Over the past six months, Santa Cruz police were alerted to three incidents where the potential for someone becoming an active shooter was present. These events made us pause and think about how our officers and investigators are trained to assess the validity of mass casualty threats. Most often an officer talks to the reporting party and subject. They make a determination based on the guy’s mental health or criminal history and either arrest, detain or release. That is not good enough.
As chief, I have entrusted this decision making to our officers. Unfortunately, the police lack specific training in threat assessment. Even then, if they were to assess the threat as viable, their options are very limited. Many of those who are potential shooters have not committed a crime yet, nor do they fit the criteria for a mental health hold.
As schools start up again, SCPD is training each of our officers in a threat assessment protocol. We are forming teams of specially trained officers and investigators in the latest research on the pre-incident behaviors and signals of active shooters. SCPD will run each threat to the ground to determine as best we can the validity of each threat and take action to prevent a shooting. If the government can do threat assessments for the President of the United States, how can we not do it for our community members and students?
Officers recently deployed this burgeoning strategy. They assessed the subject to be a potential threat, obtained a Gun Violence Restraining Order, and seized 20 guns from the individual. They also sought help for the subject from our county mental health partners. A correct threat assessment is our best opportunity to prevent mass casualty events. You can help us: If you see something, say something.