Nomination For a Hero Badge

I don’t know what happened at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. All I know is that has been reported. Those doing the reporting have very little in the way of integrity and credibility. All parties have a vested interest in either obstructing the facts or promoting their particular bias. If ever the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect was in play it has taken center stage in Uvalde. Never heard of the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect?

The late Michael Crichton describes it this way:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

— Michael Crichton

It is one thing to suspend disbelief while watching a movie or reading a novel. It is unacceptable in a news story. Here are some questions that I have. These questions occurred to me based on my thirty years’ experience as a Texas Cop. During fifteen of those years, I was assigned to a narcotics task force. During my tenure, at the task force, I participated in over a thousand tactical operations in the form of search warrants, “buy bust” operations and felony warrant service. But what do I know? I never took a diversity course, or memorized the lyrics to Kumbaya.

I drove through Uvalde about thirty years ago. I don’t claim any kind of intimate knowledge of law enforcement there. However, I started my law enforcement career in a similarly situated rural county. The Uvalde Police Department has thirty-nine officers. I suspect patrol would be hard pressed to field five officers on a given shift. During the day shift the PD probably had four more gun totters in the form of the Chief, detectives and administrative officers. The Sheriff’s office consists of fifteen officers. The independent school district has six officers. I would guess that Texas DPS probably has six Highway Patrol assigned there. Probably with two assigned on a shift. Additionally there is probably , a Driver’s License trooper and a Sergeant. There might be a stray Texas Ranger hanging out in the coffee shop. I seem to recall that there was a Border Patrol District office on the western side of town. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Border Patrol represented the largest law enforcement contingent. That being said Uvalde would be a base of operations and Border Patrol officers were probably scattered across ten counties. All in all, not a whole lot of resources but you work with what you have not with what you wish for.

The Uvalde School District Police Chief is front and center in this whole thing. He was the incident commander, the department spokesman and his agency is the lead agency in the investigation. Why? It is a six man department!

I already know the answer. Where is the Uvalde Police Chief? Has anybody heard from the Sheriff? The simple answer is: When the jackals are tearing one of the pack to shreds, it would behoove the rest of the pack to be very, very quiet and hope jackals don’t notice. But expediency ignores a larger question. Who is in charge? The Sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer in the county. The Uvalde Chief of police presides over the largest agency. Why is the tail, in the form of the school district police, wagging the dog? Were the seeds for this tragedy planted when the school district created its own police force?

My first question is, is there a mutual aid agreement? If there is, what does it say? A mutual aid agreement is cobbled together when nothing is going on. So that when the feces hits the fan the duties and responsibilities of the participating agencies are generally defined. The schools operate within the jurisdiction of the Uvalde Police and the Sheriff’s office. Who does what when?

In the absence of a mutual aid agreement one can look to Bert and Ernie for guidance.

Which one of things are not like the other?

How do the agencies interact on a routine basis? Do the school district police investigate all crimes on campus? Do they make arrests? Or do they detain and refer cases to the local police.

Much has been written about the police waiting for somebody to show up with a key to the classroom. Why didn’t the cops kick the door in? I admit that in recent years I’ve been in more titty bars than classrooms. If I recall classroom doors open out and are generally solid core. Door kicking, even a ram won’t get the job done. I’m not defending the cops, far from it.

Apparently, none of the cops ever looked at a classroom door and said, “What if?” How does one breech an outward opening door? Prior planning could have equipped the cops with a master key or baring that a Halligan tool that can breech an outward opening door. This is Uvalde, it will never happen here. You can train the cops, but you can’t make them think.

Can’t go in the door? How about the windows? The name of the game is to control the space. Sometimes cops do that by making entry. But not always. There are tactical techniques that allow officers to control a space, without entering. Multiple windows, multiple cops, each with an assigned section of the room to control. Course such a tactic requires breaking windows. Who is gonna pay for that?

Finally, there is the “fog of war”. It takes time to sort through the chaos and figure out what really happened. But the six o’clock news has a deadline and CNN and Fox are live. It is a “department spokesman’s wet dream!” (“Honey watch the news better yet tape it. I’m gonna be on TV!”) The only bad press is no press.

It isn’t entirely on point, but it is time to bring up an assessment made by John “Cactus Jack” Nance Garner.

“The Vice Presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm piss. It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.”

John Nance Garner, 32nd Vice President under Roosevelt and Uvalde Favorite Son

To paraphrase Cactus Jack, “Uvalde law enforcement isn’t worth a pitcher of warm piss.”