INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Police officers consider it an overlooked target for potential mass shooters — the workplace.
That’s why law enforcement in one KC-area city is focusing activities shooter training on businesses, where active shooters can sometimes find easy targets. Independence police officers often conduct preventative shooter training, but Tuesday’s session focused specifically on the workplace — stores and offices, for the most part.
The most recent FBI totals concerning active shooter targets show businesses are hit by mass shooters nearly twice as often as any other location.
FBI statistics from 2021 indicate 32 of the 60 mass shooting incidents from that year happened at centers of commerce. Active shooter incidents from 2022 have seen a sharp increase, with recent workplace violence incidents happening at a hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
Independence Police Officer Jack Taylor, who conducted Tuesday’s training session, said there’s no perfect plan that applies to all businesses. His training sessions encourage business operators to develop a plan ahead of time, which includes simulation of the urgent decision to run from, hide from or fight off attackers.
“Every building is laid out differently. Every building has different entryways, has different office space,” Taylor said. “We find it not only gives them experience on how to react. It also gives them deficiencies in the plan — if we’re deficient in how we notify people of an attack.”
People representing as many as 60 metro businesses attended Tuesday’s training session, which was organized by Independence’s Chamber of Commerce.
Recent metro events involving mass shooters at businesses still feel urgent, including the early 2020 shooting at 9ine Ultra Lounge in Independence, where two people were killed and another 15 were injured by a man with a gun.
“You have to resist the urge to give in and just cower under. This person is trying to do damage very quickly, and you’ve got to do something to prevent that,” said Ray Demes, who works with a metro cleaning company.
“How am I going to let my staff know? What am I going to do with all my clients? Depending on the day, sometimes, we have older clients in there. All of these were running through my head,” Lisa Lufft, who manages a salon in Independence, said.
Taylor recommends business owners have their employees practice their active shooter plan twice a year — maybe more, depending on employee turnover. Police remind us: It’s one thing to have a strategy, but it’s tough to simulate that moment where crucial choices must be made.