Comment Of The Day: “Update On The Uvalde Massacre Extension Of The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2: Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Breyer’s Self-Refuting Dissent”

As it did eventually in the Parkland school shooting, the consideration of the accountability for the death toll of innocents in the Uvalde shooting has turned to the conduct of those charged with protecting the victims. It is a separate issue from the culpability of the shooter, whose conduct, intentions and ethical and moral bankruptcy remain the same regardless of the actions of those who helped or hindered it. It is also a separate issue from the question of what public policies might have realistically prevented the tragedy before it took place. It is germane, however, to the matters of government trust, accountability for the loss of life, and particularly the reasonableness of constructing a free society where citizens are entirely at the mercy of the competence, wisdom and character of government agents.

Especially because of the latter, some commentators appear to be trying to rationalize and even excuse the conduct of the police in Uvalde who, by their officials’ own admission, allowed the murderer to keep shooting while they prevented others from trying to intervene, while holding back themselves because they feared being shot.

Commenter Jim Hodgson, in this Comment of the Day on the post, “Update On The Uvalde Massacre Extension Of The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2…“:


I was the first supervisor of my previous agency’s SRO program, and I helped teach Active Shooter Response to all our law enforcement deputies for nearly fifteen years.

Standard doctrine since Columbine has been for the first two officers on the scene of an active shooter incident to enter and respond directly to neutralize the threat. Additional pairs of officers will respond as they arrive. Period. Our agency policy was that a single deputy arriving, and hearing gunfire, would respond alone after communicating his point of entry and direction to other responding deputies not yet on the scene. Such direct responses are directly counter to traditional “SWAT” doctrine which teaches systematic clearing of buildings room-by-room, etc., and never passing an uncleared area. In our case, we moved deliberately but quickly—sometimes almost running—down hallways toward the sounds of gunfire, alone or with a partner. We rehearsed these responses multiple times every year, often using actual school buildings when school was not in session. Often, teachers were invited to observe. Every sworn deputy up to and including the rank of captain was required to attend this training.

During each of these sessions, some instructors role-played being the bad guys, helping critique the responses. As both a “bad guy” and a “good guy,” I have been shot by more Airsoft and Simunition rounds than I could count. The longest it ever took a responding deputy or deputies to neutralize an active threat (any situation which did not turn out to be a simulated hostage-taking or barricaded subject, with no casualties) in our training scenarios was just over six minutes after entry (this in a very large high school, which seemed like an eternity), with the average being about four minutes.

In a real incident, some of us might have become casualties, but we had a standing joke that they might name a school after us if we died saving kids. I thank God that we never had a real active shooter incident at our schools, and I know that no plan is infallible, but I never had a serious doubt that any of our officers would fail to act appropriately.

You can well imagine my reaction to the apparent dereliction by the officers in Uvalde.

8 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Update On The Uvalde Massacre Extension Of The Sandy Hook Ethics Train Wreck, Part 2: Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Breyer’s Self-Refuting Dissent”

  1. There is also the violation of safety procedure by the teacher who propped a door open that was supposed to be secured and that allowed the gunman to enter the school.

  2. One of the things that keeps me coming back to this blog is the wide range of experience of the readers. Whatever the specific topic, there’s likely to be someone who really knows what they’re talking about while the rest of us just nod and think “that makes sense.” Thanks, Jim!

    • You are welcome. Happy to shed a bit of light on this topic, which happens to be in my wheelhouse. I also enjoy the wide-ranging perspectives of the commentariat here. I learn a lot here!

      • Agreed. There seems to be a total breakdown in training, command, execution, and competence at all levels of law enforcement in that area, which is odd for Texas. I can’t wrap my head around what went wrong. It took an ICE agent to end the shooter’s rampage.


        • I have been talking with several of my former law enforcement colleagues, both retired and still in service, over the past few days, and we can’t wrap our collective head around it either. We all agree on a few things: We cannot fathom giving an order to not respond directly to the threat, we would not have obeyed such an order, and we could not have lived with ourselves otherwise. One of my good friends is a retired Dallas PD officer and training instructor, and he is absolutely livid over, as you aptly described it, the unimaginable “breakdown in training, command, execution, and competence” that occurred.

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