How do the police reassure a jittery public in this time of active shooters?


We are living in an era where a state of fear has become our new normal. The spate of active shooters across the country has collectively made us feel an unease as we go about our daily routine.

The settings for the latest batch of active shooters were all locations where people felt safe: a family food festival, a Walmart store, and a downtown full of nightlife. Each of these targets seems to have been selected by the deranged suspects with some specificity.

It doesn’t take much of a stretch to see that they intended to strike terror not just in the moment but to create a sense of terror that would resonate over time.

On August 7 in Times Square, New York, a motorcycle backfired. The resounding pop was mistaken for gunfire and thousands of people stampeded though the streets in an attempt to escape the phantom gunman.

On August 8, at the convention center in Anaheim, California, a fire alarm was set off followed by some noise that led to a cry of “active shooter.” Hundreds fled the exhibit halls and into the streets. Within minutes there was a massive police response.

On August 6, the Grand Rapids Police Department tweeted a reassurance to the public that the coming “Purge” alluded to on social media posts was a hoax and to “save it for the movies.”

For some people the rash of shootings has created a sense of anxiety that triggers panic attacks even in the most mundane public places. In schools, businesses, and even churches active shooter training is now the norm.

It begs the question, “What’s the role of police in soothing a jittery public?”

Over the years police agencies have taken significant steps toward improving training and response to active shooter incidents. This has been evident in the overwhelming response by officers across the country when active shooter incidents actually do occur. The officers’ bravery and professionalism can’t be understated.

Police agencies such as the Orange County Sheriff’s Department have conducted training sessions for the public on how to respond to an active shooter event. The training sessions are usually full weeks in advance.

People are scared.

Efforts have been made to encourage the public to “see something, say something.” Originally intended to promote terrorism awareness, the intent now is to protect us from homegrown evil. The goal is to disrupt these individuals before they can ever inflict carnage. The challenge is to determine who is the real risk and who’s just not.

There is no accurate way to do that, is there?

Our thoughts and condolences go out to all of the victims of the recent mass shootings. Tustin Police Department, along with the Anaheim Police Department, Newport Beach Police Department, Huntington Beach Police Department, Santa Ana Police Department, Laguna Beach Police Department, Placentia Police Department, Orange County Sheriff's Department, CA, and the Orange County District Attorney’s Office came together to promote the national anti-terrorism campaign, “If You See Something, Say Something.”To learn more, please visit:

Posted by Tustin Police Department on Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Joe is a retired police captain. You can reach him at