The Department of Justice is recommending the adoption of “national standards” to confront active shooters — with the aim of empowering local law enforcement to “rapidly stop the killing and the dying.”
This “critical” recommendation is a top takeaway from the federal government’s new incident review, which was made public on Thursday morning. It goes into detail about the horrific May 2022 massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, which was likely made deadlier by what the report blasts as “cascading failures of leadership, decision-making, tactics, policy, and training.”
The Uvalde shooter killed 19 students, two teachers, and left more than a dozen others with serious injuries. The 610-page government report recaps, in infuriating detail, how officers arrived on the scene within three minutes of the attack beginning. But instead of mounting an effective confrontation of the shooter with the resources available, the local chief of police — who was without key communication equipment including radios — alternately sought to contain the shooter, who was still in a position to shoot children, and mount a search for keys to open the reinforced classroom door.
Even as “overwhelming numbers of law enforcement personnel from different agencies” arrived on the scene, the report describes, there was no effective command-and-control established at the school. Owing to this lack of effective leadership, law enforcement response dragged out — even as the killer continued to fire rounds inside the school. The shooter was finally confronted and killed by federal agents “77 minutes after the first officers entered the school,” the report describes, and only after “45 rounds were fired by the shooter in the presence of officers.”
This wildly disorganized response — in which even well-trained officers stood to the side as the minutes ticked by, and law enforcement continued to act as if the incident were a “barricaded subject scenario” and not “an active shooter situation” — drives the federal government’s recommendation for the development of national standards to confront mass shooters.
The report describes that many officers on the scene “believed that they were waiting for more assets to arrive, such as shields and a specialized tactical team, to make entry.” The report counters that law enforcement responding to an active shooter “must be prepared to approach the threat and breach… a room using just the tools they have with them, which is often a standard-issue firearm/service weapon.”
National response standards, the report insists, would enable a “de-facto team of similarly trained officers” to “rapidly assemble, communicate, and act as a team” moving immediately to “stop the killing and stop the dying.” Such standards would also give leaders on the scene a playbook for when a “situation becomes stagnant” — to create a core “tactical team” responsible for neutralizing the shooter, while “removing all other personnel to avoid overcompensating the situation.”
Introducing the report, Attorney General Merrick Garland insisted, “The victims and survivors of the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School deserved better.” He starkly described the law enforcement response in Uvalde as “a failure.” He insisted that the federal review must spark change. “We hope to honor the victims and survivors,” he said, “by working together to try to prevent anything like this from happening again, here or anywhere.”
Among other key recommendations, the federal report also advises:
“Law enforcement training academies and providers should ensure that active shooter training modules include the factors in determining active shooter versus barricaded subject situations.”
“An active shooter with access to victims should never be considered and treated as a barricaded subject.”
And: “[N]o single piece of ancillary equipment is required for a response to an active shooter.”
This is a developing story and may be updated.
Read the entire “Critical Incident Review” below:
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