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Crimewatch: APD’s new Counter Assault Strike Team

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The Counter Assault Strike Team is the latest program the Austin Police Department started to engage active shooters.

APD learned a critical lesson from 2010's UT gunman incident that they weren't as prepared as they could have been.

The high crawl and low crawl are techniques that help keep officers out of a shooter's line of sight.

Both are required training for the Austin Police Department's new Counter Assault Strike Team or CAST.

Group training is critical since most officers don't train together. The SWAT team trains together but team work and trust comes with time.

Medical training is also crucial, especially learning how to apply a tourniquet on yourself.

While CAST is new for APD, the idea is not. The patrol rifleman has been around Austin for decades.

"Here in Austin Texas with our own unique history of the University Tower Shooting years ago, law enforcement realized a sidearm was not going to be enough to handle every situation so we've had patrol assault rifles out since I've been with the department over 22 years ago," said Commander Steve Deaton.

CAST is an upgrade with more training, more equipment and safer weapons. The assault rifles used are lighter, more compact, and have a better sighting system, which helps with aim.

While SWAT teams are equipped with full autos, CAST members use semi-automatics because they are actually more accurate.

CAST members practice shooting, clearing malfunctions, and switching firearms.

All the training is aimed at getting cast members ready. Some are high profile, others undercover.

"SWAT will be notified, they will be called up, patrols going to respond to the situation and now also CAST," said APD Assistant Chief David Carter. "Some designated will be sent to the incident but we will also send squads to other parts of the city."

Police say the average time for a killer's rampage, from beginning to end, is less than seven minutes. That's why waiting and not going after the shooter are no longer options.

"It's not realistic for the SWAT team to come out and solve the problem," said Deaton.

The concept was born in part after UT student, Colten Tooley, took an assault rifle onto campus in September of 2010. He fired off a few rounds before taking his own life. The whole incident took only a few minutes, but there was another lesson learned.

"We put somewhat all of our eggs in one basket. We had the majority of our resources down on the University of Texas, clearing all those buildings because we didn't know if it was one or two individual," said Deaton. "CAST is going to allow us to always have forces in reserve just in case there was an event perhaps a terrorist group might plan for more than one attack, more than one shooter in different parts of city."

The Columbine High School massacre was a wake up call for law enforcement. Police had to change the way they handled active shooters. That's when homicide in progress or hip training was born. It's required for every APD officer.

If another active shooter incident happens, CAST members will already be on the streets because the sooner they arrive, the sooner the shootings will stop.

Assistant Chief Carter also says the money for equipment came from forfeiture funds or seized from drug trafficking groups.

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