Less lights and vests and more common sense

David Soler

Sadly, one of the things that will be remembered about the Virginia Tech shooting rampage is the useless reaction of police with its scores of SWAT teams running in a frenzy up and down with high-powered guns and useless M16s. The response looked pretty spectacular – ambulances, police cars, snipers. Everybody ready for combat!

But there was one problem: The combat was long gone.

It seems as if we are reaching a point where reality is begging for leaders in key civilian protective agencies (from FEMA or campus police) to have coup d’oeil. This is the ability to have a quick glance into a problematic situation with incomplete information and know how to react accordingly.

This need has been seen before on the battlefields of war, now it’s required on the civilian ones. Napoleon is said to have had it, along with General Patton and Erwin Rommel.

Did Wendell Flinchum, head of Virginia Tech Police, have coup d’oeil? The failure to immediately lockdown the campus shows us he likely did not. And more troubling, are the police and state active shooter protocols based on common sense? I say no to either!

Shooting sprees on educational facilities could be considered a unique battle scenario, and its law enforcement responses should be tailored accordingly.

For example, why can’t a siren with a distinctive cadence be used to alert the entire campus of an ongoing shooting? If they are routinely used for tornado alerts, why not for shooting sprees?

Also, in order to minimize the chaos generated by the shooting itself, ambulances and police cars should rush in with special camouflage gear and without light and sound. Equally important, police and SWAT teams should be deployed heavily armed but wearing civilian clothes in order to maximize the alert to bystanders but not to the shooter himself.

The overall police response should be based on stealthiness and low-profile but relentless action. Clearly, we didn’t see anything of this during the Virginia Tech killings; instead of using a simple pair of pliers or a ramming stick to open Norris Hall’s doors, police opened fire at the chains, prompting the shooter to commit suicide.

College shootings are tricky scenarios. One would wish to use brute force in order to quickly crush the SOB, but by using brute force, you are likely going to cause additional harm to innocent bystanders.

Moreover, one situation that will probably happen with future shootings and the present shooter protocols might not contemplate it, is what happens if someone seizes the shooter’s gun and kills him or somebody else by accident? Are the police, in their seek-and-destroy gear going to realize the change, or is it something that simply doesn’t matter at that point?

After what happened in Virginia, thinking about the next shooting on an educational battleground can seem too grim to talk about, but because the gun control debate isn’t going to budge an inch in forbidding guns, and their deadly sprawling will keep hurting the United States, choosing coup d’oeil leaders and upgrading security defenses and protocols seem to be increasingly important.

David Soler didn’t purposely name the shooter, is a biomedical sciences graduate and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].