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Burnet council equips police for active shooter situations

Burnet Police Chief Brian Lee

Burnet Police Chief Brian Lee explains to the Burnet City Council what equipment is needed to help the department in the event of an active shooter situation. Staff photo by Nathan Bush

The Burnet City Council unanimously agreed to spend $25,000 on equipment designed to counteract active shooters. The vote came during the council’s regular meeting Tuesday, July 12, at the urging of Police Chief Brian Lee, who told councilors the tools will ensure efficient response to active shooters.

Lee will use the money to purchase ballistic shields, breaching equipment, an under-door camera, and distractionary devices.

“We need to have an efficient operation in any active shooter incident,” Lee said. “These tools are critical.”

Each device approved by the council will serve a different purpose, Lee explained. 

Ballistic shields enhance body armor protection for officers. The shields also provide a larger safe zone and protect vital organs. Lee plans for his department to use the new shields during everyday patrols as well.

“We plan to purchase four shields,” Lee said. “With that, we can deploy two shields on every shift. That way, we can always have two in the field. We can use them for an active shooter response or for slow-clearing buildings with alarms and open doors. It will afford us an extra level of protection.”

The breaching equipment, known as a Kinetic Breaching Tool, is used to bypass doors quickly and efficiently. The equipment will be able to breach inward and outward opening doors. The lightweight, 28-pound frame is much lighter than previous breaching equipment used by officers.

“Breaching historically has been done with a door ram,” Lee said. “They’re very heavy and awkward to use. We have some officers within the department that honestly can’t use them. This piece of equipment is much lighter.”

The department plans to house the breaching tool on the back of the fire engine. 

“The thought process behind (storing it on the fire engine) is if we have an active shooter incident, we’re not going back to the station to pick this piece of equipment up, but we know fire is coming,” Lee said. “I had a couple of eyebrows raised at me in the office when I told the guys we were going to put it on the fire engine.”

The under-door camera will help law enforcement see what is going on behind fortified or barricaded doors. Officers will be able to immediately understand the circumstances inside rooms before they make the decision to breach the door.

“We’ll use the under-door camera in slow-clearing situations when we know we have someone contained and need to make an entry,” Lee said. “It will give us a pretty clear view of what’s in that room before we make the decision on whether we need to make entry or back off.”

Officers involved in rescue operations during the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde on May 24 have been criticized for delaying entry into a classroom where the shooter was holding students and teachers hostage. An investigation is underway to determine how many of the 21 lives lost happened during that 77-minute standoff when police command treated the situation as a barricaded subject rather than an active shooter. An under-door camera might have helped in determining officer response. 

The council also approved the purchase of distractionary devices, which use bright lights and sounds to overwhelm and disorient offenders in the seconds after police breach doors.

“I’ve used these personally during SWAT team entries,” Lee said. “They are very effective.”

The department will reserve the use of the devices for dynamic situations, Lee continued. 

“You don’t use a flash bang at a loud party to get everyone’s attention,” he said. “It will be for a specific use.”

Lee was only able to produce quotes for the shields and breaching equipment, totaling roughly $18,000. The council approved an additional $7,000 for the department as the chief continues to search for an under-door camera and distractionary devices. The overall cost of the new equipment will be approximately $25,000. 

The council voted 7-0 to approve the purchase. 

The next regular meeting of the Burnet City Council is 6 p.m. July 26 at 2402 S. Water St. (U.S. 281).