From the public libraries to Town Hall, from the chamber of commerce to the schools to the elderly housing complexes, Brookline police officers Casey Hatchett and Peter Muise have been making the rounds lately.
I don’t mean regular patrol rounds, here in our leafy Boston suburb. I mean they’ve been responding to invitations to come and teach residents — hundreds of residents — what to do if they find themselves facing an “active shooter” perpetrating a mass attack.
Sandy Hook is nearly 150 miles from Brookline, but over the past year, the legacy of that town’s trauma has become ever more visibly woven into the fabric of our town’s life.
I first noticed an offering for our town’s medical reserve corps: a workshop called “Protecting Yourself from an Active Shooter: Surviving the Unthinkable.” It included the “Run. Hide. Fight.” method laid out in the viral video above.
“If you are ever to find yourself in the middle of an active shooter event,” the ominous voice-over intones, “your survival may depend on whether or not you have a plan. The plan doesn’t have to be complicated. There are three things you could do that make a difference. Run. Hide Fight.”
Officers Hatchett and Muise include the video in their training sessions, but they also speak more broadly about the town preparations for emergencies and the growing prevalence of mass attacks in American life — well over 300 of them since the 1960s.
It’s not that Newtown changed police practices, the Brookline officers say — but it changed people’s attitudes.
“For us, it’s something we’ve trained for, and been thinking about a lot, and doing planning and training around for many years,” Hatchett said. “But I think it increased maybe our community’s appetite for discussing options.”
Several years ago, Muise said, there was some resistance when Brookline introduced school drills to practice what would happen in a lockdown. Now, people not only accept them, they’re eager for more.
“That was very hard to try and sell to people at first,” he said. “But once we did, then it was okay, and then it was people coming up to us saying, ‘That’s some good stuff. What do we need to do next?’ And that’s where we’re at now. What’s the next level? And ‘options’ is what we have.”
By “options,” Hatchett and Muise mean the “Run. Hide. Fight.’ doctrine that’s increasingly espoused by law enforcement.
“To date, the discussion has always been around locking down, hiding and locking down,” Hatchett said. “And now, what we’re trying to do, when we meet with people in the community, is to just have them consider that there are options — that locking down isn’t always the safest option for them. That if you can get out, and there’s a door 20 feet away from you and you can get to safety, that you should take that door. And get yourself and others to safety. And if you can’t, and you can’t hide effectively without being found by the subject, you have to consider fighting.” Continue reading