Retired police lieutenant talks about balance between notifying public, responding to threats in wake of Highland Park shooting

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. – After authorities confirmed that the man accused of killing seven people during a mass shooting at a Fourth of July parade in the Chicago suburbs considered a second attack in the Madison area on the same day, many are concerned that events went on as normal in the Madison area.

During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Barnes said local law enforcement officials didn’t learn of Robert Crimo III’s intent until Wednesday morning.

“I will share this: on Monday, July 4, at approximately 5 p.m., the FBI contacted the Madison Police Department and requested mobilization of our SWAT team. They believed the suspect could be in the Madison area,” Barnes said. “Our SWAT team began the process of mobilization and staging when we were subsequently informed that the suspect was already in custody in Illinois. At that time, we released our teams.”

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Upon learning this information at the news conference, News 3 Now aimed to learn why the general public was not informed of the SWAT team getting called or an active threat in the Madison Area.

“There’s a lot occurring at the time, and there’s a lot of information that the public does not know about these types of events,” said Brian Landers.

Landers served 19 years with the Wisconsin Dells Police Department and retired there as a lieutenant. He then went on to work for Madison College where he continues to work full time.

Throughout his career and currently, Landers works to create training for active shooter situations.

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“There are thousands of pieces of information that law enforcement has to try to gather,” said Landers.

For Landers, the situation in Highland Park came close to home in more than one regard.

“My niece lives in Highland Park,” he said. “I made contact with her and she was actually at the parade. (She) and her family were able to escape unharmed.”

Landers says that while actively responding to a situation, the primary goal of law enforcement is to handle the threat over informing the public.

“Although we live in a day and age in which we want to consume our alerts and our news instantaneously, law enforcement is prioritizing,” said Landers. “If they’re prioritizing that, they might have a lead on where the shooter might be, or their focus is on a specific target area, then there may not be an opportunity to inform the public,” said Landers.

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Landers says that it’s important to trust police in these situations to stop the active threat and that the motives of the shooter are oftentimes unpredictable.

“The average length of an active shooter situation is four minutes,” said Landers. “There is no way in four minutes that… any police agency is going to be able to respond, engage that threat, stop that threat, and start to evacuate and treat the wounded and then simultaneously get the word out to the public.”

Though these events are unpredictable, Landers has some advice for those with fears after the near attack in Madison.

“The biggest piece of advice is to trust your instincts, be diligent in your surroundings, and (be) watchful in your surroundings,” he said. “I don’t encourage people to avoid parades and festivals. I think that that’s part of our tradition, it’s part of our culture, we should be celebrating.”

Landers says the way for police to respond to this issue will take a lot of resources.

“Law enforcement is going to have to spend more resources to secure these events, which will include technology, personnel, and communities are going to have to foot the bill to better train, equip and hire more personnel for the security of these events if they want them to continue,” he said.

Landers said it’s the job of law enforcement to prepare for these events.

“It would be unacceptable for law enforcement to ignore the potential risks if they don’t want them to happen,” he said.