Friday, July 20, 2012

Kansas City Police increase security in wake of Colorado shootings

A horrible tragedy took place today in Aurora, Colo., with a gunman killing 12 people and injuring dozens more in a crowded movie theater. Our hearts are with the victims and their families as they try to cope with unthinkable trauma and loss.

The victims were regular people going about their regular lives – not doing anything risky or dangerous. This makes many of us question, “Could something like that happen to me?” We have received several inquiries today about how Kansas City Police might handle a similar incident. While we pray nothing like this ever will happen again in Kansas City or anywhere else, KCPD is very prepared if it does. One of my strategic objectives when I became Chief was to enhance the police department’s ability to respond to critical incidents.

This morning, we arranged for increased police presence in and around movie theaters. These police will be both in uniform and covert. KCPD also uses an Asset Protection Response System for several local facilities. Through this, police have blueprints and layouts of many locations in Kansas City where large groups of people gather, from schools to hospitals to businesses. Officers can pull these up in their police cars to help them better navigate a location and get to a threat quickly.

In the case of movie theaters specifically, many in Kansas City, Mo., employ off-duty Kansas City Police officers for security and/or have other security measures in place.

All the police presence in the world, however, sometimes cannot be enough to stop a disturbed individual with a weapon. That is why it is immensely helpful for members of the public to report anyone they see acting suspiciously. Do not hesitate to call 911 in such a situation.

Additionally, our officers train for active-shooter scenarios frequently, and that training is constantly updated. When a tragic incident like that in Aurora takes place, we evaluate what happened and use it to enhance our training and response.

The shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 taught us a tragic lesson: in an active shooter scenario, police cannot wait for specialized tactical teams to arrive. That is why all of our patrol officers are trained to respond to and eliminate the threat of an active shooter as quickly as possible. Officers rehearse these scenarios everywhere from high schools to banks.

That preparedness was evident in April 2007 when a man armed with a gun killed two people in the parking lot of Ward Parkway Center and then made his way inside while continuing to fire at anyone he could. Dozens of police were on the scene in minutes. One patrol officer quickly tracked the suspect down in the mall and shot him, fatally wounding him before he could hurt anyone else.

Give your thoughts and prayers to those who were victims in that movie theater, but don’t let incidents like what happened in Colorado prevent you from carrying on with your day-to-day activities. No one benefits when we live in fear. I’m planning to go to the movies this weekend, myself.

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