Crime

Preparing for That Once-in-Twelve-Millenia Tragedy

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The Virginia Tech massacre has predictably inspired a new wave of hysteria and legislation surrounding school shootings. Here, for example, local police lecture a school in Columbia, Missouri on what to do should someone open fire in the class room.

"We're going to try to educate everybody, teachers and administrators to think outside the box just a little bit," said Robbins, a member of Boone County's Swat Team. "And that is if the violence is at your door and you have a window to get out of, then get out the window."

"If the violence is bypassing you because they don't know you're there because you're huddling and being quiet, then huddle and be quiet."

Officers say the training is also applicable in other public areas where a similar situation could take place.

Try to get away. And if you can't get away, hide! That's some real outside-the-box thinking.

These sorts of programs are useless, accomplishing little more than spreading fear, as well as the misperception that school shootings are anything but exceedingly rare.

A few weeks ago, I got to hear the University of Virginia's Dewey Cornell, generally considered the leading expert on school shootings, give a presentation at a crime summit on Capitol Hill. Cornell estimates that the average middle school, high school, or college can expect an on-campus homicide about once every 12,000 years. Of course, no one wants to hear statistics like these when a school shooting hits the headlines.

One other thing, I've found in researching SWAT teams that the possibility of school shootings are often cited when local police departments ask local governments for funding to form a SWAT team. This is disingenuous for a couple of reasons. One, because of the statistics cited above. And two, because when the rare school shooting does happen, it's generally over before a SWAT could have scrambled to the scene, anyway.

Of course, once the SWAT team is in place, it's then overwhelmingly used to serve drug warrants.