Editorial: HPD stays out front with its active-shooter training programs

Tom Kennedy

NOTHING BETTER THAN A WELL-TRAINED police force. And nothing brings home this point than an able response to a lethal crime scene.

Let’s draw some comparisons. While at HPD, Officer John Barnes was well trained in the response to an active shooter. Now retired from the Department, Barnes was serving as school district police officer in Santa Fe when he followed the playbook when he confronted the active shooter who killed 10 individuals.

The praise rightfully heaped upon Barnes clearly showed that HPD more than did the right thing a few years ago when it undertook to train the entire commissioned force to run toward the shooter in these deadly circumstances instead of adopting the pre-Columbine tactic of securing a scene and waiting to react.

The playbook action Barnes used got him seriously wounded but widely praised for very likely saving other lives when he thwarted the teenaged student. The opposite was true not too long ago when a sheriff’s deputy in Parkland, Florida, was branded a “coward deputy” when he failed to use confrontation instead of the old laid-back scene security technique.

HPD has stayed ahead of most big-city police departments with active-shooter training which was required of every officer and implemented many years ago. Now every cadet goes through this process as a basic requirement for graduation. If new data emerges that calls for refresher courses, you can bet HPD will be at that forefront.

Meanwhile, the Department is scoring points on the civilian front. While some of the SWAT officers who initially taught the active-shooter training course have become trainers in outside departments as extra jobs, Stephen Daniel, HPD’s senior community liaison, continues to be in extremely high demand as a civilian active-shooter trainer for civic groups, churches and other

civilian groups. Since the Parkland shootings, Daniel’s backlog increased dramatically. He has 100 trainings scheduled between now and October. That schedule undoubtedly will become even busier.

Like the SWAT officers in their realm, Daniel has become a recognized leader in the active-shooter training field – on the civilian side of the ledger. As of May, he had conducted 1,219 sessions affecting 55,795 individuals. Those trainees probably spread the word about many of the basics taught in the course. The steadfast Daniel pointed out to the Badge & Gun that the Nov. 5, 2017 shootings in the church at Sutherland Springs stands out as an example of the importance of active-shooter training. No one at the scene of the tragedy had the training. Twenty-six people died. Daniel cites other shootings in recent months in which individuals with what he terms “an instinctive survival instinct” stepped forward like Barnes and confronted the shooter, thus cutting down the fatality rate.

HPD’s instincts are being supported more and more by the Houston community every day. Crimestoppers makes its facility available for civilian training on a regular basis. Also, the Stanley Corp. – the tool people – also has made its facilities available to train adults and students about the courage and instincts needed to confront shooters and save lives. We need more active corporations like Stanley to build the training momentum.

Fortunately, HPD is further down the road in this crusade than many other policing agencies. The Department has proven that better training saves lives and that builds community support like never before.

We need to keep it up as we pray for the full recovery of John Barnes, a well-trained HPD retiree who will remain “one of our own.”