San Diego officers say their tactics differ from those in response to Texas school shooting
Video captured the gunman in front of Robb Elementary School in Texas shortly before he entered the building and murdered 19 children and two teachers. No one stopped him. Parents are seen outside of the school begging law enforcement to raid the school and help their children.
Now, Texas law enforcement officials admit that the supervisor made the wrong decision for officers to wait at least an hour to enter. He’d assumed the gunman posed no threat because the incident had transitioned into a barricade situation.
This has many teachers, parents and students worried that the same thing could happen here.
"Because of what happened in Texas, it's hard to know for sure what's going to happen, it's just unknowing, you just truly don't know if we're safe at school anymore," said Julia Herndon, a student at Del Norte High School, where there was a brief lockdown this week.
Herbert Taft, a San Diego Sheriff's Department training captain, said that, while he cannot comment on the tactics of other departments, waiting is not part of the department's training. "I can guarantee that we all understand what the cost is this is what we signed up for, this is our job, and you can absolutely count on us," he said.
Lieutenant Chris Katra, the director of training with the San Diego Sheriff's Department, said all departments in the county use the same tactics. He said that is important because mutual response is an important component in these scenarios. "What our department teaches is an immediate response, is immediate action, rapid deployment," he said, "and what that means is we don’t wait. We don’t teach our people to wait around and wait for SWAT teams. That’s not how our deputies are trained, that’s not how we're trained as a region."
Many are also scrutinizing the amount of time it took officers to unlock the classroom door where the mass murderer was hiding.
Katra said they are also prepared for locked-door scenarios, with knowledge of lock boxes on every campus and equipment that breaks down doors in their patrol cars. "A locked door isn’t going to stop us. We’ll kick it down, we’ll mow it down," he said. "Most of us are parents ourselves. We react just like those teachers react. You heard them crying 'These are our children.' We think of it as the same way. I was a school resource officers for many years. I would die for those kids, and I know a lot of the deputies would put their lives on the line for those kids."
Glen Hass, a law enforcement veteran who consults and teaches tactics to law enforcement across the country, says the Columbine school shooting changed police tactics. "Post-Columbine, officers can't stand by and wait for additional units and resources because people are dying. ... Officers have to go in and stop that suspect by whatever means they can, and if that means a single officer going in at tremendous risk to their own safety, that’s what they have to do," he said. "While that was something that wouldn't have been considered pre-Columbine, that’s something that’s become the norm nowadays, and that’s why people have seen this particular incident, have so many questions of: 'Why? Why was there a time lag, what was going on, what were the decisions, why were the decisions being made in this way?' And, until this investigation is over, we’re just not going to know."
Haas says that information is critical to know because this will save lives.