Norway suffered a great tragedy on Friday when dozens of people, many of them teens, were gunned down by at least one subject dressed as a police officer. At this time, it appears this attack was coordinated with a bomb that was set off outside the prime minister’s office earlier in the day.
If you have paid attention to world events, you know this is not an original incident. Bombs have been detonated by terrorists around the world for almost as long as we have had explosive technology. Mass shooting incidents are also not new.
There are a few things about this incident, which are important to consider.
An attack may be the main attack, or it may be a distraction. It is impossible to say at this time what the intent of the terrorist(s) was with the bombing. However, that attack likely pulled resources toward it. Officers may have been diverted from other areas to respond to that incident location, which may have reduced the ability to respond to the second attack.
An attack may be bait. Consider that the initial incident may be used as bait to pull in first responders, with a second bomb set to kill public safety workers. Variations of this technique has been used many times throughout history, but the one I remember most vividly was in 1997. I was a reserve deputy in the area where this attack occurred, and I watched it live on television. Eric Rudolph used multiple bombs at an abortion clinic. The initial detonation drew in first responders and the second detonated after their arrival.
The initial bomb and follow up shooting were completely different styles of attack. With the initial incident being a bomb, what degree of focus shifted for law enforcement to looking for the “wrong” thing? How many officers unconsciously stopped looking for suspicious people and instead were looking for suspicious packages? Just because one attack came in a specific method doesn’t mean any additional attacks will resemble it.
For active shooters, fast response is critical. Initial reports indicated the terrorist(s) murder rampage on the island lasted at least 30 minutes. At the time of this article, more than 80 people are believed to have been killed before police were able to respond and stop him/them. Several factors contributed to his unchecked ability to kill:
- The location of the incident was an island, slowing a responding SWAT team.
- People on the island were not armed, ensuring they would be victims, not survivors.
Whether the response comes from a police officer or an armed citizen, the only sure way to stop a murderer is by armed intervention. This means that police officers must be prepared to respond quickly, immediately and alone to engage the shooter and stop the killing. If backup arrives on scene with you, great. But if a cover officer is not with you, you must still go and engage the threat right now!
Yes, responding alone is more dangerous, but that’s what we have to do to stop the killing. If you’re not up for it, I’d suggest you re-evaluate why you are a cop.
These kinds of incidents are a reality. They can happen in your jurisdiction, in your town. So, prepare yourself now.