How 1 October changed Las Vegas police procedure
The Oct. 1, 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas is the worst shooting in modern history. KNPR's Yvette Fernandez reports on how that shooting has significantly changed law enforcement.
Note: This piece begins with simulated gun shots. The sounds are called “simunition.” The drill simulates an ambush.
"So an ambush is basically, we're at a disadvantage automatically," Sgt. Jason Santos with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said.
It’s what law enforcement faced that day. Ambush training is now an integral part in learning how to regain the upper hand.
Santos explained two fundamental tactics:
"One is to remove yourself, we call it the X. And as they're known position, if they get off that X and find decent cover, that's why we have specific barricades out here that they can find to protect themselves in return fire appropriately. Or another option is what we call pressing the threat is when they move towards the actual suspect and just overwhelmingly overpower that individual with that type of tactic."
This training, called MACTAC, or multi-assault counter-terrorism action capabilities, is now taught at a multi-million dollar facility in northeast Las Vegas called JETI, the Joint Emergency Training Institute.
"This building is really meant for realistic scenario-based training," said Capt. Reggie Raider.
He oversees all the training at the JETI. He said the department began updating its training following lessons learned from a similar event in Mumbai in 2008.
"Mumbai is called the Las Vegas of India," Raider said. "When those attacks happen, I believe there was 20 individuals that were able to hold that city for well over a day and just killed a large number of people and as first responders were over converging, explosions were going off and it really just crippled that entire city based on that terrorist attack. when that occurred, our leadership here in the valley sent Las Vegas Metro Police officers over to do a case study on how that happened."
Lessons learned from the Mumbai incident were instructional. And there were plenty of lessons learned in the aftermath of 1 October, detailed in after incident reports from LVMPD and FEMA.
One issue: Officers could not get to their tactical gear and equipment.
"So a lot of our officers that were already on the event," Raider said. "They had the equipment with them, but it was at their cars, and then they were pinned down by gunfire. And then the mass confusion of knowing where the fire, the gunfire was coming from. So we've changed the way that we're doing some of those things the way we deploy. Our officers on these events will have designated QR F teams, which we call quick reaction force teams. We have a specialty patrol rifle that has some enhanced optics and some different barrel lengths so it's not a per se a full size sniper rifle by any means, but it gives officers on scene the ability to be able to engage in a threat that's even more further away."
One of the other things that they talked about in that FEMA document was that many officers were wearing their vests, but the vest worked positively and negatively, positively because people could identify them but negatively because they could become targets themselves. How has that changed? Or can you talk about that?
"I'll talk about it. So, we have those traffic vests that are highly visible. If somebody in need. If somebody needs assistance. They know Hey, that's not just security, that's an officer. I can go to them for help. But we do have contingencies worked in there where that officer is able to take that vest off at any time if it's going to be safer to do so they're not married to that vest and that is covered," Raider said.
Is that something that's new?
"Yes, because of one October, another thing, the tourniquets we … You know, police love being tactical and our gear you know, a lot of times is Black. Well, the that a lot of officers were being issued or purchased were black. And they would place tourniquets down on the ground and the mass casualty incident bags we had they were placed trying to get down on the ground. And then it would be hard to find them, you have to get your flashlight back out to look for it and to pick it back up. So now we've gone to high visibility, tourniquets, where and maybe we'll show you some of those later when we're doing the tour where it's very visible. So even in a dark environment, you'll be able to see that tourniquet and be able to apply that quickly."
Officer Charles Huff expanded on that, “Get that tourniquet on. You're not nice and high, you want to be above the bicep below the deltoid.”
One of the most significant changes is medical triage training. Huff teaches basic principles by engraining the MARCH Assessment.
"M.A. R. ... what's R? Respiration. How do we check the respiration and show me ... So we're checking right below the clavicle, that portion between the clavicle the actual pectoral."
Each medical scenario gets progressively more critical, the last one with simulated bleeding.
"So we may need to open the bandage up and cover this injury. We want to make sure that gauze doesn't blow out of the wounds," said Officer Spencer O'Rourke.
"Even if I'm giving 'em 10 to 15 extra seconds, that 10 to 15 extra seconds could be the difference between life or death and we're talking major arterial bleeding," he said.
Since the shooting, the country has seen several more mass shootings. Many in the law enforcement community consider the Uvalde, Texas school shooting a tragic failure in communication.
But Raider said it was less about a failure in communication and more about lack of appropriate training, training that induces stress.
"Because stress ... it's going to cause a few different things, it's going to cause some tunnel vision, it's going to cause some confusion. So, if you don't train for that regularly, on how to overcome those types of things, whether it be a leadership perspective, or going through the door into that danger zone, you will pause and you will hesitate and it's a tragedy what happened."
Raider said we can all arm ourselves with knowledge and awareness.
"Situational awareness is paramount. And that doesn't mean that you have to be looking over your shoulder every second, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy yourself, and let loose, especially at one of these venues, we're here to protect you. So you can have a good time with that venue," he said. "You should have a reunification point, listen, if something happens, if somebody gets lost, if the cell phones for whatever reason go out, this would be where we would meet up at, right? If there's a fire, if there is an active assailant, this is where we should go, this is going to be our closest exit. It's not a bad idea to have that crisis rehearsal, right?"