(WFXR) — People across the country are questioning the police response to last week’s school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, after authorities in the area announced Tuesday that they stopped cooperating with federal investigators.
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, officers didn’t try to enter the classroom where the shooter was barricaded for more than 40 minutes. Instead, they stood in the hallway as 911 calls and gunfire continued, resulting in countless questions about what would have happened if law enforcement acted sooner.
WFXR News’ Kelsey Jean-Baptiste spoke with Dr. Tod Burke — a former police officer and a retired Radford University criminal justice professor — about police protocol during active shootings, as well as the impact the Texas school shooting has had on the trust between first responders and the communities they serve.
According to Burke, it’s simple: Get into the building as quickly as possible. In addition, he says officers are supposed to be trained in diffusing such situations.
“Try to find out where those shots are coming from and try to make those shots stop,” Burke explained. “You’ve got to subdue this individual however, whatever means is possible, but you also have the safety of everybody else, but the idea is not to wait around.”
Burke tells WFXR News that the next step in an active shooter situation involves using first responders at the scene, if possible.
“If you don’t have the equipment, let’s say you’re a small department, maybe you don’t want to wait around for a key. If that’s not available, the battering ram, and government fire departments are really good at that,” said Burke.
Burke recalled his time as a police officer, saying he was trained to secure the scene and wait for the SWAT team. However, he admits that times have changed, so the best mode of action in active shooter situations nowadays is to get inside the building and stop the shooter.
Meanwhile, training in other scenarios like reunification centers — where families reunite with their children or get updated on the incident — is scarce, according to the former professor.
“Keep in mind, that’s probably the least amount of training that police get, if they get trained at that at all, because that’s often done by the schools,” Burke told WFXR News.
He says school officials are the most familiar with the student roster, as well as the identities of the people with whom children should be sent home.
If you are not law enforcement and end up in an active shooter situation, Burke recommends hiding behind solid objects that cannot be penetrated by bullets. Also, if you can call 911, stay on the line with them as long as possible and give them any information that will help the officers who are being called on scene.
So, what does this mean for the trust between first responders and the people they serve?
One Blacksburg resident, Linnsey King, weighed in after taking a moment to think about her response.
“I would say they’re an example, not the rule,” said King. “Not all law enforcement is gonna behave that way.”
Other community members declined to go on camera for this question, stating that they were not comfortable speaking about this subject.