Holder wants $15 million from Congress for ‘active shooter’ training

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. urged Congress on Tuesday to approve $15 million in funding for “active shooter” training for law enforcement officers in light of the recent shootings at Fort Hood, Tex., and two Jewish facilities in Kansas.

“In the face of this urgent and growing threat, when the lives of innocent people are at stake, those who stand on the front lines need our full and unwavering support,” Holder said in a video message. “This critical funding would help the Justice Department ensure that America’s police officers have the tools and guidance they need to effectively respond to active-shooter incidents whenever and wherever they arise.”

A 73-year-old former Ku Klux Klan leader has been arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of three people at a Jewish community center and a retirement home in a Kansas City suburb in a case that is being investigated by the Justice Department as a hate crime. And an argument among soldiers in the same transportation unit at Fort Hood touched off a mass shooting April 2 in which Army Spec. Ivan A. Lopez killed three people and wounded 16 others before killing himself.

Holder said that the FBI’s Behavioral Threat Assessment Center, which supports state, local and campus safety officials, has responded to a nearly 200 percent increase in requests for assistance in the past year and has helped detect and mitigate potential active-shooter threats.

“But we must also be prepared to respond quickly and effectively to active-shooter incidents if and when they do occur,” Holder said. “And in today’s world, the first response must often be led not by SWAT teams or specialized police units but by the very first patrol officers to arrive on the scene.”

During the Fort Hood shooting, the second mass shooting on the military post in five years, Lopez was confronted by a military police officer who fired a round when he pulled out his gun. Officials said the shot missed. Lopez then put his gun to his head and killed himself.

“All law enforcement officers must have the best equipment and most up-to-date training to confront these situations, to stop active shooters in their tracks, to protect themselves and to save innocent lives,” Holder said.

Between 2000 and 2008, there were about five active-shooter incidents every year, according to the Justice Department. Since 2009, that annual average has roughly tripled, Holder said.

“Literally any officer who arrives on the scene can be expected to act, very often before they get additional help,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which released a comprehensive report last month on lessons that can be learned from the police response to active-shooter incidents, including the Washington Navy Yard shooting and the January shooting at a shopping mall in Howard County, Md.

“The whole thinking about this has fundamentally shifted over the last 20 years,” Wexler said. “No question, there is definitely a need for training because these kinds of incidents are happening more frequently. The old thinking, that you contain and negotiate, that ended after Columbine,” the 1999 massacre by two Colorado high school seniors that left 12 students and one teacher dead and 27 students injured.

Over the past decade, the Justice Department and the FBI have helped provide active-shooter training to some 60,000 officers, on-scene commanders and local, state and federal agency heads, according to the Justice Department.

“This vital work must continue, but to provide training, we need adequate funding,” Holder said.

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department and criminal justice issues nationwide for The Washington Post, where she has been a reporter for 30 years. Follow her @SariHorwitz.
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