Campus police officers are regularly trained to neutralize active shooter situations, according to William Pieper, a University of Texas at Austin Police Department officer.
Current UTPD officers are trained under the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Program, or ALERRT, a renowned program run by Texas State University that teaches officers proven methods to counter a violent threat on campus, Pieper said.
According to ALERRT communications director Diana Hendricks, over 70,000 officers nationwide have completed the training, among them, 804 Austin Police Department officers and 192 UTPD officers.
Buck Blundell, ALERRT program manager, said Texas State began the program after the Columbine High School Massacre in 1999 — a shooting in Colorado that left 12 students dead — led to a nationwide push to train campus police to respond to active shooter situations themselves instead of waiting for SWAT teams.
Pieper said the 1966 UT Tower shooting was one of the two major events that led to the creation of SWAT teams and campus police departments in the United States. The other was the abduction and murder of 11 Israeli athletes during the 1972 Summer Olympic Games in Munich.
In addition to the ALERRT training, UT has developed several new technologies and procedures to keep the University community safe during an active shooter incident, Pieper said. These developments include the emergency broadcast service and the “Remember 5 and Stay Alive” program, which provides students with a meaningful plan of action when facing a violent threat.
Blundell said that although he supports the rights of law-abiding citizens to carry firearms on campus in accordance with the new campus carry law, he believes the efforts of untrained armed civilians trying to take down an active shooter could further complicate the situation for law enforcement officers.
“A shooting takes place, not in the room that this armed person is in, but that person then takes off trying to find where its coming from, which throws in a whole new curveball when law enforcement arrives on the scene,” Blundell said. “Now you have a guy who has no identification on him walking around with a gun in his hand. It’s definitely something that we, as law enforcement, have to take into consideration now, as we have in the past.”
The materials used in modern campus architecture lead to conflicting intelligence from 911 calls regarding active shooter situations, which lead to delayed responses in emergency situations, Blundell said. According to Blundell, the way sound moves in buildings with concrete floors and cinder block walls leads witnesses to report shots that were actually fired in the west wing of a building as shots fired in the east wing.
Overwhelming fear and confusion are the largest obstacles students and other civilians face when confronting active shooter situations, Blundell said.
“People wake up in the morning, and they don’t think that they are fixing to be part of an incident such as this, so they are not mentally prepared for it, but it’s the reality of the world we live in today,” Blundell said. “You have to put it in your mind and have some sort of plan, that if something like this were to occur, what am I going to do?”