RENO, Nev. — There are families enjoying summer vacations today because a school bus driver identified a weapon a child brought on board the school bus, explained law enforcement and security expert Bret Brooks during the closing session last month at STN EXPO Reno.
Brooks, the senior consultant with Gray Ram Tactical and the training coordinator and policy advisor for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, noted that the conscious mind (about 10 percent of the brain’s capacity) shuts down during times of trauma and stress. Meanwhile, the rest of the brain – the subconscious mind – does not know the difference between what is real and fake. It stores our habits, personalities, beliefs and long-term memory. It also regulates body functions. Brooks likened the subconscious to being the warehouse of our life experiences.
Training helps with implanting in one’s subconscious mind what to do in certain situations.
“Training equals education and education equals better awareness,” Brooks said, adding that until someone is taught what a gun looks like, their eyes are unable to process it and therefore are unable to see it. This is referred to as the Language Shaping Perception Phenomenon, also known as Linguistic Relativity Phenomenon. Brooks explained people can only perceive what they have words to describe.
“Increase a person’s vocabulary and they can (perceive) more,” Brooks explained to School Transportation News following the training.
He demonstrated this concept by showing a number of boxes that appeared to be all the same color. But one color was slightly off from the others. Brooks said people can process colors differently based on their personal backgrounds. Research has shown that people from various parts of the world, even their sex can determine what colors they can see and not see.
Brooks continued, adding that everyone needs to have the mentality of being prepared for anything that might happen. He said there has been an increase in children with weapons getting to school via the school bus, meaning bus drivers are delivering potential killers to their victims. Therefore, it is important for bus drivers to recognize kids getting on the bus with a gun.
The most common weapons found in schools and school buses are perpetrators’ hands, arms, legs and feet that deliver punches and kicks. Other mundane yet more common weapons are books, backpacks and pens, items that children have every day.
However, an incident could escalate to the use of pocket knives, fixed-blade knives and pistols. Harder to conceal are rifles, shotguns and explosives. The type of weapon being used is as important as the underlying cause of why society is becoming violent, Brooks explained that bus drivers should be looking at body language and behavior.
In terms of indicators, he said certain questions should be asked. Does this person routinely carry a weapon? Have they been caught with a weapon before? Have they talked about/threatened others by carrying a weapon? Have they drawn or written about carrying a weapon in schools? He noted that in these circumstances it is important for transportation to communicate with the campus.
In terms of identifying a concealed weapon, Brooks said a person who is not used to carrying a weapon might check their gun constantly to adjust it and ensure it is secure and still there. Another tell-tale sign could include a stiffer arm or leg, when a weapon is concealed beneath clothing. Also, the person might unnaturally reach for an object rather than bend over or squat to pick it up. Sagging pockets or unusual bulges can also denote the presence of a weapon.
Brooks also asked, does the person’s clothing match the season? Are they wearing unusually baggy or tight fitting clothing? Is it cold, but their coat is unzipped? Why are they only wearing one glove? Why wear a belt if there are no belt loops?
He noted that most people will carry weapons based on how they have been trained, whether that is from what they see in the movies or from their parents.
As part of an exercise, Brooks invited groups of three attendees to accompany him outside of the session room and conceal a fake weapon. They walked back into the room and Brooks asked the other audience members to scrutinize how each one walked and moved to determine who had a weapon.
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Brooks added that the longer one takes to identify a weapon, the more the perpetrator’s confidence grows. He noted that in the past two to three years there has been a drastic increase in the number of school shooters getting to school via the school bus.
In conclusion, Brooks reminded attendees to never be afraid to call the police if they have a concern. If it turns out to be nothing, it is better to be safe than sorry. He said law enforcement is trained to handle people with weapons, so he advised the attendees not to try and confiscate weapons from students or others.
Sept. 25 is National “If You See Something, Say Something” Awareness Day, also known as #SeeSayDay, he noted. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the campaign aims to empower and educate the public on the importance of recognizing potential terrorism-related suspicious activity and how to report it to law enforcement.
Following the concealed weapon session, Brooks closed with a discussion about facility security. He obtained the addresses of transportation centers from several attendees, pulled up a Google Earth map, and discussed vulnerabilities and potential problem areas that should be addressed.