Everyone’s Nightmare — A Sergeant’s Role

Scene 1: Just as you pull up and slam the gear lever into park, 40-50 screaming, sobbing, panicked people pour out of the north double doors of Sunrise Mall, and with them, the unmistakable staccato popping of gunshots. The instant the apex of the stampeding mob sees you; they wheel like a herd of wildebeest and make straight for your vehicle. In seconds you’ll be at the center of their hysterical storm, while inside, the shooter just keeps shooting. What do you do?

Scene 2: In the food-court entryway, the dazed, disoriented-looking young man doesn’t seem to hear your repeated shouts to “Drop the rifle!” held waist-high in his hands. Is he the shooter, or is he a lone citizen who jumped the shooter, wrested the gun away and beat him comatose with it?

Scene 3: The first of dozens of shots were reported coming from the crowded roof of a 7-level parking structure blocking the south dead end of Financial Avenue, which commands a sweeping view — and broad lanes of fire — down the densely populated boulevard of office buildings. A paramedic unit and fire rig already squat perforated and still among clumps of hastily abandoned cars. Casualties, living and dead, lie like windblown trash on the sidewalks and in the scant cover of shallow building entryways. Several units are screaming in a minute or two behind you. Who do you send where?

Scene 4: A shooter is down; and so is one of your officers. There are no more shots being fired — not right now. Various reports say there were one, two, maybe four shooters. There are 112 shops in the mega-mall and two multiplex theatres. Dispatch confirms you will be the ranking officer on-scene for at least thirty minutes. What now?

If you haven’t already brainstormed scenarios like these, start now. In the first scene, for example, before the stampeding sheeple can mob you into ineffectiveness, you could point and yell, “Go there! To the far end of the lot and wait!” Pick the least crazed-looking one and shout, “You! Count them, sort out the wounded and injured and wait for instructions! You’re in charge!” Sometimes people do rise to the occasion …
Some things you can count on: First, moving/active shooter incidents will occur. They’re now burned into the social culture, and every psycho wants to make the biggest splash. Second, nine out of 10 sergeants will be virtually unprepared to deal with them. Third, sheer courage and spontaneous brilliance have their value, but for supervisors, neither can compare with sound strategic forethought.


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