Sept 8 – Texas State Police have adopted a more aggressive strategy for responding to school shootings after scathing criticism of law enforcement’s handling of the Uvalda massacre that killed 19 children and two teachers.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) confirmed by email Wednesday that it has made protocol changes for its officers in response to mass shootings like the May 24 massacre in Uvalda, a small town in the Texas Hill Country about 80 miles (130 km) west of San Antonio.
In an emailed statement, DPS also said it has referred five of its officers to the inspector general to investigate their actions during the shooting at Robb Elementary School. Two have already had their pay suspended.
DPS, which includes the Texas Rangers, formed an internal committee in July to investigate how its officers responded. Based on that investigation, five police officers were referred to the state inspector general.
Also in July, DPS Director Steven McCraw sent an email outlining protocol changes for DPS officers in response to the mass shooting, the department said Wednesday.
“Officers responding to an active shooter at a school will be authorized to overcome any delay in neutralizing the assailant,” McCraw wrote in a July email. “When a subject fires a weapon at a school, they remain an active shooter until they are neutralized and should not be considered a ‘barricaded subject.’
After the shooting, criticism of law enforcement’s response focused on Pete Arredondo, who was fired as the school district’s police chief last week.
According to DPS, Arredondo acted as the “incident commander” responsible for the overall response, although he said he did not consider himself the commander at the scene.
DPS officials said 19 officers waited for an hour in a hallway outside the adjacent classrooms where the shooter was holed up with his victims before a tactical team led by the U.S. Border Patrol finally arrived and killed the suspect.
A report by state lawmakers released in July said a total of 376 officers, including more than 90 state police agencies, rushed to the school in a chaotic scene marked by a lack of clear leadership and sufficient urgency.