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Bad Cop Blotter

​Why Are Cops Terrifying Children with Active Shooter Drills?

Cops reportedly brandished handguns and even an AR-15 rifle during the exercise, which may have done more harm than good by traumatizing a bunch of kids.
Photo via Flickr user Maximillian Curry

Last Thursday, middle school st​udents in Winter Haven, Florida, were terrified by an active shooter drill that neither they nor their parents were informed about beforehand.

Jewett Middle Academy was put on lockdown early in the morning after an announcement from the principal, who knew it was a drill, as did the school resource officer—but they were the only ones.

At one point during the exercise, cops—with guns out, one of them reportedly an AR-15 rifle—stormed a classroom. This was dubbed "standard procedure" by authorities, but it wasn't to kids, one of whom texted her parents, "I thought he was going to shoot me."


Winter Haven Police Chief Charlie Bird said the realism produced by surprise is essential to the process. It is how police test their reaction time in a real crisis. But other places train SWAT teams without conscripting scared kids into the process. Officers need to practice for a worst-case scenario, but why, exactly, do 12-year-olds? Their job is to survive, and to hopefully be rescued by some noble badge-wearer. Bird also swore that, "It really is to protect the children and at no point in time would we endanger any of the children."

Not endanger them, just pull guns on them and perhaps psychologically scar them. Protecting the children from the (thankfully rare) threat of a school shooting should not involve overhyping the risks, and certainly not by brandishing guns—including a loaded handgun—around them. Not to mention that accidents happen, even with police. Whatever happened to the old gun safety rule of don't point your gun at (or near) anything you don't intend to shoot?

In response to the angry backl​ash, the next active shooter drill at Jewett Middle Academy will involve uniformed, unarmed police instead. Pretty much anyone could have told them that was a better idea.

On to the rest of this week's bad cops:

-Turns out Ferguson, Missouri, police office Darren Wilson—who faces a potential grand jury indictment for killing unarmed black teenager Michael Brown this summer—might have another blot on his record. On Friday, 30-year-old Mike Arman uploaded footage from 2013 which purports to sho​w Wilson threatening Arman because the man was filming the cop. The Guardian found police reports that suggest the incident shown took place October 28 of last year and was a dispute over Arman leaving "derelict vehicles" on his property. A charge of resisting arrest was also added to Arman's rap sheet after the confrontation with Wilson. At one point in the video, Wilson says, "I am going to lock your ass up if you don't stop" filming. This doesn't give us any clearer of a picture of what exactly happened between Wilson and 18-year-old Brown in August, but it doesn't reflect well on Wilson as a cop either. There should be no tolerance for cops who prevent civilians from filming them.


-A 37-year-old mentally ill woman died in Cleveland police custody on Thursday after struggling against officers who were trying to take her in for a ​psychiatric evaluation. Tanesha Anderson's death came after police were called because she was allegedly disturbing the peace. The cause of death is still unknown, but this is still disturbing, not just because police reportedly did nothing to treat the unconscious Anderson while they waited 20 minutes for an ambulance.

-On Halloween, in Vancouver, Washington, an unidentified man called 9-1-1 after he saw a guy who was wanted for shooting his neighbor earlier in the day. Unfortunately, cops who arrived on the scene got confused and shot the caller in the leg, assuming him to be their suspect. The poor man had to then call 9-1-1 again to report that he had been shot. The three officers involved are all on​ administrative leave.

-Last year, the number of police officers who died in the line of duty was the lowest it's been in a century. That's good! In 2014, the number of individuals shot by police currently sits​ at around 460. That's the most it has been in two decades. That's bad—it also leads to questions about whether officer safety is being prioritized too much. The former number is nice, but whether the latter is some kind of twisted trade-off should be the bigger question. And the greatest concern should be whether officer safety is being prioritized too much.


-Darrien Hunt was fatally shot by Saratoga Springs, Utah, police on September 10. New detail​s reveal that one of the officers involved was wearing a body camera that he had not turned on. Officer Nicholas Judson, according to Police Chief Andrew Burton, was also a rookie who had only been on the job a month or so before the fatal shooting of 22-year-old Hunt, who had been holding a blunt samurai sword of the type used in cosplay on the day he was killed. There have been protests over the shooting, especially since surveillance video was released showing that Hunt was indeed running away from poli​ce on the day in question—presumably, the revelation that the cop had his camera turned off won't do anything to quell the controversy. And this comes back to a simple, basic concern about cameras: Are they worth the money they're spent on if they can be switched off by officers at any time?

-According to a Novembe​r 12 report from CBS Miami, on August 27, four plainclothes Miami Dade police officers arrested three men over misdemeanor marijuana possession. Two were released with a promise to appear later. The third man, Tannie Burke, was taken into custody, driven around, and then released by the side of a dark road a mile from home. Worse than this special treatment was the fact that Burke has been legally blind from birth. He can get himself around in the daytime, but darkness is tricky. The 21-year-old says he told the officers he couldn't see but to no avail. He also says they took his phone and refused to take him all the way home. Burke believes that he was mistreated because his stepfather filmed his arrest and insulted officers. Burke has filed a complaint, and Miami Dade internal affairs is looking into it. At least the marijuana charges against him have been dismissed.

-A refreshing/terrifying reminder that Americans actually have it pretty good: Cops in Brazil have killed 11,000 people in the past ha​lf decade.

-Our Good Cops of the Week were carto​onishly archaic in their heroics. On Friday, Suffolk County, Wisconsin police officers Stephen Lukas, Kit Gabrielsen and Martin Gill rescued Buddy the golden retriever after he got his head stuck in a cat house. It's a pleasant surprise that cops will respond to such an old-timey request as a pet in peril. There was probably nothing else to do except try to find someone smoking weed, so this one is a definite win in terms of prioritizing.

Follow Lucy Steigerwald on ​Twit​ter.