Law enforcement personnel in Texas responding to school shootings are trained to “STOP THE KILLING” above all else, according to a 2020 active-shooter training course curriculum document posted on a Texas government website. The emphasis is theirs.
The existence of this document and the specific training should raise additional questions about why Uvalde, Texas, police didn’t storm Robb Elementary School earlier this week. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed in the shooting. Police have been criticized for allowing the shooter to remain in the building for roughly 40 minutes and busying themselves with preventing parents from rushing in to save their children before U.S. Border Patrol agents eventually killed the shooter.
The training was mandated in 2019 for all school-based law enforcement officers in Texas, a year after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. According to the curriculum, this training was mandated in part because of how police responded to the Parkland shooting: “Citizens have a reasonable expectation that police officers are willing to take risks to reduce casualties during active shooter event,” it says. “Several officers have been criticized after events such as the shooting in Parkland, FL for a perceived failure to respond. Video footage of an officer ‘staging’ outside the building while the attack in Parkland was going on drew a great deal of public criticism.”
That is exactly what has happened in the aftermath of the Robb Elementary School shooting. Police held tasers and subdued parents who were begging them to storm the school in a staging area outside the building. The Texas training document states in no uncertain terms that school-based police officers should stop the shooter by any means necessary as a first priority, and that they should be prepared to put themselves in danger to do so: “Officer’s first priority is to move in and confront the attacker. This may include bypassing the injured and not responding to cries for help from children.”
This training course is mandatory for all school-based law enforcement officers. It's currently unclear what training local police officers who were not based at the school received, though Uvalde's SWAT team also trained for this exact scenario, according to a Facebook post by the force from 2020.
The document also makes clear that officers should not wait for backup, and should simply try to stop the shooter even if they would normally feel like it'd be prudent to wait for backup: “Time is the number one enemy during active shooter response. The short duration and high casualty rates produced by these events requires immediate response to reduce the loss of life,” it says. “In many cases that immediate response means a single (solo) officer response until such times as other forces can arrive. The best hope that innocent victims have is that officers immediately move into action to isolate, distract or neutralize the threat, even if that means one officer acting alone.”
It also says that officers should expect to put themselves in harm’s way to protect students: “First responders to the active shooter scene will usually be required to place themselves in harm’s way and display uncommon acts of courage to save the innocent. First responders must understand and accept the role of ‘Protector’ and be prepared to meet violence with controlled aggression.”
If this isn’t clear enough, the document states, “As first responders, we must recognize that innocent life must be defended. A first responder unwilling to place the lives of the innocent above their own safety should consider another career field.”
The training document also states that a response to a hostage crisis should be different, and that “an event that starts as an active shooter event can easily morph into a hostage crisis” or “hostage/barricade situation.” At Robb Elementary School, the shooter seems to have barricaded himself into a single classroom, but nonetheless the training document is clear that officers should act quickly: “The number of deaths in an active shooter event is primarily affected by two factors:
• How quickly the police or other armed response arrives and engages them
• How quickly the shooter can find victims”