If there ever was any doubt that police officers are just ordinary people -- prone to mistakes, cowardice, disorganization and all the other flaws that beset every human being -- a video from inside the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed by a gunman armed with an AR-15 rifle, should confirm this to even the most fervent police supporter.
Thankfully, someone leaked a 77 minute video of local, state, and federal police standing around in the school hallway while the children and teachers were being murdered, and the Austin American-Statesman newspaper published both the full video and an edited 4-minute video, which I've watched several times.
I strongly urge you to watch at least the short video. It's the first video in the newspaper story, that appears to be made available to anyone who wants to view the story.
Yes, we already knew that police stood around in the hallway for the 77 minutes, making no attempt to enter the classrooms where the killings took place, even though the door to the classroom wasn't locked. But seeing this via the video was especially infuriating. Here's a still from the video showing the police standing around while children are dying.
This is beyond shameful. It should be criminal. But police enjoy protections that they shouldn't have. The parents of the murdered children should be able to sue each and every cowardly police officer who chose to do nothing for those 77 minutes. At the very least, all of these incompetent officers should be fired.
Here's some excerpts from the Austin American-Statesman story.
A 77-minute video recording captured from this vantage point, along with body camera footage from one of the responding officers, obtained by the American-Statesman and KVUE, shows in excruciating detail dozens of sworn officers, local, state and federal — heavily armed, clad in body armor, with helmets, some with protective shields — walking back and forth in the hallway, some leaving the camera frame and then reappearing, others training their weapons toward the classroom, talking, making cellphone calls, sending texts and looking at floor plans, but not entering or attempting to enter the classrooms.
Even after hearing at least four additional shots from the classrooms 45 minutes after police arrived on the scene, the officers waited.
They asked for keys to one of the classrooms. (It was unlocked, investigators said later.) They brought tear gas and gas masks. They later carried a sledgehammer. And still, they waited.
Officers finally rushed into the classroom and killed the gunman an hour and 14 minutes after police first arrived on the scene. Nineteen fourth graders and their two teachers died in the massacre on May 24, days before the end of the school year.
The video tells in real time the brutal story of how heavily armed officers failed to immediately launch a cohesive and aggressive response to stop the shooter and save more children if possible. And it reinforces the trauma of those parents, friends and bystanders who were outside the school and pleaded with police to do something, and for those survivors who quietly called 911 from inside the classroom to beg for help.
In addition to showing that police don't deserve the fawning admiration that so many people give them, this abject failure of law enforcement demonstrates that if a whole lot of heavily armed officers can't handle a single shooter armed with an assault rifle, the idea that teachers should have guns in the classroom should be dismissed as right-wing fantasy.
There were a whole lot of "good guys" with guns standing around in the hallway for 77 minutes, afraid to enter the unlocked classroom because they feared for their life. Which is a normal human emotion.
But if you choose to be a police officer, you should have the guts to act like one, not just parade around with a gun on your hip, soaking up praise from people who say "thank you for your service," when actually you haven't done anything that countless other Americans in more dangerous professions truly deserve thanks for.
(Policing is #22 out of the 25 most dangerous professions, not even close to the top.)
An AP story about the video ends with:
Greg Shaffer, a Dallas-based security consultant and retired member of the FBI’s hostage rescue team, said at the very least, the officers in the video should switch to a different line of work.
“I think everyone in that hallway should reconsider their career choice,” he said. “If you don’t have the courage and the mindset to run toward gunfire, as a police officer, then you’re in the wrong profession.”