Education Session Recap: Active Shooter Training and Issues

Active shooter tactics evolve, as must law enforcement response. This was the impetus behind revisions in training at the Chicago Police Department.

In a Saturday afternoon education session at IACP 2011, officers discussed the evolution of active shooter response techniques and training.

For example, at one point the department used a diamond or wedge formation for movement through a structure during an incident. Officers discovered this was not tactically sound, though, since the flanks were exposed. Furthermore, the technique was not adaptable, as it required more than four officers to be truly effective.

Most recently, the department, in conjunction with its special weapons and tactics (SWAT) team, adopted the “heavy head” formation for active shooter training. Benefits include its wide use among other agencies, its adaptability, and its 360-degree security, among others.

Training is paramount to the Chicago Police Department’s success. Instruction has been condensed from four to two days, with a maximum of 25 students per class with six instructors, including a sergeant. Based on feedback and observation, the department has found that a focus on reality-based simulated scenarios is the most effective teaching tool.

The training progresses in the following manner:

  1. A test scenario is presented at the beginning of the class to determine the level of tactical competence.
  2. The scenario is taped and reviewed with the class.
  3. An identical scenario is run at the end of the class to bolster confidence and show improvements.

Reinforcement of techniques is essential at all levels of command and experience, according to the presenters, as active shooting response deals with human beings—one of the most variable things with which officers must deal.

IACP 2011 continues at McCormick Place West in Chicago, Illinois, through October 26. For information, visit To receive notifications when new blog entries are posted, click the “Follow” button on the upper left of your screen.

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