Last week Chameleon provided a course Active Shooter – Lessons Learned in Israel for trainees in San Antonio, Texas. Feedback from a law enforcement officer with decades of experience in the U.S. who participated in the training was interesting. From his point of view, how was it different and what were his takeaways?
With active shooter events on the rise in the West, there has already been a shift in protocols and tactics. For example, where previously, law enforcement would first set up a perimeter and then hold and call for backup, now when events warrant, officers move in immediately.
Unlike the current situation in the U.S., civilian security officers in Israel are vigorously trained, more so even in some cases than are law enforcement officers. Although they might be expected in certain cases to detain a suspect or perpetrator, the role of Security is to secure, the role of the police is enforcement. In that respect, security officers perform somewhat like agents of the U.S. Secret Service.
In Israel, much of the training is meant to simulate the stress and the environment in which a security officer would be expected to react. To that end, rather than practice firing on static targets on the range, they conduct a lot of moving exercises. Trainees use dry fire, blanks and ‘simunition’ non-lethal training ammunition. The thinking is that it’s better to have an aggressive officer coping well under stress than a sharp shooter who freezes in combat.
An aggressive mindset is one that has a security officer in fight mode, running towards the problem with a goal of eliminating the threat as quickly as possible. From the Israeli point of view, stopping an active shooter takes precedence over apprehending him.
Conducting this kind of tactical training gives instructors a chance to evaluate trainees on criteria that are more likely to predict reaction under crisis – discipline, responsibility and handling stress well. Candidate mindset is a top criteria for getting the right person for a security officer job. And the right mindset will also result in reduced turnover, hiring and training costs.
Aggressiveness techniques needed to combat terror are easily be incorporated into training here.
A proactive approach that involves engagement and questioning suspicious activity serves to deter threats before they unfold. It’s a better approach than Observe and Report and can be effectively integrated into SOPs.
Israelis employ a run-stop-shoot maneuver which differs substantially from U.S. training which has officers shooting while moving. The latter is tactically safer for the officer while the Israeli method helps an officer come to a balanced solid stop, and serves to improve accuracy in order that an assailant be taken down more quickly.
Another tactic has the securing officer shooting with one hand while keeping the other hand elevated at his side to keep bystanders out of the line of fire, serve as a visual warning and help maintain balance.
Krav Maga is not a martial art but rather a fighting technique that takes weeks, not years, to learn. It’s intuitive, simple and aggressive. Because it is also important to know when not to shoot, Krav Maga is incorporated into the training, to be used when the action is at too close a range to make shooting feasible.
In Israel, guns are usually unchambered. In the act of drawing a weapon, an officer racks the slide and engages the target in one smooth, fast movement. In the U.S. where generally guns have a bullet in the chamber, there are cases where unchambered may well make more sense, for example, in environments where a juvenile could try to grab a gun or for those carrying concealed weapons.
Another common Israeli procedure is to conduct a quick weapons check after every firearm encounter where the slide is moved forward and the magazine set.
At the end of the two-day course, the instructors brought all learning modules together for scenario exercises that included Krav Maga, firearms and/or both. These mock drills clearly showed weaknesses and demonstrated better and best ways of handling them. Although there are legal and social differences between Israel and the U.S. which would make full on adaptation of all Israeli methods unworkable, still the seminar provided a good deal of information that security managers can apply to SOPs, use of force, deterrence and of course, training.