Before the carnage in Las Vegas on October 1, there was no box on any threat assessment checklists for a senior citizen sniper positioned in a hotel high above a country music festival. While leaders, tacticians and analysts study the Las Vegas attack to look for trends, precursors and lessons learned, it is never too late to review policy and practice regarding event security.
1. Don’t Overlook the Threat Reality
The chance for some easy overtime at a fun event can overshadow the seriousness of an unlikely but worst-case scenario. While there are resources allocated for presidential visits and Olympic-sized events, the ordinary graduation ceremony or local high school football game is going to be understaffed. Organizers may believe there is no threat, or that “too many cops would look bad.”
2. Stay Focused on Assigned Posts or Tasks
Security should not get sidetracked by unrelated requests for help, they should stay on their posts or specific areas of responsibility, and stay on task. They should refer routine service requests to on-duty staff.
3. Use Force Multipliers
Officers may be working with private security whose level of training and alertness will vary. Make sure they make contact, and encourage private security to observe and report diligently. Folks working the parking lot or admissions booth should get the same attention and message from officers. Let them know how to stay in contact and encourage them to trust their instincts in reporting suspicious behaviors.
4. Be Prepared with Intel
Your regional fusion center may have information on threats related to VIP speakers or controversial groups scheduled to perform in your area. Some managers or promoters may have information about stalkers or recently disgruntled staff.
Know what the patrol strength of the on-duty officers is in case you have to call in the cavalry. What is the likely response time for fire, EMS or mutual aid units? Double check that dispatch and the on-duty patrol supervisors know about the event. Having a plan for a command post, triage area, staging points, media management and even a landing zone can prevent confusion among responders.
5. Follow Cover & Concealment Practices
Surviving an initial attack is important to the success of response and recovery to a violent outbreak. Officers may be compelled to stand and draw fire away from civilians or do some other heroic act of sacrifice, and I wouldn’t talk them out of it. But providing information for arriving resources as well as aid to other survivors are morally compelling reasons for them to get to cover.
6. Understand Spontaneous vs. Planned Violence
Officers should stay aware of potential weapons of opportunity, should a fight erupt. Events tend to homogenize emotional responses in their audience. Officers should watch for the expressions and body language of individuals or groups that are incongruent with the crowd as well as look for signs of weapon concealment, such as rolled up newspapers, closely guarded packages and stiffness in blankets or cushions. They should use crowd control techniques and avoid confrontations until enough personnel arrives to neutralize a suspect and watch the crowd while officers making contact have their backs exposed.
7. Develop Pre-Planing Policy
Leaders can enact ordinances or policies requiring pre-planning of events in communities that include safety plans and minimum police staffing. They can encourage training and practice of standard incident command protocols. Plan way ahead by engaging in pro-active interactions with event promotors, athletic directors and organizations that sponsor large events and festivals.
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