Police inaction cost lives in Texas - GulfToday

Police inaction cost lives in Texas

Steven McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, addresses a news conference in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Reuters

Steven McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, addresses a news conference in front of Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Reuters

The delay by the police in confronting the shooter in Texas who killed 19 children and two teachers is unbearable, abominable and should be roundly condemned.

How could the police officers simply hang round in a hallway outside while the gunman went on a killing spree inside a classroom?

And this is happening inside America, the purported guiding beacon for democracy and human rights to the world.

For three days police have offered a confusing and sometimes contradictory timeline that has simply roiled the people.

The students and teachers repeatedly begged 911 operators for help while the police chief told more than a dozen officers to wait in a hallway at Robb Elementary School.

Officials said he believed the suspect was barricaded inside adjoining classrooms and that there was no longer “an active attack.”

The Uvalde School District police chief, Pete Arredondo, decided that the group of officers should wait to confront the assailant, on the belief that the active attack was over, according to Steven McCraw, the head of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

This decision has spelt doomsday for the innocent children, whose lives could have been saved.

The officers should have acted faster to stop the gunman.

The actions – or more notably, the inaction – of a school district police chief and other law enforcement officers have become the centre of the investigation into this week’s shocking school shooting in Uvalde.

Joe Giacalone, a retired New York police sergeant, says, “This has been handled so terribly on so many levels, there will be a sacrificial lamb here or there.”

As the gunman fired at students, law enforcement officers from other agencies urged the school police chief to let them move in because children were in danger, two law enforcement officials said.

One of the officials said audio recordings from the scene capture officers from other agencies telling the school police chief that the shooter was still active and that the priority was to stop him. But, and here’s the horrible part, the school chief ignored their warnings.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, who at a news conference earlier in the week lauded the police for saving lives, was livid.

He said he had been misled about the initial response and promised there would be investigations into “exactly who knew what, when, who was in charge” and what they did.

“The bottom line would be: why did they not choose the strategy that would have been best to get in there and to eliminate the killer and to rescue the children?” Abbott said.

The problem is, the long arm of the law does not extend to ‘lapses of judgement. ‘ Criminal charges are rarely pursued against law enforcement in school shootings. A notable exception was the former school resource officer accused of hiding during the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.

The families can sue the police department for failing to act. ... They can clearly be found civilly liable. However, it is doubtful they could be criminally charged.

In terms of civil liability, there is a legal doctrine called “ qualified immunity,” which shields police officers from lawsuits unless their actions violate clearly established laws. Potential administrative punishment – meted out by the department itself – could range from a suspension or docked pay to forced resignation or retirement, or outright termination.

A federal judge threw out all but one of the lawsuits against the school district and sheriff’s office after the massacre at Columbine High School in 1999, ruling that the gunmen were responsible.

The daughter of a teacher who bled to death reached a $1.5 million settlement in her lawsuit against the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in 2002. Police were heavily criticised at the time.

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