MPD Chief Cathy Lanier
MPD Chief Cathy Lanier

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Active-shooter events like the recent atrocities in Paris and Mali that left scores of innocents dead have put many people on edge. “What am I supposed to do,” the anxious thinking goes, “if I were in that situation?”

D.C. police Chief Cathy Lanier, in an interview with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes Sunday evening, had an answer: “Your options are run, hide, or fight.” During a segment on how law enforcement responds to mass shootings, Lanier told Cooper that the Metropolitan Police Department has stepped up its training of officers for such emergencies in light of new ISIS threats, a type of training that local departments across the U.S. have conducted regularly since the Columbine massacre in 1999. Still, Lanier went on to explain, if a person cannot escape an active shooting but is “in a position” to incapacitate a gunman, doing so is “the best option for saving lives before the police can get there”—typically at least five minutes after a 911 call.

“That’s kind of counter-intuitive to what cops always tell people, right?” Lanier told Cooper. “We always tell people, ‘Don’t take action. Call 911. Don’t intervene in the robbery.’ We’ve never told people take action. This is a different scenario [and] we are telling people this now.”

Mass shootings, some experts argue, have become a public-health issue requiring a public-health response, meaning increased prevention, assessment, and triage. Discussing the 2013 Navy Yard shooting that left a dozen people dead, Lanier said 10 of the 12 victims were killed within six minutes (someone called 911 one minute and 36 seconds after the gunman first fired). So local police need to treat those kind of shootings as “homicide[s] in progress” and not just “wait for backup or the SWAT team” to intervene, she added. But people shouldn’t be afraid while preparing for active shootings, Lanier said; that only works against them.

“If you educate people on actions they can take to reduce their risk [of harm], then you can save some lives, and I think it’s irresponsible for us not to do that,” she said. “I’m not worried about an overreaction. I’m more worried about a numbness to what is potentially a reality… just ignoring it and not preparing yourself. That’s not an option anymore.”

You can watch the 60 Minutes segment here.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery