The FBI, in collaboration with Texas State University's ALERRT Center, is in the process of training law enforcement officers around the country in active-shooter response. Special Agent Katherine Schweit is the senior executive responsible for the FBI's active-shooter training — the most extensive effort of its kind, initiated following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. Gameday Security editor in chief Dennis Van Milligen recently talked with Special Agent Schweit about the active-shooter training, which is free to law enforcement officers, and why it is so important for those officers and campus safety personnel responsible for protecting sports venues and events.
Q: How did the FBI first get involved with the active-shooter training?
A: Shortly after Sandy Hook, the White House tasked an executive team that included the FBI, DHS and DOJ, among others, with finding ways to prevent and help resolve these types of shootings. We're the only law enforcement agency in that group, so it's our responsibility to see what we can do to support state, local and campus law enforcement officers. We had a three-pronged approach to assisting state and locals in these types of situations. One was focused on line officers, and the other two were focused on command staff and chief executive offices and agencies.
Q: Can you describe the relationship with Texas State University?
A: Texas State University's ALERRT Center — which stands for Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training — was created in response to what happened at Columbine. A few innovative law enforcement officers created the ALERRT Center in cooperation with Texas State University. Post Sandy Hook, the FBI joined up with the ALERRT Center to adopt those protocols nationally. The FBI financially supports moving its 185 tactical instructors around the country so that a law enforcement agency can train its people within its own community. There are other training programs out there that are similar to this, but we felt this was the best and most comprehensive training for the officers. In the past 10 years, the ALERRT Center has trained approximately 30,000 people. Our goal is to train 30,000 in the following 18 months.
Q: How did Columbine impact active-shooter training?
A: Before Columbine, law enforcement officers had a protocol that included the first officers showing up at the scene. Their primary mission was to secure the perimeter of the location of the shooting and then call for tactical teams to enter the building. That's exactly what occurred at Columbine. Officers showed up at the scene, tried to engage with the shooters, the shooters retreated inside, officers secured the perimeter and called for tactical backup. What we found post-Columbine was that that police protocol was not valuable or as valuable as it could be in terms of saving lives and ending shootings. This new training protocol is focused on having the first officers who arrive go in to end the threat. It's a different type of tactic than we've had before, and it's a different type of training that is much more dangerous for law enforcement officers.
Q: What specifically will officers undergo with this new training?
A: The ALERRT training takes an officer from the moment he or she arrives at a scene or walks up to a scene to train them to look and listen for where the threat might be coming from, including evaluating people who are coming toward them to see whether or not they have things in their hands. Officers are trained in how they enter a building, move down a hallway, how they determine whether to go up a stairway. What do you do if there's a victim who has been shot and is begging for assistance as you run past them? It's about training officers to make those split-second decisions.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of Gameday Security with the title "FBI Special Agent Katherine Schweit Talks Active-Shooter Training."