Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

April 26, 2007

Shameful

by mike

“5-minute delay crucial in Tech shooting”

“Police said he unleashed 170 rounds on the classrooms of Norris Hall during a nine-minute rampage. Thirty people were killed in the building; more were wounded.

During those shooting, police spent three minutes rushing to the building and then about five minutes breaking through the building’s doors, which Seung-Hui Cho had chained.

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The five minutes police spent breaking into the building proved to be crucial as Cho moved through Norris Hall unimpeded.

Authorities eventually blew their way into the building, and as they began to rush toward the gunfire on the second floor, Cho put a bullet through his head and died, surrounded by his victims.

State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller praised the officers’ response time, noting that had police simply rushed into the building without a plan, many would have likely died right along with the staff and students. She said officers needed to assemble the proper team, clear the area and then break through the doors.” (Emphasis mine.)

Oh, I’m sorry. I thought that was your JOB. God forbid that officers actually put their lives on the line so that others might live. I guess they’re too busy busting poker games and shooting 92 year olds during drug raids. Is that a cheap shot? Yes. But I’m pretty damn pissed off at this notion that police need to wait until it’s “safe” before entering a situation.

As for the fact that he chained the doors shut, there are ways of getting chained doors open. From the same article:

Tom Corrigan, former member of a terrorism task force and a retired New York City detective, said five minutes seems like a long time when gunfire is being heard, but he added it’s tough to second-guess officers in such a chaotic situation.

“I would have liked to have seen them bust down the door, smash windows, go around to another door, do everything to get inside fast,” he said. “But it’s a tough call because these officers put their lives on the line on a daily basis and I am sure they did the best they could.”

Al Baker, a former 25-year veteran in the New York Police Department, echoed that sentiment, but said sometimes officers have to do whatever is necessary to enter a building — whether it’s throwing a rock through a window or driving a car through the door. He said the crucial issue is ensuring that officers have the proper training and equipment.

And that’s the crux of the matter. These officers didn’t have the training or mindset to respond to this type of a situation. You take the first four officers that arrive on scene and go in. Period. No ifs ands or buts. It’s your JOB. When you put on the badge and strapped on a sidearm, you supposedly took on a responsibility to protect those you serve. Unfortunately, even in a post-Columbine world, it seems some cops still don’t take that responsibility seriously.

Just remember this the next time someone says that the proper response to a threat is to call the police and wait. They do a great job of investigating bodies, but they’re a little weak on the response side, unless the threat is willing to politely wait for 8 minutes.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too upset. It is an improvement, after all. At least they didn’t wait 40 minutes before “clearing” the building.

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  • http://www.tfsternsrantings.blogspot.com T F Stern

    Mike,

    Being an arm chair critic is easy. The rules, regulatons and SOP’s are set up to prevent loss of life, for citizens in a dangerous situation as well as police officers. Try putting on “the blue” and going by the book, then see if you have the same knee jerk opinion. The rules, regulatons and SOP’s are set up to prevent loss of life, for citizens in a dangerous situation as well as for the police officers.

  • http://tfortruth.blogspot.com trav.is

    Mike,

    I think you’ve seen a few too many action movies. A dead cop can’t protect anyone. And adding officers to the body count doesn’t help either.

    Firemen secure doors before opening, check stairs before climbing, and vent buildings for safety when battling fires. EMT’s wait for police escort before entering dangerous buildings to help hurt people. The Secret Service, whose job it REALLY is to throw themselves in front of danger, go to enormous trouble to ensure it doesn’t ever come to that. There isn’t anything wrong with taking steps to minimize the risks involved with dangerous jobs.

    It doesn’t do police any good to blindly rush into a building, guns blazing. Hindsight is always 20/20. We know now it was one lunatic with two guns at VT, but all they could do was guess. For them, at that moment, it could’ve just as easily been a gang of 10 badguys, armed to the teeth.

  • http://noangst.blogspot.com mike

    That’s largely my problem. The rules, regulations, and SOP supposedly changed after Columbine, where they were found to be completely inadequate. In the case of this police department, they obviously did not, with tragic results.

    I didn’t mean to imply that police should charge in like the Lone Ranger without any regard for their procedures and training. I’m saying that the police training for an active school shooting (or any active group shooting, for that matter) should have something more than to “wait for SWAT.”

  • http://noangst.blogspot.com mike

    “And adding officers to the body count doesn’t help either.”

    If the officer is able to take down one or more of the shooters in the process, yes, it helps. Part of their job is to put their lives on the line so others don’t have to. To go with your hypothetical of 10 heavily armed bad guys, you’re saying that instead of advancing into the building and at least attempting to engage the bad guys, the police should stand idly by while the shooters continue to massacre innocent civilians?

    Look, if you read closely, you’ll see I don’t advocate police running in willy-nilly.

    “These officers didn’t have the training or mindset to respond to this type of a situation. You take the first four officers that arrive on scene and go in.”

    You have to change the training and mindset so that officers have the skills to go in and deal with this situation. You don’t go in by yourself, but neither do you sit back and wait for SWAT.

    From the article I linked to above:

    “Some police and security experts question the five-minute delay, saying authorities should have charged straight into the melee.

    “You don’t have time to wait,” said Aaron Cohen, president of IMS Security of Los Angeles, who has trained SWAT teams around the country since 2003. “You don’t have time to pre-plan a response. Even if you have a few guys, you go.”

    After the Columbine massacre in 1999, police around the country adopted new policies for so-called “active shooters.” Police would no longer respond to emergencies such as school shootings by surrounding a building and waiting for the SWAT team.

    Instead, the first four officers rush into the building and attempt to immediately end the threat. This system was used to end a 2003 school hostage standoff in Spokane, Wash.

    At Columbine, no officers entered the building until about 40 minutes after the first 911 call from the school. Critics have said that decision might have contributed to the death of a teacher who bled to death from gunshot wounds.”

    There’s no excuse for that. As far as I’m concerned, if the shooter is able to kill himself, the police have failed.

  • http://www.two--four.net/weblog.php Billy Beck

    “Advance to the sound of the guns.”

    I’m with you, Mike. No cheez, no bullshit: you’re right.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Stephen Littau

    I think you’re absolutley right on this one Mike. If this were strictly a hostage situation, then I would say the police should stay outside and wait the man out. But this wasn’t a hostage situation. Once a person starts opening fire on civilians, its time for the police to break down doors and get into the battle. I can think of no good reason for the cops to be sitting outside while the people they are charged to serve and protect are neither being served or protected.

  • http://noangst.blogspot.com mike

    “Once a person starts opening fire on civilians, its time for the police to break down doors and get into the battle.”

    Exactly. If it was a hostage situation, that’s when SWAT would storm the building. But that’s a crucial difference. A school shooting is an active shooting situation. Completely different from a hostage situation.

    Like I’ve said before, it’s about training. I don’t fault the individual officers who responded to the shooting too much. As T.F. and travis have pointed out, officers are expected to follow their training and SOP. Unfortunately, in this case, their training and SOP was completely inadequate.

  • http://www.tfsternsrantings.blogspot.com T F Stern

    I’m with “trav.is” when he said, “I think you’ve seen a few too many action movies.” Tell you what, you duck your head in the door first and let me know where the bad guy is. No, sorry, but cops are not paid to “take one for the public”. Where that comes from I’m not sure; but there is no job that stipulates being that stupid or gung ho. Even in the military, those on the front lines are taught to be smart enough to make it home. Those who charge into a situation that is unknown might be considered heroes; unfortunately many of those never get to talk about how it feels since they don’t live to talk about it. Glad I retired from the police department and get to leave comments to educate the misguided citizenry.

  • http://noangst.blogspot.com mike

    “Tell you what, you duck your head in the door first and let me know where the bad guy is.”

    If I had been an officer responding to the scene, you can bet your ass I would’ve. Hell, if I’d just been an armed bystander I might have. What I actually probably would’ve done was push ahead of time for the police force to have an appropriate SOP that doesn’t train officers to stand around while a gunman is loose among the sheep. Sheepdogs have a duty. Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of having the means to stop the slaughter of innocent people and standing by doing nothing is repulsive.

    Just so we’re clear…even though several police departments around the country already do this, police departments should not change their SOP in an active shooting situation to go in with an adequate number of officers (say, 4) and instead should wait for overwhelming force/SWAT to arrive, even if it means several more civilians could and probably will be killed.

    Wow. I guess “To Protect and Serve” doesn’t really mean much of anything anymore.

  • tarran

    On the other hand, Mr Stern, the police had a monopoly on defense in the VT massacre; Virginia had outlawed anybody who wasn’t a police officer from carrying a weapons on campus.

    Imagine if you lived in a town that outlawed septic systems or any sewage system other than the municipal one. Wouldn’t you expect the town to actually attempt to pipe away sewage from your home? What would your answer be if you called to complain about backed up pipes and the town replied that their policy was to wait for a few months before repairing the pipes?

    If the Virgina government hadn’t similarly outlawed competition with its protective services, you would have a convincing point. however when the state takes such a position, then for the police to delay is profoundly immoral.

  • http://www.tfsternsrantings.blogspot.com T F Stern

    I had intented to leave a short additional comment; instead I wrote my own article which I titled “Guns, Police and Fantasy Land – A Rant in Progress. Feel free to stop by. I respect your comment section enough not to put such a long rambling of thoughts.

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  • Eric

    TF:

    Even in the military, those on the front lines are taught to be smart enough to make it home.

    Well, as a combat veteran and corporate security manager, I have to say that I don’t agree with you TF. Usually, I find your comments pretty on as regards police forces. This time, though, a couple of observations.

    Yes, in the military I was trained to keep my soldiers, and myself, alive while achieving the mission. That’s a concept called “force preservation”. That said, when the time came to put your life in jeopardy to accomplish the mission, you did. And we were trained to deal with chaotic situations where we didn’t know all the answers. The less we knew, the higher the odds we would be wounded or killed. It’s part of the job.

    There are times where cops put their life on the line, just as firefighters, EMT’s and soldiers do. One of those times is when unarmed civilians are being shot and killed by the bad guys. While it’s true that a dead cop would be a bad thing, it’s even worse to have live cops stand in place while more civilians die.

    And yes, it is part of what the civilians expect, that cops sometimes give their life to defend civilians.

    I find the perspective that cops should do otherwise a disturbing comment on the state of police forces in this country.

  • Eric

    Am I wrong in thinking that the ultimate reason for the existence of a police force, and their monopoly on the use of force, is to protect my right to life, liberty and property? If that’s the case, and the police do nothing while I am shot and killed ….. then what?

  • tarran

    When a monopoly provides a service poorly or refuses to provide it at all, the customer is screwed.

    That is true whether one is talking about a monopoly on sugar sales, or a monopoly in security services.

    I actually agree with TF that it is unrealistic to expect police services to provide protection. I just wish they would stop trying to establish a monopoly by violently suppressing competition.

  • http://www.tfsternsrantings.blogspot.com T F Stern

    According to the time frame offered, 8 minutes; three of which were for arrival and 4 minutes to gain access past the chained doors, leaving 1 whole minute to “stand around doing little or nothing”; maybe it would be unrealistic claming that 5 minutes was wasted. Maybe I read that wrong.

    Eric, the reality of today’s world would suggest that it is unreasonable to expect anything at all from a police officer other than that he/she look pretty in their uniform. Citizen complaints, lawsuits and Internal Affairs have destroyed any hope of permitting officers to do what at one time was called police work.

    There is no monopoly, an interesting choice of words, or suppressing competition in the field of security. Such a perception while accurate in some cities; New Orleans and San Francisco come to mind, such a perception hopefully is not accurate as a general rule across America.

    Those rights which the public gives up willingly in the name of security or for having a safer world are lost, not because the rights were not of value; but because they were not given their proper value when purchasing the false promise of security or a safer world. It’s a little like the story of the dog looking into the water from atop the bridge and seeing the reflection of the steak that he had in his mouth. Upon dropping the real steak in exchange for the illusion, both were lost.

  • tarran

    Mr Stearn,

    I am extremely unsympathetic:

    Citizen complaints, lawsuits and Internal Affairs have destroyed any hope of permitting officers to do what at one time was called police work.

    That is pure, unadulterated BS. That statement is Basil Fawlty saying “This hotel would be perfect if it weren’t for the guests.” Those are your customers complaining about poor service, a poor service that is the inevitable result of socialist systems of law enforcement.

    As to there not being a monopoly, have you ever arrested anyone for having a weapon – and nothing else? I believe you work in Houston – What would your reaction be if I set up a rival police force in Houston competing with yours? What would your reaction be if my police arrested a shop lifter and refused to turn him over to your jails?

    Why do I need to get permission from these guys first before setting up a highly “circumscribed” security service in Houston?

    Before you protest that a monopoly is a situation wherein one organization dominates some market, I should point out that the proper definition of monopoly is:

    A monopoly is an institution or allowance by the king, by his grant, commission, or otherwise . . . to any person or persons, bodies politic or corporate, for the sole buying, selling, making, working, or using of anything, whereby any person or persons, bodies politic or cor­porate, are sought to be restrained of any freedom or liberty that they had before, or hindered in their lawful trade. - Lord Coke, a 17th century English Judge

    Just because you guys permit a handful of firms to provides some protective services does not mean that you have relinquished your monopoly. there is not a single security firm that your organization cannot shut down with impunity.

    Interestingly, when I google security firms that operate in Houston, a fair number of them advertise that they provide the services of off-duty police officers. Target does not advertise that they hire off-duty Wallmart clerks. Continental does not hire off-duty Delta pilots and even if they did, they would certainly not advertise that fact. I wonder why this very curious arrangement appears only in security services?

  • http://www.tfsternsrantings.blogspot.com T F Stern

    Tarran,and all who have challenged my opinions;

    (Before I forget, Eric, nice to see you are involved from time to time, even when we are not on the same page )

    You have some interesting points, some of which I agree with. The fact that security agencies must apply for a license in Texas is a result of legislation which was passed to “protect and serve” the citizens of Texas. It is interesting that I also am covered by that same piece of legislation in my locksmith business, under the same BS of “protecting and serving” the public. I wrote about this a couple of years ago and posted it, “Business Licenses – Jump for Joy”. It was in response to an article Brad had written and expresses my “love” for the intrusion into the free market system.

    Texas State law requires that any individual who desires to carry a pistol must apply for and be approved for that. Right or wrong that is the law. I happen to have such a permit and must renew it every two years as specified by law since I am a retired police officer. My own opinion is that the right to bear arms should not be limited by any state or local law with the exception of convicted felons. An honest law abiding citizen should not have to ask for permission to do that which is a God given right, the right to defend himself. There should not be any registration of firearms as this is the means by which governments may seize weapons and become tyrannical lords over their subjects.

    I have, in the past when I was a commissioned police officer, place many folks in jail for carrying a pistol, many of them under stressful situations. I posted this past week on one such stressful event, “Guns lost in the police property room”.

    Lastly I would continue with my thought that each individual is responsible to maintain his own security, regardless of the availability of private security force or that of a public police department. Police officers in general will naturally jump into a fire storm; it’s part of the personality of those who join up. In my career as a police officer, many times I ignored policy which would require waiting for backup and done what I thought was necessary. In each of those incidents I was fortunate to come out uninjured, the situation was resolved without citizen complaints or litigation and there were no disciplinary proceedings taken against me.

    I got into this particular discussion because I saw what I thought was a “trigger happy” accusation which unfairly concluded a lack of action, something which upon expansion of that accusation implied that lives might not have been lost had quicker intervention been taken by the officers at the Virginia Tech massacre. The “would have, could have, should have” wishing upon a star mentality irritated my sense of fairness in dealing with an arm chair after the fact bystander who wasn’t there, had no real evidence other than a “feeling” that it could have been handled better.

  • tarran

    Mr Stern,

    First, I want to apologize; I thought you were still actively a policeman when I wrote my post.

    Second, I agree with you on most of your comments. I personally have held back from criticising the students and the police actions in the massacre, mainly because I do not have enough information to make any judgement. Furthermore, I would not condemn the police in the massacre, because my understanding is that they ran to the gunfire. While in a fight the minutes can seem like hours, there is also a great deal of friction and chaos. Thus a simple matter like battering a door down can prove extremely difficult.

    Obviously, when the final analysis of this event is prepared and disseminated, there will be many “coulda, woulda, shoulda”s raised. Additionally, no doctrine will ever be perfect. A policy that would stop one massacre in its tracks, could, in other circumstances result in lots of people getting killed.

    If I seem critical, it is because I feel that the manner in which security and law enforcement are provided in the United States (and just about everywhere else) are inherently prone to produce bad outcomes. In my mind it really does not matter how upstanding or corrupt, brave or craven the people providing these services are. Rather, what is wrong is a system that invites abuse and encourages poor customer service. It is the system I attack, not the individual members standing on their own.

  • Eric

    TF,

    I only object to the statements you made that would appear to call for police not putting their life in danger, or even losing it, when necessary. Considering my own background, I believe that I can make the statements I made from true experience.

    As a corporate security manager, I can say that Tarran’s observations are right on about the monopoly of law enforcement. The true purpose of law enforcement monopoly, of course, is not about providing better security. It is about maintaining government power. If other paramilitary organizations can exist in competition, the government cannot enforce its edict throughout all the land.

  • http://leftonred.wordpress.com LeftonRed

    Wow ehat a bunch of wussies. I’m soory but I think that is the correct term to use here. It’s very sad to me that thos officers stood by the door while kids were getting massacered. It just reflects on what a self serving spineless country we live nowadays where most citizens are willing to sit back and whatch tragedy unfold without any sense of responsibilty, much less the friigin cops!! Good lord we have all been so spoiled and pampered for too long. It’s almost sickening.

  • http://leftonred.wordpress.com LeftonRed

    Wow alot of typos. Sorry but got a little steamed by the first two comments. That might have been our kids getting slaughtered in there. Personally, would I have had a gun and been there I would have done verything in my power to stop that guy., and I’m no cop.

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