More than a decade after the shootings at Columbine
High School, the incident continues to shape the attitudes and concerns of the
education community and security professionals about the
vulnerability of schools and other public places.
If the police officers on the scene had known where the two shooters were, what
they were doing, and the status of potential hostages and victims, they could
have done more than helplessly set up a perimeter and wait for the assault to
Since 1999, numerous individuals have plotted to blow up a
school or, in the case of tragedies at Virginia Tech and other educational
institutions, sought to kill with automatic weapons, both in and outside of
schools. Most were thwarted, but some were successful.
Public Places as Targets
Threats of violence are by no means confined to schools.
Banks, government buildings, shopping malls, sporting and entertainment venues,
and other public facilities are attractive targets for madmen propelled by a
political agenda, personal animosity or simply the power of an evil mind.
Response to Deadly Force
In response, police training and policy have undergone a
significant shift. Instead of being taught to wait for the SWAT team to arrive,
patrol officers across the nation are receiving the training and weaponry to
take immediate action during incidents that clearly involve suspects' use of
Policy shifts and training initiatives are crucial to a heightened level of
public safety. But fully responding to threats of public violence also requires
An ESS Surveillance Access Unit provides a "wireless
window" into a hostage situation.