BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (KMSP) - Stu Robinson trains future police officers in the skills they'll need to get their peace officer's license in Minnesota. As part of that, he began teaching an active shooter training class earlier this year. Robinson, who has studied this training for years, says the way police approach these situations has changed dramatically over the last few years.
"You get into this job you know you are going to respond to crazy things, but this is on a much larger scale," Robinson said.
Since Robinson became a police officer 35 years ago mass casualty shootings like the one in san Bernardino were few and far between. Now, they're so common departments across the metro, like the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, train for them on a regular basis.
"We're telling them you will probably respond to one of these in your career. You may not have to shoot anybody. You may just be on the periphery, but you are going to respond to one of these."
Robinson says in the 1980's and 1990's police responded to mass shootings like the one that killed 21 people at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro California in 1984 by setting up a perimeter and waiting for the SWAT team to arrive to sweep the building. However, since Columbine, where many of the victims inside the school died waiting for police to get to them, officers are trained to go towards the gunfire and stop the shooter right away.
"We tell officers we tell students every shot you hear is somebody dying so we need to get in there and take care of that problem right now."
Robinson believes the shooting rampage at Accent Signage three years ago was the first time Minneapolis police used the single officer response strategy. And since nearly 300 officers from different departments descended on the scene, Robinson says future officers also get incident command training so police firefighters and paramedics aren't tripping over one another.
"It’s unfortunate. It shouldn’t be this way. It’s a reflection of our society. I don't have any easy answers. We know there are going to be these threats. It’s gonna happen. It’s happened in Minnesota already and I don't know of anything that is going to prevent them."
Many police officers now carry rifles in their squads instead of shotguns because they are more accurate from farther away. The Hennepin county sheriff also made a video called “Run, Hide, Fight” that offers suggestions on what to do in an active shooter situation.