Episode 07: Tactical Training for Leadership

Episode 7

Aug 27, 2018

Duration: 32:06

Episode Summary

Discussion of leadership engagement, tactical training for leaders, and leadership modeling.

Episode Notes

Episode 07: Tactical Training for Leaders

Discussion of leadership engagement, tactical training for leaders, and leadership modeling.

Bill Godfrey: 
                  
Hello, and welcome to our next installment of our podcast series on active shooter incident management training. My name is Bill Godfrey, a retired fire chief, and one of the instructors for C3 Pathways. I'm your host today, and with me is Michelle Cook, also one of our instructors but recently retired from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office after 26 years. Michelle retired as the director of patrol and enforcement, which in layman's terms, Michelle, basically you were the ops chief -

Michelle Cook:               
I was chief, yes.
Bill Godfrey:                   
About 1,200 uniformed officers.
Michelle Cook:               
Yes, sir, 1,200.
Bill Godfrey:                   
And now she is enjoying life. For the last year, she is the police chief of Atlantic Beach Police Department, a small, beach-side community, beautiful little area, with ...?
Michelle Cook:               
30 officers.
Bill Godfrey:                   
30 officers.
Michelle Cook:               
30 total officers.
Bill Godfrey:                   
From 1,200 to 30.
Michelle Cook:               
30.
Bill Godfrey:                   
So something tells me we're going to be coming back to some stories there about the difference between large agencies and small agencies. But in this episode we are going to be talking about tactical training for leaders, both on the law enforcement side and the fire department side.
Michelle, you've been on the job for 27 years so you were around when Columbine occurred in '99. And as we all have so often pointed to this kind of watershed moment of, "Wow. Things need to change here. We need to make an adjustment," give us a look back from your perspective on the changes that you've seen both in the tactical training for line officers, for patrol officers, and then also the training that went with that for leadership on the law enforcement side and how to manage these incidents differently.
Michelle Cook:               
Sure. So Columbine happened in 1999 and in that year, and the previous couple of years prior to that, I was working part-time at the police training academy. So when Columbine happened, I was there when we evolved our tactics. We knew that, at that point, surrounding the building and calling the SWAT team was no longer going to work. People were dying because that was our strategy, and so we knew that wasn't going to work. So following Columbine a series of evolutions came out, tactical evolutions, that saw the introduction of contact teams. You know? First they were diamond shaped with five people inside, and then it went to three people, and we've evolved so far today that a lot of agencies are pushing the solo officer entry, if that is the best route for that officer at that moment, at that event. So tactics have definitely evolved since 1999, and they continue to evolve.
Up until C3, what I haven't seen is the evolution of, "How do you manage these incidents or events?" So pre 1999, I'm a patrol supervisor on the street; an active shooter call goes out. I tell my officers, "Surround the building. Wait for SWAT." SWAT shows up. SWAT command does their thing; they take charge of the building. When tactics change for a patrol officer to make entry, we never trained the supervisors on how to lead or manage that entry. So as tactics have changed, leadership and management of these incidents and events hasn't evolved, and that's really where we have a training gap now.
Bill Godfrey:                   
It's interesting the way that you've put that. I think in a lot of ways, we have a very similar gap on the Fire-EMS side. Of course, the fire service has been using ICS for years, and in some ways that has grown a level of self-assured confidence that we can kind of manage or handle anything. And one of the things ... You know? You mentioned C3 beginning the work in this area quite a few years ago now. One of the things that led us to that was kind of the "whoops!" moment where we went, "Okay. The way we manage a fire applied to an active shooter event is not having the kind of outcome that we want, and we need to perhaps look at this and see if there aren't some things that are different." And of course, there were, and there are some things that we train to very, very differently on that front.
It reminds me though ... You know? Sheriff Kevin Barry in one of our previous podcast episodes was talking about the challenges of being the chief, that the higher level leadership ... You know? You're inundated day to day ... And I remember this from my time too. You're inundated day to day with budget meetings, and paperwork, and HR issues, and purchasing stuff. It can be very difficult to say, "I'm going to take an entire day and go to training. I'm going to take a week and go to training and set that time aside." It's very easy to push it away. And Kevin was making the point that sometimes as a leader, you've just got to suck it up and get it done and recognize that it's a priority. Do you think that that is impacting, in a negative way, our ability to get leadership across the country prepared to manage one of these events?
Michelle Cook:               
I think that's part of it. I think there's a couple of other things that are happening too. You know? We have the busy schedules. We also have this, "Well my guys will handle it. My guys will go in there and kill the bad guy, and my guys will handle it and it'll be taken care of," and what we've learned is active shooter incidents are much bigger now than just going in and killing the bad guy. And up until C3 Pathways, there was never a template of how to manage these incidents so that the tactics guys were knocking it out of the park with the evolution of how to go in there and mitigate the bad guy.
What wasn't happening prior to C3 Pathways, there was nobody saying, "Hey, this is a way to manage it. Here's a template for you to use. This is how you, as leadership, can manage this large event that is going to expand very rapidly. And within minutes you're going to have hundreds of resources there." There never really existed a template for leadership so the combination of being really busy, passing the buck to your guys to handle it, and a template being out there, I think, all led us to where we have found ourselves, which is a lot of leaders have been caught on their heels, so to speak, not understanding what's happening or how to manage it. You know? I'm not going to point out any particular recent event but if you look at them as a whole, how many times did you hear on the radio we had line level officers, Fire-EMS trying to do their job and somebody in management was saying, "Well hold on. Wait a minute. Wait until I get there. You guys don't go in yet"? And that's because that leader failed to understand the tactics that were occurring, and failed to prepare themselves to manage those tactics.
Bill Godfrey:                   
That's a really interesting point. When you think about some of the exercises that both of us have done and been involved in, we've seen that occur just in exercises and training, where the command post ... And I've seen it happen on the medical side as well, in Fire-EMS. There's this challenge of, "When is the warm zone really warm?" or, "When is it warm enough?" and hesitation from the command post in wanting to let the rescue task force go downrange, or wanting to let them move downrange, and I always kind of found that interesting. Because you're trying to get your head wrapped around something that you can't directly see and observe, as opposed to the police officers that are already downrange who are saying, "We're ready for the medics. Send me the medics. Send the rescue task force." And they know what that means. They understand what they're asking for ...
Michelle Cook:               
But the leadership doesn't.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Right.
Michelle Cook:               
Because the leadership has not attended any training, looked into what their guys are actually practicing, or attended any training themselves. So if my guys are using terms downrange, and describing things that I've never heard before - warm zone, hot zone, cold zone, red, greens, casually collection points - if I don't know what those mean as a leader, the natural tendency is to say, "Well hold on, guys. I need to come look at this before I let anything happen."
Bill Godfrey:                   
"I need a minute."
Michelle Cook:               
"I need a minute." Because, you know? You have to prepare the brain for the actual event. And if you as a leader have failed to prepare your brain for what can eventually happen, then you're going to get caught off guard. And that's the lapse that we're seeing. That's the, "Hold on, guys. Wait a minute. Wait till I get there," that we've seen in recent events, and unfortunately people die because of that.
Bill Godfrey:                   
And I think that's my frustration in trying to communicate the challenge sometimes. It's not about right or wrong.
Michelle Cook:               
Correct.
Bill Godfrey:                   
It's not about right or wrong. It's not about, "There a right way to do this and a wrong way to do this," or even a best way. It's a question of the clock. You've got two things that are going to kill people: the bad guy and the clock. I mean, law enforcement, last 10 years - you can look at the numbers and look at the data - historically, putting the bad guy down very quickly.
Michelle Cook:               
Correct.
Bill Godfrey:                   
That active threat is ending in minutes. It's very quick but yet we keep managing to fumble the opportunity to quickly get medical care in to patients, and then quickly get them transport. That's the other thing of this, is ... You know? It's not just enough to get the RTF downrange; we've got to get those patients out again. And so that whole hesitation from the command post that says, "Oh, I need a minute to get comfortable with this ..."
Michelle Cook:               
Correct.
Bill Godfrey:                   
We're just burning clock.
Michelle Cook:               
Sure. And we haven't trained with our counterparts on the Fire and EMS side. So not only have I not trained to the tactics that my guys are using and understood those, I haven't trained with the Fire-EMS guys. So when the guys downrange are talking about rescue task forces and I have an EMS person walking up, I don't know what they're talking about because I have failed to prepare myself.
Bill Godfrey:                   
I think the fire service as a whole ... EMS as well, but I think the fire service kind of takes the brunt of this. We've missed an opportunity to make it welcoming to the Incident Command System. You know? Between the fire service being very rigid-
Michelle Cook:               
Sure.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Very rigid. Very black and white, very rigid, very dictatorial about how ICS is supposed to be, and have to do it this way and have to do it that way.
Michelle Cook:               
And policemen think ICS is a bad word.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Yeah, exactly.
Michelle Cook:               
Right?
Bill Godfrey:                   
Which is largely our fault, and FEMA played a part in that a little bit too. Somewhere along the lines, law enforcement, they not only think ICS is a bad thing, is a bad word, they think a tractor trailer full of paperwork is going to back up to your scene and dump 10 tons of paper on you scene. That's not what it's about at all, and I think we've got some work to do there, but I think even on the fire side, there are some gaps for us as well because the functions and the command posts in an active shooter event are very different than what they typically are in how you run a fire.
In a fire, it is typically a fairly flat hierarchy. It's the, the battalion chief is in command, and he is directly ... All of the troops that he's directing are direct reports. We don't see a lot of these where there's a bunch of divisions and branches. It happens sometimes, but it's not very common, and the incident commander, as that battalion chief in that fire, is actually providing not just strategic directions but tactical direction. That doesn't work in an active shooter event. No, that tactical direction has got to come from the tactical and triage level-
Michelle Cook:               
Who are at the scene.
Bill Godfrey:                   
-at the scene, at the edge of the warm zone, and the command post has a whole host of other issues that they've got to deal with and manage, and I think that from the fire side, there's just a failure to understand that not only do we need to implement those layers, but we really ... These things are a bottom up driven event. You have got to trust the eyes and the ears, and the judgment of the people down range and support what they're trying to accomplish rather than trying to dictate the tactics that they're going to execute.
Michelle Cook:               
Sure. Sure, and that goes back to if you understand and train with the guys at the line level on what they're doing and what their competency is, and you have a trust in them, and you trust your fifth man, you trust that tactical person to be making those calls. If you're at the command post, and this is another interesting thing about police work, is in many cases, for years, the police command post has been at the scene, like on top of the scene.
I know firemen are guilty of that as well, but the closer we can get to it, the better, and that's just not going to work here because if you trust your line level officers to be handling the job, and you trust your tactical to be working with triage and transport to get the injured off the scene, there's a whole host of things that need to be happening at the command level that you cannot do if you're in the weeds at the scene. But because we haven't trained on what's going on, we resort to what we know, which is getting back into the weeds.
I've listened to audio clips where you have captains and police officers of higher rank trying to dictate line level tactics at the scene, and they're not even there. That's another kind of cultural change in the industry that we have to see.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Officers, you trust them with a gun and with bullets, and on the fire side, we're trusting the medics with drugs and a defibrillator and an advanced airway, but somehow, now all of a sudden, in this environment, we're hesitant to trust their judgment a little bit. It's interesting.
Michelle Cook:               
Well, I'm not sure if it's hesitant to trust their judgment. I think we're hesitant because we don't know what they're doing, because we haven't been there to train ourselves. It goes back to, "Well, I'm too busy. My guys can handle that. It'll never happen here. I'll send my guys to the training." We've hosted several training events over the past year here, and I'm getting line level officers, which is great, but we're trying to teach incident management here and they're sending line level officers. I think it's hesitancy because they don't understand what's happening, and they're not prepared because they haven't engaged in training.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Meanwhile, the sergeants, lieutenants, captains are going to be the ones there that are going to be expected to put their arms around the thing and there's a gap.
Michelle Cook:               
Sure. Sure.
Bill Godfrey:                   
So, given this gap that we've so eloquently discussed here, what's your short list? What are the things that a leader ... What's a modern day law enforcement leader need to know about managing an active shooter event? What's your short list?
Michelle Cook:               
I think you have to research active shooter incident management. C3 Pathways is a way. For me, it makes sense. It works, so I think you, as a law enforcement leader, have to find some active shooter incident management training out there somewhere and you have to attend it. Don't send your people. You've got to go yourselves.
I think you also need to attend active shooter tactical training that your officers attend. Number one so you understand it and number two, there's a chance, especially for somebody like me who works at a small agency, there is a chance that I could be a first responder, and so you have to understand what tactics you guys are training to so you don't muck it up the day of.
I think those are probably the biggest things. Then, you've got to make nice with the firemen and EMS that work in the area. I think you've got to do that, and you've got to talk these concepts with them so that game day, everybody is on the same page.
Bill Godfrey:                   
If I were to have a short list on the fire/EMS side, similar in many ways, I think that leadership of fire/EMS needs to get to the training that the line people are taking. They need to see it, they need to understand it, they need to go through it and have the opportunity to ask some questions. I also think at the command post, they need to understand that where you normally in your role of leadership in the fire service are very tactically driven.
You're very operational and hands-on, that in the command post, that's not going to be the role. That role is instead going to be handled down range by the tactical triage and transport officers that are operating at the edge of the warm zone, and that it has got to be a bottom up driven event. This idea, and I think the other piece of this, and they're kind of tied in together, is the idea of over-driving it, or what I'm going to call micromanagement from the command post has got to stop-
Michelle Cook:               
Got to stop.
Bill Godfrey:                   
You've got to get that out of there, it's got no place, and then the other thing is this false security blanket of unified command is going to solve everything. We, of course, know you were part of the research that we did when we had some gaps that came up because of relying on that. If you stovepipe through the top and try to run everything operationally through the command post-
Michelle Cook:               
It's not going to work.
Bill Godfrey:                   
-through unified command, it's not ... Well, in fairness, it's just not going to be fast.
Michelle Cook:               
Right, it would be slow.
Bill Godfrey:                   
You'll get there. It's slow.
Michelle Cook:               
Yes.
Bill Godfrey:                   
It's not going to get the job done quickly, and I think what has happened is we've confused, in the fire service, unified command, which is a very specific term with a very specific meaning, and as an old guy who was on the job when we invented it and added it to the ICS vernacular, it was developed to deal with this situation where more than one entity had a legal authority to be in charge of the incident, and we've confused the idea of unified command with what I think we really should be talking about, which is unified management.
Up and down the food chain, we need to have line level law enforcement officers and line level medics that are trained and know how to work together on their teams, be it rescue task force or other functions. We need first level supervisors, sergeants, in some cases lieutenants too, or corporals or advanced level officers on the law enforcement side, and company officers on the fire and EMS side who understand the role of tactical triage or transport, and understand how that fits together. Then, the leadership, the executive level leadership, needs to understand that the role of the command post is to support those missions but also the much larger community impact, the messaging, if you're dealing with one of these-
Michelle Cook:               
Sure.
Bill Godfrey:                   
-events at a school, you and I have had these conversations so many times.
Michelle Cook:               
Sure.
Bill Godfrey:                   
It used to be you could wait 30 minutes before you started putting the message out. Your parents are going to be at these schools before your full response shows up.
Michelle Cook:               
Sure, and I want to go back on something you just said. I was recently invited to a law enforcement panel discussion with the community, and there was probably about 100 citizens there. There was three law enforcement leaders there, including myself, and a citizen asked "If an active shooter happened at XYZ location, who has jurisdiction?"
My response to that citizen was, "If we're all training together or working together, until the last injured person is transported off that property, it doesn't matter who has jurisdiction because we're all on the same team, and the team is there to stop the killing and stop the dying. Then we'll talk about who has investigative jurisdiction." I think that lends to the value of leadership training and leadership relationship building with those jurisdictions around you, both police, fire and EMS.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Fantastic point. Travis Cox, who you know, a lieutenant with Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, one of our other instructors on another episode, he made the point that if this comes to your hometown, it doesn't matter what patch is on your sleeve. It doesn't matter whether it's a law enforcement patch, a fire department patch, an ambulance patch, a hospital patch. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter what jurisdiction. We are there to save lives, and we've got to work through all of that. The other point that he made that I thought was really very critical is that the ability to work together doesn't happen automatically.
Michelle Cook:               
No.
Bill Godfrey:                   
You've got to make an effort.
Michelle Cook:               
You have to make an effort, and as a leader of an organization, you have to lead by example. If you expect your line level guys up and down your chain to be making relationships with the other agencies around them the other officers around them. You as the leader need to be leading by example and they need to see you having conversations and training with both Fire, EMS and other police organizations.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Interesting. So I'm gonna come back to this size shift from the Jacksonville Sheriff's office of 1200 down to Atlantic Beach police Department of 30 officers.
Michelle Cook:               
That's 30 including me.
Bill Godfrey:                   
30 inclu ... well you know, we actually have had a number of active shooter events across the country where the police chief was one of the first ones in the door so you're right it's not unheard of but it does make me think. In law enforcement ... I mean across the country aren't most law enforcement agencies smaller agencies as opposed to these gigantic metro organizations?
Michelle Cook:               
Absolutely, absolutely. Most ... about 90% of law enforcement agencies have 25 officers, 50 officers or less. So most are small and it's really recognizing that has really made me step up my tactical game because I understand that being one of five or six people who may be on duty during the day, there's a good chance that if something happens in my community or on one of the neighboring communities, I'm gonna be a first responder.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Interesting. So you are in what I would consider to be a very unique position to have the perspective from a large agency down to a small agency. We just talked about what was on your hit list of leadership training. For the chiefs of police, sheriff's of rural communities and the leadership at the larger ones. What do you think are the differences? So we talked about the things that you needed to hit but tell me a little bit about how that impacts the large agency versus the small agency. Am I asking that? You're giving me the puzzled look. On the scale of the leadership of these large agencies, what are the things that they need to focused on versus-
Michelle Cook:               
Leadership of a smaller agency.
Bill Godfrey:                    The leadership at a small agency. As you're moving down the scale and size, what are the differences and challenges?
Michelle Cook:               
Well I think with the larger organizations you've got to stick with the tactical training and you have to make sure that your line level supervisors, sergeants, lieutenants, assistant chiefs or captains, whatever you have. All have both tactical training as well as management training, active shooter incident management training and can fill those roles. When I was at the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office being the number three in charge there was probably very little to any chance that I would ever be out and about near an active shooter scene in fact-
Bill Godfrey:                   
Did they even let you carry your gun back then?
Michelle Cook:               
I got to carry my gun but I was usually 30 to 45 minutes away so all the good stuff had happened by the time I got there. So I was really more in the management lane so to speak on those. The smaller agencies, you got to know from top to bottom. I got to know everything from tactical ... being a contact team. First person in the building all the way to briefing the governor an hour later when he calls. So I've got to be prepared for all of that. Both the first responder role to the command role and everything in between and it's ... the training's a lot more fun 'cause you get to engage some more of the hands-on training but especially if you're in a rural area and you don't have a whole lot of resources you need to be on your A game, all the time. Because there is ... you're it, you're it and if you don't know how to respond that's gonna be a problem and if you don't know how to manage it. To me the problem is going to be worse because in Jacksonville if 600 policemen responded they worked for me.
So they all knew my language, they all knew the codes, they all knew what to expect, they knew me. Something that happens out here in Atlanta beach, I've got probably six to 10 different agencies responding. They don't all know Michelle Cook so if I'm not making an effort to get out there and tell them what I expect in Atlantic Beach. Tell them how we're going to respond in Atlantic Beach and they understand what's gonna happen when they come into our jurisdiction then that adds to an already bad problem and I think you've seen that in a lot shootings. So many jurisdictions show up and they haven't trained together.
So that is a problem that I think smaller, rural communities face is not only are a lot of resources coming but a lot of resources who have no idea what to expect are coming.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Interesting. So let me ask you this one from these different levels that you've been at from large to small. For your contemporaries out there on the law enforcement side, law enforcement leadership. What are the suggestions or tips that you would give them about working with their fire services EMS counterparts? How do they engage, cut through politics, budget talk, hard feelings left over from 20 years ago of XYZ thing. How do you get the job done?
Michelle Cook:               
Persistence. We're very fortunate we have a fire station next door that is affiliated with the county not with the city and there are ... when I have a few minutes I walk over there and I start talking to them and I'm dealing with three different shifts so I got to hit them three times. I'll walk over there with diagrams, with a list of definitions and I'll just leave it on the table where they eat and hope they look at it. I invite them to every single training that we have and encourage them to come over even if they can only stay a few minutes. At least they're getting something out of it. And just persistence of, "hey guys" in fact this week they were watching the fire truck and I said, "Hey guys, what's the status of your body armor." And so they were talking about how their agency is gonna handle body armor so we had some conversation about well what if something happens out here at the beach? How are we gonna handle it?
And so even those little informal touches I think all lend to the relationship. It doesn't have to be formal meetings. It can be, "Hey I'm gonna come sit down with you while you're eating, hey let's talk about this." But I think you have to be persistent about it. You can't let it go, it's so easy. It's so much easier to just let it go and think, "Okay it will never happen here." But I don't wanna be that guy who's named in an after-action report or who's face appears across national news as failed to do her job. And I don't wanna let the kids down, the people down, the community down or my agency down and I think that if you're not looking at this realistically. If you're not making any effort to address this at your level then you're letting your community down. I'll just be point blank about. You're letting the community you serve down by not preparing for this.
Bill Godfrey:                   
I think that's very well put. On the far side I think it's part of just going to have the conversation. Making a deliberate purposeful effort to say to the Police Chief or to the Sheriff or to the Commander or whoever you've got the relationship with. To open the door and say I really wanna talk about this. We need to talk about this some more and start small. You mention inviting them to training, I think anytime you can do joint training between law enforcement, fire EMS and include the dispatchers it's a game changer in getting things done but I think the other thing on the fire services, we also need to not overstep our area of expertise. Active shooter events are essentially a murder in progress.
Michelle Cook:               
Absolutely.
Bill Godfrey:                   
And at no point is a fire department going to have legal authority to be in charge of a murder in progress. Not while somebody is trying to murder and while yes, we may be in charge of patient care. We can't do that patient care without access to the patients that is limited and controlled by law enforcement in an unsecured scene and certainly we're not gonna be in charge of the investigative stage. So I think a little bit of this, I don't wanna say, it's not so much a hat in hand approach but a knowing where we fit. That this is a type of incident where we are a supportive role. It's an important part of it but if we're going to save lives we have to work together. We might have the best medics in the world but if you can't physically get access to the patients because you haven't trained with you law enforcement officers, it isn't gonna do any good.
Michelle Cook:               
Correct.
Bill Godfrey:                   
If you're transporting patients in the back of a police car there's not patient care going on in the back of that police car.
Michelle Cook:               
Or you're taking them all to one hospital because we haven't prepared to manage this.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Exactly, exactly so I do think it is very much a two-way street but you make a really interesting point. Wow the time really flew by. Anything else that's on your mind that you wanna talk about as we wrap up here?
Michelle Cook:               
ICS is not a bad word. No this has been good. I just ... I encourage police leaders. Make the effort, make the effort because lives depend on it.
Bill Godfrey:                   
Michelle thank you very much for taking the time to do this today. I look forward to the next one.
Michelle Cook:               
Thank you.
 

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