(CNN) – Police’s decision to wait to confront the shooter at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde was a failure with catastrophic consequences, experts say. When it all ended, 19 students and two teachers were dead.
While Salvador Ramos, 18, was in adjacent classrooms, a group of 19 law enforcement officers stood outside the school classroom for about 50 minutes waiting for the room keys and tactical gear, CNN reported. Meanwhile, children inside the classroom repeatedly called 911 and asked for help, Texas officials said.
Col. Steven McCraw of the Texas Department of Public Safety acknowledged errors in the police response to Tuesday’s mass shooting. The on-scene commander, who is also the Uvalde School District Police Chief, “believed he had gone from an active shooter to a barricaded subject,” McCraw said.
“It was the wrong call. Period. There’s no excuse for it,” McCraw said of the supervisor’s call not to face the shooter.
“Every second counts” during active filming
Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association (NTAO), said the commander’s decision was “100% wrong”. A barricade calls for officers to slow down their response, analyze whether the subject is alone and negotiate, he said.
“If you’re in a classroom with innocent victims and I know shots were fired, I need to hire you. Even if you stop shooting, I will enter the room so we can begin administering life-saving aid to any potential victims,” Eells said.
The belated police response to Uvalde goes against well-established and commonly taught active shooter protocol established after the 1999 Columbine school shooting, Eells said.
“Even under fire, officers are trained to respond to this threat because every second counts,” CNN law enforcement analyst Jonathan Wackrow said. “What we’ve seen here is that the delay has taken the lives of children, period.”
As the Columbine shooting unfolded, Colorado police waited about an hour after gunfire broke out in the school for SWAT teams to arrive, during which two young men killed 13 people.
Prior to Columbine, law enforcement was typically trained in tactical principles known as ICE, which meant isolate (the suspect), contain (the suspect), and evacuate (the scene). After engaging in ICE protocol, police would request a specialized unit from SWAT tactical teams to respond and engage with the suspect or suspects, according to Eells.
The Columbine shooting forced law enforcement to refocus on their response to active shooter situations. After Columbine, police began acting on behalf of those at risk rather than protecting themselves, Eells said. First responders have also started undergoing tactical training to prepare for active fire, removing some of the responsibility from SWAT teams, he added.
There are no national guidelines to standardize law enforcement training and response to active shooter situations. The NTAO was the first to develop an active-fire program and training courses, which have since been adopted or modified by other training organizations across the country, Eells said.
The program includes safety priorities to guide decision-making while officers respond to active fire, based on a person’s proximity to injury or death. They received instructions in all 50 states, according to Eells.
All training prioritizes engaging the subject first. The security priority list sees hostages and innocent civilians as the top priority, followed by law enforcement, then suspects, Eells said.
As their tactics evolved, law enforcement recognized that waiting even a few seconds to respond during an active shooter scenario is potentially catastrophic, Eells said. This prompted police training organizations to develop a more rapid response strategy. Now officers are taught to do whatever they can to stop the shooter as quickly as possible and even avoid helping the injured, Eells added.
“It is unfortunately a continuous and continuous learning process,” he said. “There’s a very good chance there will be some critical lessons learned from Uvalde, which could then find their way into our recommendations for how you might modify your response.”
A case shows how a quick response saves lives
Eells pointed to a 2013 shooting at a Colorado high school that shows how a quick police response can lead to very different outcomes. The shooting took place in two minutes, during which a high school student lit a Molotov cocktail and fired his shotgun into the school, killing a 17-year-old girl.
But the attack could have claimed many more lives had it not been for the quick response of a deputy sheriff who worked as a school resource officer at the school, CNN previously reported. Upon learning of the threat, the deputy ran to the shooter, identified himself as a county sheriff’s deputy, and told people to get off. While containing the scene, the shooter committed suicide.
Ramos was not confronted by police before entering the school, DPS regional director Victor Escalon said Thursday.
While active shooter protocols are widely recognized among the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies, the fundamental problem is the decentralized nature of policing standards at the local, state and federal levels, according to science professor Maria Haberfeld. policewomen at John Jay College. .
“The way Uvalde’s officers responded was consistent with the fact that they probably hadn’t received proper training,” Haberfeld said. Local police departments generally rely more on specialized tactical units, she said.
All Texas law enforcement officers are trained to follow guidelines for dealing with active shooters. In March, the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District held active shooter training for law enforcement officers in the Uvalde area, according to its Facebook page.
The manual states: “The officer’s first priority is to move and confront the attacker. This may include walking around injured people and failing to respond to calls for help from children.
The safety priority list, Eells said, would have served to guide officers at that time. The decision to wait in the hallway rather than force open the classroom door endangered innocent civilians while benefiting the shooter, he said.
“The whole time they were standing in the hallway,” Eells added, “even while they were evacuating the children, at the same time they should have engaged with the suspect.”
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