Sunday, February 25, 2018

School Shooting. Police wait for backup.

An armed deputy was on the scene.  Actually, there were four.

Police did what they are trained to do.

They waited for backup.

Afterwards, his supervisor says the first deputy should have "went in.  Addressed the killer.  Killed the killer."  

He is a Monday morning quarterback, looking at videotape. 

Scott Peterson, the armed school security officer who heard gunfire stayed outside behind cover during the opening minutes of hearing gunfire inside.   Three other Broward County deputies also came to the scene, and also stayed outside, behind their vehicles.   (A neighboring jurisdiction's police force tattled on them. The infamous blue wall is for within the jurisdictional team.)

We train and equip policemen to survive and dominate encounters, not die futilely in them.  Police training is evident in the actual behavior of the four deputies who took up perimeter positions, behind a wall and behind vehicles.  They were waiting for overwhelming force.

Source: Neighboring police force
SWAT teams. Taxpayers spend a lot of money creating and supplying SWAT teams, and military style SWAT vehicles and equipment.  It is all justified to taxpayers by the fact that some criminals are armed by very powerful weapons, way beyond the capacity of a lone policeman, without highly specialized military training, without body armor, acting alone, armed simply with a handgun, to go into unknown situations to confront one or more people armed with unknown high powered firearms, who are perhaps firing from cover.  

It would be suicide.  So police departments ask Budget Committees for specialized SWAT units, and governing bodies say yes. 

There is a public debate currently on whether American school policy should be to arm teachers.  Trump supported it.  The NRA supports it.  There is an instant partisan divide.  Only 28% of Democratic voters support arming teachers, while 68% of Republicans favor it.  Independents are split evenly.

Would teachers be better protectors than policemen?  One reader of this blog says yes. An attorney with long experience litigating police officer and jail brutality cases, says teachers would protect students better than would policemen.

Medford's $260,000 SWAT vehicles
   "Police are trained cowards which is why they shoot unarmed blacks. Cops aren't trained to go solo as a hero, they are trained to coordinate backup. Teachers in the line of fire by contrast would have the advantage of a soldier-- returning fire with the adrenaline our survival instinct provides." 

"Trained cowards."  Those are tough words.

A nicer way to say it is that police would be prudent; teachers would be scared to death. Teachers would act--or so goes one theory.

Hazard pay bonus.  Trump posits that schools may already have on staff,  and could certainly hire with that qualification in mind, military veterans with past and continued training in close quarter combat. He said they could get hazard pay, like the History teacher who coaches girl's basketball or boy's tennis. 

Trump is out selling it as plausible.  

Democrats are saying it is implausible on its face.  They say teachers don't want this and would be no good at it. The idea is that teachers have a nurturing mindset not a combat-ready one.  If policemen cannot charge toward automatic fire, how could sweet old Mrs. Lorton do it?
Republicans want to arm teachers.  Democrats do not.

Besides, it brings more guns into the classroom, another hazard.  A third grader just fired off a round from inside the holstered gun of a school police officer whose attention was diverted that the curious nine year old stuck his finger into the holster.  An angry teenager might easily overpower and take a gun from a teacher.  More guns mean more opportunities for surprises.

Trump quickly backed off his early implication that all teachers should be armed and settled in on the idea that some teachers might be. He posited 4-star Marine general Kelly as just the sort of person who would be able to spring into action in a pinch, were he teaching high school.

Trump says to take action.
My own sense is that the adrenaline-survival instinct premise of the reader comment above is more plausible for individual classroom defense than offense.  Already, schoolroom doors have tiny windows and lockable doors.  Students and teachers are trained for defense by locking the door and staying barricaded.  My sense is that an armed teacher's instinct would be to protect his or her immediate charges, not to abandon them to go out toward gunshots and unknown hazards in unknown places on a search and destroy mission.  We may find out in real life.

A bad plan is more persuasive than no plan. Trump posited a plan that has some possibility of being actionable: more guns in the supposedly right hands, by arming volunteer teachers.  Republicans could push that agenda. Apparently it sounds good to Republican voters. 

Democrats are busy, right now in mainstream media outlets, saying the idea is "preposterous", "absurd," "ridiculous."  TV pundits are saying the problem is guns themselves, too many, too dangerous, and in the wrong hands. The argument has a problem.  There are some five million of them already in circulation, and in a free society guns--like drugs or any other contraband--will inevitably find their way into the hands of the wrong people. The Democratic solution requires regulation and control, in an effort to anticipate and predict the unpredictable, i.e. the mental health of individuals who may already be marginalized and near invisible.  Still, a lot of Americans are uncomfortable with AR-15s and other military style weapons per se, so efforts to controlling them has widespread general support.   

There is asymmetry in voter motivation on this issue. Gun supporters vote to protect the status quo on guns and they care a lot.  People uncomfortable with guns and who are willing to see more controls vote care more about other issues, and besides, they don't have confidence it will work. It would take active, highly competent government, with police, civilian bureaucracies, the FBI, and the nation's national security and intelligence agencies all doing their jobs well. They have been revealed to be less than competent. 

The gun issue is likely to remain a winner for Trump.  Trump looks like he is doing something that could possibly work.  Democrats are asking people to put their faith in efficient, dedicated, government.


  1. "A bad plan is more persuasive than no plan"...Ha!

    The Regressive idea that arming teachers and turning schools into fortresses is a "common sense" solution is so disheartening that it brings one to tears. It is as cynical and ill-advised as a multi-billion dollar border wall or muslim ban. It funnels tax money to gun manufactures and prison construction companies.

    America's gun culture is pure Regressive-Old West, frontier justice, cowboys and indians nonsense. Most democracies have figured this out and have taken steps to remove firearms from their societies. The NRA is a brilliant weapons manufacturing lobby masquerading as a hobby club. A society that is armed to the teeth is not free, certainly not free from fear.

    Please note as well that guns are health care issue as well. Mental health is neglected, both the delusions that lead shooters and the equally delusional notions that nurture a gun fetish, because insurers know the cost to diagnose and treat mental illnesses could bankrupt them.

    BTW,speaking of mental illness, it was noted yesterday that Trump made reference to his hair, tacitly admitting that his vanity prevents him from looking normal, and thereby daring the media to continue to comment on it. This is a departure from the facade and may represent another step down towards dementia. It bears watching.


  2. “Do Democrats love gun control more than the students?”

    This question, of course, is exactly as unfair as the claim that “gun owners love their guns more than the students”. Everybody has an opinion on solutions to school shooters. Baning future sales of assault rifles won’t stop school mayhem because a universe of alternative weapons are available. An argument that the shooter could kill only 6 students rather than 17 with a revolver is not a solution. Two cheap revolvers kills 12 students, three kills 18 students. America may hopefully someday ban assault rifles, but it will never ban shotguns or revolvers.

    I’m a Vietnam combat veteran. Instead of the 3 months infantry training, I went through a nine month specialized program in 1969. I had never handled a gun, I was 19. But gun training was a small fraction of the infantry curriculum, measured in days not weeks. Guns are uncomplicated and easy to use. Load, take off safety, aim pull trigger, reload. Truly any idiot can and does attain firearm proficiency in a very short time. Teachers who are willing can take specially designed classes, probably by the NRA, and be ready to effectively engage a shooter in short order with good marksmanship. Smart guns that police already use preclude others from firing these guns.

    Police are not cowards but they are trained to act like a coward in uncontrolled shooter situations. Cops are taught to take cover, secure the scene and wait for backup before they charge into a building. But a teacher is already there under threat. The teacher knows and loves the children. It will be second nature for a trained teacher to take aim on a shooter, all of whom are also amateurs, and pull the trigger.

    As an infantryman in Vietnam, the easiest and most primal thing to do was return fire. Selected trained teachers will protect themselves and the students they love without hesitation. Peter’s father, Bob Sage was a WWII veteran. I knew him. He was a Medford school system principal. Bob Sage would have run down the hallway at Roosevelt Elementary and engaged a shooter without a thought for his own safety. He would have loaded, aimed and fired. My son went to Roosevelt. I would want a trained teacher to defend him. Every reader would want that if there is a shooter in their child’s school.

    School shooters are not only untrained, they are fearful and paranoid. Harris and Klebold at Columbine killed themselves when the police arrived. They made a feckless effort to dissuade police entry by firing from windows, hit no one, and then shot themselves. Suicide, not gun battles with armed counterforce is what these shooters do. They are untrained and scared when, as Trump puts it, the bullets start coming the other way. If they can flee, they do. The Texas church shooter fled as soon as a neighbor opened fire on him. These maniac shooters don’t stand their ground.

    Trump has already won this argument, and will win more as red state school districts adopt this trained teacher program, as they already are. Democrats look dogmatic and ineffectual with their weak arguments in opposing trained teacher defense programs. To dismiss the NRA/Trump solution of arming selected volunteer trained teachers because we would rather use the momentum of heartbreak for gun control is pretty close to loving gun control more than students. We should get behind teacher defense programs.


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