Mass Murders and a Crisis in Confidence

The recent slaughter in Florida is only the latest in a long line, and unfortunately, we should expect that there will be more.  The sad facts emerging from these events do not bode well for what will likely happen.  What is evident:

a) There is repeatedly complete incompetence by the authorities who are receiving plenty of advance warning.

b) Response by police often seems to be to keep the lucky escapees safe, and wait for the inside situation to seem safe before searching for the killer.

For evidence of leadership incompetence, one need recognize only the pathetic lack of action of the local and federal law enforcement, upon multiple warnings from those who "saw something and said something" in Florida.  Another sad fact is that many states, and even federal organizations, by their self-known incompetence or negligence in sending on mental health and felony conviction information, are knowingly enabling attacks and making background checks done by others nothing more than a false sense of security.  Even worse, in the 2015 Garland, Texas attack, there are plenty of indications that the now thoroughly discredited FBI leadership knew the location, date, and time of the planned attack yet did nothing to prevent it.  Finally, the profound lack of information now six months after the mass murder in Las Vegas has the entire country rolling its eyes at the incompetency of the leadership there – they can't even put out a decent report on what happened after the fact, so why should we think they could help the next time it happens there?

For evidence of inadequate police response, one can look at the actions of the local law enforcement in Florida, who, evidently following protocol, took up safe spots outside the building until their central command deemed it safe to enter.  Or one can look at how it took forty-five minutes to enter the hotel room of the Las Vegas murderer, long after the shooting had stopped.

To the average American reading the news, the clear message is this: the authorities can't be trusted.  The only way to gain that trust is to let the public know, county by county, that the rules of engagement are "immediately enter the building, find the killer, kill the killer."  Without that, law enforcement should recognize that as these events continue to happen, they will soon have a situation where a parent, receiving panicked text messages from his child trapped inside, drives past the police waiting in their appointed positions behind trees, skids to a stop at the entrance, and enters the building to kill the killer. 

Most police, I'm certain, would be wishing they'd been given the standard operating procedure to enter immediately rather than being forced to listen, shot by shot, as more children are murdered while they are required to "wait in a safe space until there are three officers present" or whatever the rule happens to be.  Further, they certainly don't want to be dealing with parents running into the building, complicating their decisions.

With all of the talk about putting an officer in every school, it does not appear that any of the authorities are planning on informing the public of what would really happen.  Apparently, things won't change much.  It's just that instead of waiting for three cops to show up, the victims need to wait for only two – you see, we're about to spend all that money to put an officer on campus so that the officer can be the one to call 911 and wait for help!  This proves the "leadership incompetency" point above, where the authorities are completely untrustworthy, because this sad fact has not been raised in any of the discussions to date – and likely would not be raised until the first time we had a shooting at a school with an officer on site, and results didn't change, because the officer still had to wait for others to arrive.  Future killers, who clearly study a bit before they launch their attacks, readily recognize this and will not be fazed by the fact that there's a cop at the front door as their co-conspirators let them in at the back of the gym.  They know they've got at least six to eight minutes to do their damage without any fear of reprisal.

An elementary analysis of a typical attack would lead to a curve similar to that above, with kill rates highest in the first few minutes, then tapering off as many people have escaped and the killer must now go room to room to seek out those hiding.  If a police force maintains a requirement of three officers before acting, then having one officer sitting at the school will have a minimal impact upon casualties.  One can quibble about the actual numbers on the graph, but the big picture won't change much: response starting at time = 0, either by an on-site officer or by an armed teacher, is what will save lives.  This graph, populated with actual data, should be a fundamental part of any discussion on proposed solutions.  The fact that we haven't seen anything like this yet points again to the incompetence of the authorities even in the discussion of the topic.

The police forces serve the public, so the members of the public deserve to know what type of service they're paying for.  It won't take many more of these "wait while the situation quiets down" incidents before they give up and take matters into their own hands.  That's certainly not a desirable development, but it likely will happen unless we see competence and communication by law enforcement leadership, down to the local level, much clearer than we've seen to date.

Image: Terry Johnston via Wikimedia Commons.