If you really need further evidence of how foolish it is to surrender your right to protect yourself and defer to government employees who are supposed to assume that responsibility, the record of police non-response during the Uvalde mass murder should do the job. Those who, in the future, continue to insist that we disarm ourselves and venerate government enforcers who are tasked to protect us should be unceremoniously kicked to the curb.
"At Robb Elementary, law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety," finds a devastating report published July 17 by the Texas House of Representatives Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting. "The first wave of responders to arrive included the chief of the school district police and the commander of the Uvalde Police Department SWAT team. Despite the immediate presence of local law enforcement leaders, there was an unacceptably long period of time before officers breached the classroom, neutralized the attacker, and began rescue efforts.
That delay (73 minutes in the report, or 77 minutes according to news stories) was documented in excruciating detail in video of police response published last week in both edited and full form by the Austin American-Statesman and KVUE before it was formally screened by authorities.
"We know now…that some students quietly called 911 from inside the classrooms for help, a critically wounded teacher could hear officers just outside the classroom, and that 911 dispatchers were fielding their calls of desperation," Manny Garcia, executive editor, wrote for the Austin American-Statesman in explaining the decision to publish the video. "We also know that exasperated parents, family members and bystanders standing outside the school begged authorities to do something. After 77 minutes, the video shows the officers breach the classroom."
Before the release of the Texas lawmakers' report documenting failures not just by police, but by school officials who ignored their own security measures, some Uvalde families and government officials criticized the media for publishing the video before a carefully planned screening by Texas lawmakers.
"I am deeply disappointed this video was released before all of the families who were impacted that day and the community of Uvalde had the opportunity to view it as part of Chairman Dustin Burrows' plan," Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steven McCraw added, referencing the planned official release of the recording.
But, while the grief of Uvalde parents is understandable, the fact that politicians intended to stage-manage release of the video is exactly the problem. We already know that elected officials leaned on DPS "to publicly paint a more positive picture of the law enforcement response," as reported by ABC News. To his credit, McCraw hasn't done that; he says "the law enforcement response to the attack at Robb Elementary on May 24 was an abject failure." But the pressure to spin lethal dawdling demonstrates why officials shouldn't control how their betrayals of public trust are presented.
"Further obscuring the truth of what happened May 24, local, state and federal officials have denied requests to release documents that could shed light on the police response, including 911 call transcripts, body camera footage, communications among law enforcement officers and arrest records from that day," the Austin American-Statesman's Tony Plohetski reports.
As horrifying as it is to read the report's full admission of failure at the scene, it's a needed change from the ass-covering that prevailed after the crime.
"Uvalde CISD [Consolidated Independent School District] and its police department failed to implement their active shooter plan and failed to exercise command and control of law enforcement responding to the tragedy," the report notes. "But these local officials were not the only ones expected to supply the leadership needed during this tragedy. Hundreds of responders from numerous law enforcement agencies—many of whom were better trained and better equipped than the school district police—quickly arrived on the scene. Those other responders, who also had received training on active shooter response and the interrelation of law enforcement agencies, could have helped to address the unfolding chaos."
But the massive police presence, 376 officers in all, did not help address the unfolding chaos. That makes obvious the reason for officials' earlier foot-dragging; police conduct at Uvalde contradicts the stories authoritarians peddle about our relationship with the government. Mostly left-wing politicians tell us that regular people should be deprived of firearms and even of the right to self-defense while the government exercises it for us. Primarily right-wing politicians insist we should "back the blue" and venerate government-employed law enforcers who will protect us from threats so that we don't have to do it ourselves. These politicians nominally oppose one another, but they offer the same basic argument: We should trust the government and not take responsibility for our own safety.
The legislators' Robb report and video from the scene refute those arguments. They document police officers ineffectively milling around (while outside officers stopped parents who were rushing to their children's rescue) as a mass murder takes place just feet away. And this is not the first time that cops dithered rather than commit to protecting members of the public. Police at Columbine in 1999 delayed for 47 minutes, and for 58 minutes in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
"Cops are civilians with guns who have had minimal training," Eugene O'Donnell, a law professor with John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former police officer told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in May. "Some of them are heroic. But not all."
As Texas lawmakers point out: "law enforcement responders failed to adhere to their active shooter training, and they failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety."
Most police departments say officers are supposed to help people. Good cops get angry and embarrassed when colleagues drop the ball. But, beyond maybe losing a job (Uvalde's acting police chief on the day of the shooting is now suspended while the city investigates his inaction), there's little in the way of consequences for officers who choose lingering in a hallway over defending children.
"Neither the Constitution, nor state law, impose a general duty upon police officers or other governmental officials to protect individual persons from harm — even when they know the harm will occur," according to a 2018 assessment of legal obligations by Darren L. Hutchinson, professor and associate dean at the University of Florida School of Law. "Police can watch someone attack you, refuse to intervene and not violate the Constitution."
But, if you listen to government officials, we should disarm ourselves and place our fates in the hands of government employees. Never mind that those tax-funded protectors have no legal obligation to exercise that responsibility and a long track record of freezing rather than running to the rescue.
Gun control? Back the blue? The people peddling those slogans have little to offer beyond empty promises and deserve nothing but contempt. Only you can be relied upon to protect you and your loved ones, and you should ignore anybody who claims otherwise.