is taking place and it is now almost universally agreed that the first responding officers must take appropriate and immediate actions to stop the killing in these situations. When a shooter is already active and has already indiscriminately taken one or more human lives, it had been proven that calling and waiting for SWAT or other special responders is sure to allow further killings to occur.
The officers were trained for this first response. Key to response action is the establishment of mindset and the mental preparation to the correct tactics in order to deal with these violent confrontations. Understanding how the human body deals with stress and perceptual distortion in violent shooting events also helps prepare the responding officers to take appropriate action. The officers participated in active "force on force" scenarios where they were divided into 2, 3,4 and 5 man teams and took turns playing good guys/bad guys in various mock settings. The teams used live firing "Simunitions" weapons (specially modified Glocks, firing _" diameter paint pellets at over 325 feet per second) to add realism, allowing the officers to actually shoot and be shot, significantly raising the stress levels and intensity of the exercises.
They used various 2,3,4 and 5 man team formations to; seek out and rescue hostages, respond to and resolve terrorist bomber threats, deal with school shooter/youth/hostage situations and generally address various mad gunman scenarios. The abandoned school was a maze of hallways, offices, closets and dark holes where Sgt. Amalfitano, Lt. Looper and Constable Dallas got to train with each other and with other officers representing various local and out of state police officers, sheriffs deputies and state troopers.
Darkness was a critical component of the training and the last three days were focused upon low light/darkness tactics. The classes were conducted in total darkness on two days, by training until midnight each day in the abandoned school and with the officers using only their duty flashlights.
Statistics published by the FBI for 1993-2002 reveal that over 70% of officer involved shootings occur in low or no-light conditions and over 1/3 of the cases showed lighting conditions as a direct contributing factor to the outcome. Over 75% of the officers were within 10 feet of their attackers. Over 50% were within 5 feet of their attackers. 93% of all officers killed feloniously are killed with a firearm.
And yet, even today, most departments spend very little time training under these conditions.
With this in mind the training addressed the various ways in which darkness can be utilized to the officers' advantage and how flashlight (the correct flashlight) can have a dramatic positive impact upon officer survival and being in control of a situation.
Sgt. Amalfitano stated that the use of the flashlight goes far beyond the normal "night watchman" type of use where one merely walks around shining the light all around. He said that they learned and proved to themselves that a "strobing" technique where the beam is flashed randomly and all over and around tends to disorient and confuse persons hiding in the dark, allowing peace officers to have the element of surprise when searching darkened areas.
Officers Amalfitano, Dallas and Looper were taught to evaluate lighting conditions, perform lights on and lights out room entries, use darkness to tactical advantage, high/low and quick peek maneuvers, room search and evaluation techniques know as "slicing the pie", suspect control using "wall of light" concepts, breathing control to lower heart rate, Boyd's Cycle (known as the OODA loop), evaluation of lighting conditions, various lighting techniques, tactical flashlight selection and how to put it all together in realistic "force on force" scenarios.
Lt. Looper entered the training a bit skeptical and said that he initially was wondering just how much more there was to be taught about how to use a flashlight....just turn it on and shine it around...right??. WRONG....Lt. Looper stated that there were occasions where the demonstrations were nothing short of amazing and that one has to actually see the techniques in action to fully appreciate the effectiveness of the methods they were taught.
Sgt. Amalfitano, Lt. Looper and Constable Dallas all agreed on two things; the training greatly enhanced their understanding and awareness of the problems associated with active shooter situations and significantly increased their potential to survive and win armed confrontations in low light/dark conditions and enhanced their day to day approach to flashlight use in general. The training made them all, painfully aware, of their own past mistakes, made in conducting structure searches, where they exposed themselves to significantly more danger than was necessary had they been aware of and used the techniques learned in the Active Shooter/Low Light/CQB school.
"When you are in the dark hunting one or more other human beings, who you know are armed, even though you KNOW it's a simulation," said Constable Dallas, "with these Simunition guns, they sting and your stress levels really go through the roof. My heart was pounding in my ears, I was sweating, I was fighting tunnel vision and I was struggling to maintain a focus on my surroundings." Dallas contiues, "The plastic and metal Glock, felt like it weighed 20 pounds. We did not know from which dark room or closet or hallway, the shots were going to come from, but when they did, we hoped we were tactically sound in our actions as the paint pellets struck. We got the proof once the lights were back on. Red, blue and yellow paint told the tale of who would have died and who would have won."
The class ran for about 50 hours, of which approximately 6 hours was classroom time, all of the rest was spent actively engaged in various drills and simulated situations. All exercises were video taped with night vision cameras for review and to allow the Instructors and the students to critique themselves as part of the training. The students spent the last day actually teaching the skills learned during the first 4 days and upon completion were certified as Instructors in Low Light-Close Quarters Combat. Sgt. Amalfitano and Lt. Looper both stated that they are already passing this training on to other officers at the Lafayette PD.
Constable Dallas said that he particularly benefited, by being able to train with the LPD officers. His belief is that when different law enforcement departments and other emergency response organizations train together and understand each others methods and tactics they are better able to work together as a unit and can be more effective as a response team. That allows them to better serve the citizens of the community in emergency situations. Constable Dallas stated that he is available to assist with and or to provide similar training to any other departments or officers in the county, who may desire to learn some of the techniques covered in the school.
Constable Dallas pointed out that NO city, county or taxpayer funds or resources were utilized for his part and participation in this training. All time and funds expended were his own.