The current hot topic amongst Police Services is Active Armed Offender (AAO) incidents. As a result of numerous international incidents in recent years combined with several incidents on Australian soil, Australian Police Services are rapidly developing and rolling out specific training packages in order to prepare for the worst.


Active Armed Offender Incidents

In an AAO incident it makes little difference as to whether the offender/s are terrorists with extremist beliefs; a lone wolf with political grievances or somebody with family dispute issues, the result is going to be the same - a rapidly unfolding, highly unpredictable and tragic event with mass casualties. Regardless who is doing the killing, what their motivation is, the selected time, location or the weaponry preferred by the offender/s, the response to the incident will be the same - First Response crews must quickly locate and confront the offender in order to stop the killing. The greater the delay in this process allows the offender further freedom of movement and access to victims.


Those Officer’s first on scene must deal with the incident quickly, effectively and without the support or direction from Supervisory Ranks. Regardless of length of service, experience or rank, Officers must resolve the incident in the most timely manner. But for many State Service’s where does the capabilities come from to comprehensively deal with an AAO situation?


Adequate training for an AAO situation

To adequately handle an AAO situation, responding crews are going to need to be subjected to a significant multi faceted training package including stimulus response exposure via scenario training. Officers will require heightened education and to be trained in topics (but not limited to) approach and entry techniques including method of entry skills, room clearing drills, threat identification skills and advance first aid and trauma knowledge at a bear minimum. For many State’s, Officers who do arrive first on scene there is currently limited knowledge, tools and or equipment necessary to mitigate the risks to themselves in order to bring the incident to a timely end. They either haven’t had the training or the training is simply a cognitive exercise with no testing component.


The right equipment and the right tools

Equipment and resources are necessities when responding to major incidents. Having the right tools for the job is extremely important - Doors become walls when you don't have entry tools and injuries become colourful fountains when you don't have first aid supplies. Equipment is essential and will ultimately save lives. The talk amongst those with "boots on the ground" and not only the booming voice of Coroner’s post inquest which state the General Duty Officer with 2 years service was right in asking for the Bunnings $49.00 Sledge Hammer special being put in the patrol car and how it would have literally saved a life.


Specialised equipment is expensive on initial outlay but compared to lives it is priceless; compared to the expense of inquests as to why the injury or death occurred, the equipment is extremely cheap. A small amount of select equipment can go a long way in aiding responding Police to get the job done. Officers responding to the 2007 Virginia Tech Massacre spent several minutes attempting to breach doors that offender Seung-Hui CHO had chained together from the inside. With approximately $300.00 worth of specific method of entry equipment, entry could have been made rapidly and possibly reducing the toll of 32 dead and 17 wounded.


Knowledge is King

“All the gear and no idea” .There is no point having equipment (basic or gucci) and not knowing how to use it. For Police, knowledge is king. In comparison, knowledge is super lite, compact and easy to carry compared to equipment. One common denominator between all services is lack of money and resources to front line Officers and as a result Police have become rather savvy in adapting what they do have to making things work. An officer with higher first aid qualifications (knowledge) will make the most basic first aid kit work. A great example is the medical response to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. A total of 17 makeshift tourniquets were applied to critically injured casualties resulting in all 17 lives being saved. The resources and the equipment required to treat those victims didn't exist, but with the knowledge and understanding of the concepts of what was required, the individuals knowledge turn in to initiative and resourcefulness and the job got done with outstanding results.


Be ready for future incidents

From our recent history it is easy to see that critical, mass casualty events are rapidly on the rise. The Police mantra of being breath tested Any where, Any time and Any Place now describes the unpredictable environment that police operate within. Mass casualty events are no longer sandbox training scenarios to get people thinking, it’s now a reality. Reality to the point the general public are now being educated with simple anecdotes of Run, Hide, Fight. But what about those responsible for stopping those attacks? When will Police training and resources step up to what it should be to? Should it be the responsibility of concerned individual Officers to educate and equip themselves? One thing is for, Police need the training and the resources; the quality and quantity of each one of those elements is up for debate but we can only hope when the Senior Executive have that discussion the “What if my family is in there” mentality is applied and not the “Cost saving and promotion” mentality. You only get one shot at solving a deadly incident. Let’s hope our first responders have adequate tools to execute there roles should an AAO scenario present itself.

What’s your thoughts on what’s needed to best handle an AAO situation?