Police change active shooter policy

Published: Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:46 PM CST|Updated: Apr. 21, 2013 at 5:53 PM CDT
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Courtesy: City of Houston training video
Courtesy: City of Houston training video

VAN, TX (KLTV) - Traditionally, potential victims have been told to either flee or hide during an active shooting situation.

But now, police training videos are encouraging a third option.

It's a major shift in law enforcement policy - fighting back as a final line of defense - and it's one that East Texas law enforcement and school districts are considering with care.

In training videos, like one from the city of Houston, police are now including instructions on fighting back in active shooting situations - but only as a last resort.

"If you could retreat to safety, I think that's always your best option instead of trying to be a hero and stay there and fight," said Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.

In response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT last December, Van ISD became one of three East Texas school districts to recently implement a guardian plan.

"The plan calls for select personnel on each campus to be able to carry a concealed handgun," said Van ISD superintendent Don Dunn. "They have to carry it on their person at all time. They can't put it in a drawer. I mean, it has to be on their body."

Van ISD officials say their students routinely practice evacuation drills, but they've put their guardian plan in place to protect those students if needed in the three to five minutes it would take emergency personnel to arrive on campus.

"Our job is not to be the police. We're not training our teachers to be the policemen. We're basically training our teachers to be gap-fillers," said Dunn. "That five, that three to five minute window until police can arrive. Once the police arrive on the scene, our job is done."

In a study of 84 active shooting incidents that happened between 2000 and 2012, researchers found that in 25 cases, the shooter ended the attack before police arrived - but that in 16 cases, victims were able to stop the attack before police arrived, either by shooting or subduing the attacker.

Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith says he wants people to think of fighting back as a case-by-case situation - taking into account the size of their attacker and the weapon they're carrying.

"The person has to make that decision: Do I have more likelihood that I'm going to save other people as well as myself by trying to intervene here, or do I just need to retreat?" said Smith.

Dunn knows his district made the right decision to arm personnel, even as they pray they never have to put their plan in place.

"Bottom line is, I can say that our kids are safer today than they've ever been," he said.

Westwood ISD and Union Grove ISD have also recently implemented guardian plans.

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