Miah, an Uvalde 4th grader, smeared her classmate’s blood on her
face and played dead to survive the Uvalde shooting. This shooting, more than
any, has grabbed the attention of police executives, city managers, and elected
officials nationwide. Each leader should ask, is our police department ready to
prevent or respond to mass shootings?
Public safety is the highest priority of the local government. Firefighters
designate time to train and exercise – it’s an investment. The military spends
months drilling and then deploying – it’s an investment. Every two years, the
police have about 42 hours of training. The classes are POST-mandated basic
competency classes. That’s right, one percent of police active-duty time is devoted
to training. If the police train more calls go unanswered. As a result of
failing to train, the police are unprepared to stop an Uvalde-type attack. As
city and county leaders, elected and appointed, we own this failure.
Police leaders should accept full responsibility for this lack of readiness.
The Uvalde mission failed before it began. They lacked preparation. Many other
departments in the U.S. would have failed too. Leaders, we must commit to
thoroughly preparing our officers to hunt down and stop the threat, or we
should resign. We tell officers we care for them. Yet, a lack of training for
these events equates to sending officers on a suicide mission. That is immoral
leadership and helps no one. Dead cops don’t save kids.
Chiefs and sheriffs should train all officers and demand they face
real-life, sensory overload scenarios. They will learn and become confident in
their actions. But providing training takes adequate staffing. After training, officers
should consider their position, and if they cannot demonstrate proficiency leave
the profession. There is no shame in recognizing one’s limitations.
Officers are confused. Law enforcement leaders, like me, have preached
de-escalation to prevent shooting people. Now we teach them to use speed and
overwhelming violence. So, our expectations must be crystal clear. A police
officer must be a warrior and a guardian. Save lives when we
can, take life when we must. Our officers need the skills to flip
between warrior and guardian. They are capable of both roles.
Community members, you must grapple with what it means to stop mass
murder. The police use of deadly force always appears harsh and ugly. No one
wants to see it, but we know it lurks like a storm gathering in the background.
Now, ignorant bliss is no longer possible with cameras everywhere.
To stop active shooters, your officers will find, isolate, and kill the
shooter. Officers who use lethal force are not above scrutiny. Hard questions
will come after shootings. They know and welcome the inquiry. However, your
visible support, not blanket approval, is essential to them.
For the police to operate without hesitation, divisive politics must end.
Hold your police chiefs and sheriff accountable. Police leaders understand we
are not the military. Our missions are vastly different. We should be
responsible for being fair and just. But the discussion of eliminating
military-type equipment or defunding is short-sighted. Instead, find new
leadership if a department is inappropriately using the equipment and tools
provided. When we ask our officers to risk their lives, society has
a moral obligation to equip, protect and support them.
What you can expect in Palm Springs: A robust Threat Assessment Protocol and
tools for evaluating people making threats. Our officers will continue to
undertake rigorous active shooter training. Our goal is to develop confidence
through scenarios where they are shot at with sim-munitions.
Confidence yields the will to fight. We will also work with soft targets, such as schools, to recommend the best prevention hardening practices. Your kids are worth our best effort.
Chiefs, it’s time to lead. Effective leadership anticipates problems,
mitigates pitfalls, and fulfills the mission despite the risks of their action.
If we don’t lead now, more kids will have to smear blood on their faces.