Perspective on police response to reported threats
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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — KOB 4 got more perspective on Thursday on how officers and citizens respond to threats in crowded places, after Albuquerque police locked down Coronado Center Wednesday amid a report that someone armed with a gun was inside the mall.
“You know it’s kind of scary, that kind of stuff that happens, but I’m grateful for the first responders that got here and took care of it and made sure everyone was okay,” said McKay Holt, who was shopping Thursday at Coronado Center.
KOB 4 Public Safety Expert and retired APD commander Paul Szych gave insight into how police respond to those situations and what people need to know if they find themselves in one.
He said when there’s a threat, like someone with a gun, officers are likely getting lots of information.
“You’re walking in and walking amongst large groups of people in a setting where you don’t know who the offender is or how many there are,” he said. “Using security and/or cameras in the mall as officers are approaching.”
Do police use a lockdown, or evacuate the area? Szych said these are tough decisions because any situation where someone may be armed can be dangerous.
“If in fact a lockdown is decided as the best course of action, the advantages are you’re beginning to gain control of the environment. Some of the disadvantages of that would be that the individual that may be armed is also amongst the individuals that are inside the structure,” he said.
Szych said there can be chaos and confusion for both officers and the public.
“It’s going to create a circumstance that’s very unpredictable and people are going to be scrambling to either get out of the environment, find their kids, find their family and flee to safety as officers are rushing in,” he said.
He said people need to be focused on getting to safety – either hiding or getting out of the area. Then they can call police if they have information to give.
Szych also said people are calling in fake threats more often.
“That’s a trend that’s extremely alarming and extremely damaging to the pursuit to bring about safety,” he said.
In New Mexico, it’s illegal to make false reports to police. It’s a misdemeanor, and it can mean six months to a year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
There have been proposals in the state legislature to increase penalties for false threats in various situations. None of them have passed in recent years.