Inquiry could shed light on police time lapse in Uvalde’s deaths

It’s a confusing timeline for law enforcement experts like Jarrod Burguan, who was the police chief of San Bernardino, Calif., when the city was hit by a terrorist attack that killed 14 people. in 2015. Officers entered the facility, a training center for residents with developmental disabilities, within two minutes of arriving.

“Columbine changed everything,” Burguan said Monday. Officers are now trained to form up and enter buildings to confront shooters as quickly as possible to prevent them from killing more people. “It’s been drilled into this industry for years now.”

Justice Department officials investigating the Texas murders will consider a host of questions about the police response to Uvalde. A similar review that widely praised the response to the San Bernardino mass shooting was over 100 pages.

Announcing the review, Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said it would be conducted in a fair, impartial and independent manner and that the findings would be made public. It could take months. The review is conducted by the Department’s Community Oriented Policing Office.

A key question for Maria Haberfeld, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, is why a school district police chief had the authority to tell more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway. from Robb Elementary in Uvalde.

“The key question for me is who named him responsible?” she says.

Officials said they believed the suspect was barricaded in adjacent classrooms and there was no longer an active threat. But school cops don’t usually have the most experience with active shooters, and Haberfeld wondered why people with more specialized training don’t take the reins.

A US Border Patrol tactical team eventually used a janitor key to unlock the classroom door and kill the shooter, raising more questions about the choice of entrance.

“This is not a medieval fortified castle. It’s a door,” she said. “They knew what to do. You don’t need the key.

The justice review will not investigate the crime itself, nor directly hold the police civilly or criminally liable. What it will likely do is look at things like how police communicate with each other, said Thor Eells, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association. It is not yet clear why school principal Pete Arredondo believed the shooter was barricaded and he has not commented.

“I think we have to be a little patient about it and wait to make sure we understand what that mindset was,” Eells said. “It comes down to communication. What information did they have? »

The review will also likely look at how well officers were prepared with equipment such as weapons and body armor. The shooter was wearing a tactical vest and was armed with an AR-15 type rifle, a powerful weapon capable of piercing basic body armor.

In previous shootings reviewed by the Justice Department, non-specialist law enforcement units lacked the type of body armor needed to fully protect themselves.

During the 2016 massacre that killed 49 people and injured dozens more in the LGBT community at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, a detective at the scene exchanged gunfire with the suspect, knowing his handgun was “not up to par” with the firearm fired into the club. Despite this, first officers at the scene formed a team to quickly enter the club and begin searching for the shooter, according to the report.

In San Bernardino, meanwhile, only one of the first officers on the scene had a shotgun and several did not have body armor. But they still used their training in active fire situations to form a team of four officers to immediately enter the compound.

Moving quickly is important not only to prevent a shooter from killing more people, but also to help the injured. In San Bernardino and Orlando, Justice Department reviews credited the quick response with transporting injured people to treatment in a “golden hour” when victims are mostly likely to survive.

It’s unclear what impact the delayed entry into the Texas classroom might have had on one of the children injured and in need of treatment more than an hour’s drive away in San Antonio.

Police must quickly analyze the risks to themselves and others in a violent and rapidly changing situation – but they are also trained to prevent people from getting hurt, Eells said.

“Entering this room is very, very, very dangerous,” he said. “But we will take that risk, knowingly and willingly, because our priorities are to help those who cannot help themselves.”

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