This is one of the rare semi-political posts. You were warned.
So for the second time, I have had to sit through active shooter training. The first time I was less than pleased and sent this letter to my boss, our CEO, and our HR department. Names redacted with a semi-random number of yyyyyy.
My objection has to do with Sergeant yyyyyy portion of the training. At some point, I realized that he used the word “kill” a lot. He used the phrase “kill the bad guy” no fewer than 12 times in the hour we spend on tactical awareness. There were probably times before I started counting them. Most of the time, he used this phrase in reference to “it was his job to kill the bad guy.” But a sizeable number of his use of this phrase was in reference yyyyyy employees should “kill the bad guy” in active shooter situations. In your summary at the end , you did not use the phrase “kill the bad guy” but you did saying something to the effect of “if someone comes here to do something nasty to you, you (meaning yyyyyyy employees) should pay them back in kind.” Since for the past hour, we were told repeatedly that the “bad guy” was here to “kill” us, I took your comment to mean you expected us to kill.
While Sergeant yyyyy did talk a little bit about running and hiding from attackers and he did talk about making sure to have a plan, he never presented any other option other than “kill the bad guy” for fighting. There was never a mention of subdue, incapacitate, chase off, hurt, maim, or capture the “bad guy”, just kill him.
Both Sergeant yyyyyy explicitly and yyyy by inference gave us, as civilians and yyyyyy employees, “permission” to kill another person.
Near the end, Sergeant yyyyy felt it necessary to single me out (as an example; I am aware he did not do so on purpose) as a person that if I was not willing to “kill the bad guy”, I would be responsible for the deaths of my coworkers through inaction.
My objection is this: I have a deeply held religious belief about the sanctity of life. We did not create these lives and therefore they are not ours to take. I do not know if others at yyyyyyy have the same deeply held belief but it is not an unreasonable belief to have. Every major religion and moral philosophical system has a prohibition against killing. Even our own legal code prohibits killing. If you were to kill someone in self-defense, an outside body would determine if you did so justly. Even the police have their actions reviewed to determine whether they acted lawfully. It is not for us to determine a priori and by ourselves whether we should kill someone. Someone with my deeply held belief should have been an expected member of this training at some point and reasonable accommodation made to them. Also, I was led to believe that you had attended this training before and unless Sergeant yyyyy just didn’t use the word “kill” as much, you should have realized this could be objectionable to someone with deeply held beliefs. We were given no specific warning as to the content nor given any option but endure it as this was a mandatory training session.
Based on this training, the take away could reasonably be that both the police and yyyyyyy expects us to kill the intruder. That intruder breaks into the barricaded room. Those of us in that room fight the intruder. We manage to disarm the intruder and maybe even render him unable to fight back. No mention of this situation was made; we were repeatedly told to “kill the bad guy.” Based on the tone of the training, what is to stop someone from yyyyyy, deciding before they are in imminent harm that they will kill the intruder regardless of what condition they find the intruder in? Courts have already determined that this is murder if you decide beforehand that you are going to kill someone.
Contrary to Sergeant yyyyy and your own statements, no one can give us “permission” to kill another person. You both lack the legal and moral authority to do so. That both the police and yyyyyy management feel that they can give us permission to kill is disturbing to say the least. Potentially, such advice that we have “permission to kill” could be used against yyyyyy in a legal situation (wrongful death suit for instance).
Other than make you aware of my belief, I am going to do nothing else about it. We were warned that it was a disturbing subject. Obviously, discussing mass shootings is disturbing. Being commanded to kill another human being does not have to be part of that training. Based on what I heard, I would believe that Officer yyyyy and Sergeant yyyyyy would agree that it would be difficult for a civilian unused to killing another person to actually do it. That said, then they should not be telling those civilians to do that.
Now to the actionable feedback.
First, Sergeant yyyyyy should pay more attention to his language. I think most people would like to believe that the police would kill someone as a last resort; not as a first opportunity. Whether it is Sergeant yyyyy job to “kill the bad guy” or not is a matter for a larger public debate, but it really doesn’t add anything to his training. He could refer to why we should not attach ourselves to the police in these situations as he “needs to make sure the building is safe” or “he is focused on pursuing the bad guy” or “he is trying to resolve the situation.” Additionally, he should not be encouraging the civilians in these cases to kill. Fight back, yes. Disarm, subdue, yes. Kill? No. I understand he would probably trying to ensure that people weren’t pulling punchs. I am sure adrenaline will take care of that.
Other language issues. No one is a whore. I am glad they finally realized that calling someone in a room full of women a whore is objectionable. We don’t need to hear any of our coworkers referred to that way. His point is that many medications interfere with sexual function and that is a reason some people don’t take them. It in no way makes anyone a whore. In fact, some of those medications also increase sexual desire. That still doesn’t make anyone a whore.
Officer yyyyy needs to remove his references to media bias. One, his talk isn’t about media bias against the police so the references serve no purpose to the training. Plus, later comments by him and Sergeant yyyyy overuse of phrase, “kill the bad guy” actually reinforces that the media might be right. Just don’t talk about it. It doesn’t apply.
They both need to avoid tangents about officer shootings that are not about the presentation. Sergeant yyyy mentioned the incident in Ferguson, MO. Regardless of his beliefs in the case, that was not an incident of an active shooter in the crowded building. Talking about media bias and Ferguson distract from their main points and encourage the audience to form other opinions about the police that have nothing to do with the training being presented.
There was very little presented about the fact that the most likely shooter these cases will have some connection to yyyyyyyyy. That means the most likely shooter will be an employee (or recent former employee) or someone close to an employee. That means the shooter will be someone you probably know. According to the training, this person is going to be killed by you or in front of you. It is traumatic enough to be in active shooter situation. When that person is a friend or colleague, imagine how much more traumatic that will be. They should talk more about that.
Aside from the overuse and objectionable use of “kill”, I felt the mental health portion was well done. I would have liked a little more about how identifying mental health issues might prevent the active shooter situation altogether. I would have liked more focus on the run, hide, fight aspects of the tactical awareness. More discussion on what improvised weapons you might have, how you might use those improvised weapons, ways to actually make an effective barricade, and perhaps how you can safely inform the police that you have actually subdued the bad guy without the police wanting to shoot you. Because regardless of whether someone has my beliefs about life and killing, very few people not used to fighting and/or killing will be able to do it. In short, less “kill the bad guy” and more “here is how you survive.”
Those comments seemed well received and my most recent training session was better. There was more of a focus on run, hide, fight. That said, I still find the subject misses the entire point.
One of the statistics presented was on motives for active shooters. I assume these statistics were nationwide. 58% were listed as unknown and 21% were listed as workplace dissatisfaction. This training focused on workplace dissatisfaction as it was for workplace violence. I am willing to bet that a large portion on that 58% is also workplace related; we just don’t know because the person is died now and didn’t leave us any explanation for what they did.
A lot of talk was given to security measures we have implemented. To make us safer. I can’t help but recall Ben Franklin here, “He who is willing to sacrifice freedom for security deserves neither.” A lot of talk and questions about “is doing that rude?” with the response being “it is better to be rude to protect your coworkers.” Privately in discussions, I played devil’s advocate and posed the question, “what if that rudeness is what sets someone off?” And I actually believe that to an extent.
Someone did have the courage to ask, “What are we doing in those cases where we terminate someone to make sure they do become an active shooter?” I think for me that is the crux of it all. What if we spent the money on creating a better environment instead of security measures? What if we make it so that people don’t want to hurt us? Maybe a bit pollyanna of me but shouldn’t we create the world we want to live in? Because like it or not, we do create the world we actually live in.
Some attention was paid to the fact that it is likely to be someone we know if any of this happens. And assuming they aren’t really insane, they will do some planning. As an avid roleplayer, I have to say the exercise is not all that hard. Not all that much more difficult than figuring out how to invade a vampire’s lair. Many of the recent shootings demonstrate advance planning. Someone didn’t randomly choose to go shooting that day. They decided where to go, how to get in, who their targets were, and how to get the weapons involved. Many even practiced beforehand. Run Hide Fight works ok against a random person but how well does it work against someone who is specifically gunning for you? Again, I bet not very well.
In the vast majority of cases, and I am pretty confident it is true in my company’s case, active shooter is a very low probability event. I asked a few coworkers, do you think a fire is more likely? They all said yes. Our last fire drill, we did okay but people didn’t take it seriously and took their time getting out. I don’t have a lot of hope for how we will respond to a shooter. At least my office is a tornado shelter so that helps.
I just don’t see this training as valuable. It feels like an attempt to solve a problem that doesn’t solve anything. It is a low probability event. An intelligent and prepared person will overcome the obstacles put in their way. I am not saying it isn’t serious and that some training isn’t valuable. But I would like to see more time, energy, and money spent on preventing people wanting to shoot someone else. Money for improving the workplace environment, energy on treating people with respect and dignity, and time to build relationship.