“This is an elephant,” the trainer declared. “And we’re eating it one bite at a time.”
No, the trainer wasn’t at a restaurant getting ready for a competitive-eating contest.
Rather, Joe Sandoval, of Mindset Tactical Solutions LLC, was talking police tactics – specifically, how to properly clear rooms during an active shooter response.
His point to the four-person team of Tustin PD officers who were making their way through an abandoned building on the old Tustin Marine Corps Base was to stress the importance of quickly and methodically declaring rooms clear of danger, and not going rogue to try and tackle everything at once.
Sandoval and three other Mindset Tactical Solutions trainers — Alec Bollhagen, Shaun Riley and Gabe Rivera, all four seasoned SWAT operators with years of tactical experience – recently spent four days taking two classes of 15 officers through a mixture of classroom and scenario-based training called MacTac, for Multi-Assault, Counter Terrorism Action Capabilities.
The point, TPD officials say, was to make sure the agency’s officers become trained in tactics in the event of an active shooter – in this case, trying to end the threat both outside and inside a building doubling as a school.
Armed with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles, the trainees wore safety masks so they wouldn’t get hit in the face by non-lethal training ammunition, which sting and can take an eye out.
Actors helped create a kinetic and dynamic environment by playing wounded, dead and terrified victims rushing out of the “school” as gunfire erupted.
MacTac training is becoming critical in law enforcement as the number of mass shootings continue to increase in the U.S., Bollhagen said. He cited a study that found that between 2000 and 2007, there were an average of seven mass shootings per year. Since then, the number has shot up steadily to 11.4 incidents per year.
The two classes were mostly made up of TPD officers. However, there were a couple of officers from outside agencies mixed in.
“MacTac not only focuses on training officers how to respond to active-shooter situations,” Gomez added, “but it also focuses on training and developing the mindset officers need to enter the affected area with one goal: to save lives.”
The scenario training involved responding to a shooter both outside and inside the building.
Trainers reminded officers not to stand around and to strive to move with purpose.
“There are a handful of things that we really want to drive home with them,” Bollhagen said of the trainees. “We’re not talking about setting up perimeters, we’re not talking about how we’re going to remove a bunch of students from the school to a reconciliation point. None of that is in the wheelhouse here. We’re teaching just the tactical aspect of it.”
In a debrief, Rivera told trainees that the idea is to have the shooter only see one of the four officers at a time.
“And what we don’t want you to do is start retreating,” Rivera said. “Don’t make it easier on the suspect. Keep the pressure on so that the suspect is reacting to you and you’re not reacting to him.”
The Mindset Tactical Solutions trainers praised the performance of the trainees.
“Tustin is a good agency,” Bollhagen said. “They’re pretty squared away.”