Mark Steyn echoes the frustration expressed by many at the failure of some police officers to react decisively to an incident of ongoing violence. He cites a news story on the mass killing in Binghamton, New York, that told of officers arriving within two minutes of receiving the first call, but waiting “for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers.”
“What’s the point of calling 911, Mark asks, “if they arrive within two minutes and then sit outside for the rest of the day to ‘make sure it’s safe?’”
The question is reminiscent of the Columbine massacre that occurred ten years ago this month outside Denver. The delay in deploying officers into the school led to changes in policy in my own Los Angeles Police Department and in other agencies across the country. In Los Angeles, officers responding to reports of shots fired within a school, a business, or what have you, must determine if they are facing an “active shooter” or a “barricaded suspect.” In the case of the former, the first four officers on the scene are obliged to make entry, locate the shooter, and end his aggression. In the case of a barricaded suspect, it is assumed that he has no access to victims inside, allowing the officers time to take whatever actions are needed to apprehend him. If this involves waiting outside for the suspect to surrender or fall asleep, so be it.
But in a situation where, as in Binghamton, a suspect is known to have shot people, an hour’s delay in making entry strikes me as grossly excessive. Even if the gunfire had ceased, the people already wounded deserved an all-out effort to provide them with medical care as quickly as possible. I expect we’ll be learning that some of the victims bled to death while waiting for the help that came too late. Knowing how police departments function as I do, I have no doubt that there were officers ready and willing to enter the building within minutes but were prevented from doing so by superiors who, in ordinary circumstances, make no decisions weightier than selecting which desk tray to place a piece of paper in. These people had to be prodded from their desks when the trouble started, and their presence at the scene merely clogged up the decision-making process.
— Jack Dunphy is an officer in the Los Angeles Police Department. “Jack Dunphy” is the author’s nom de cyber. The opinions expressed are his own and almost certainly do not reflect those of the LAPD management.