Friday, February 23, 2018

There are no easy answers

So, the pitchfork-and-torches brigade is vilifying the armed officer in Florida never confronted the shooter. I'm not defending the guy. He's going to have to live with that inaction the rest of his life. It's going to be brutal.

But consider, for a moment, that this guy is human. School guard is not normally a high-stress position. You break up occasional fights. Watch to make sure visitors have checked in properly with the office. Maybe patrol the parking lot to make sure students aren't doing some extracurricular study of biology and anatomy. When push comes to shove, he failed to rise to the challenge. Was he too afraid to act? Maybe. That's the human element.

The mere presence of an armed guard is often viewed as sufficient deterrence in and of itself. Had he received ALERRT training, or something similar? That allows conditioning and training to kick in, otherwise the first responder has to think about what's happening, maybe over-think. There are a lot of unknowns. Paralysis leading to inaction can result out of the fear of making the wrong decision. Training's not cheap, and it can't be completed in a 30 minute online course. This isn't like television and the movies. [Edited to add that most officers who have not had active shooter response training are, per policy, taught to wait for backup. So it's entirely possible he was doing exactly what he was supposed to in that situation.]

Consider now, that this is the "solution" the NRA and many members of Congress have for school shootings (which doesn't bother to address mass shootings at concerts or churches or shopping malls or anywhere else). Arming teachers and janitors and administrators with even less training and less experience isn't a solution. If the money existed for comprehensive training for all of them, teachers would be getting a decent salary already and Governor Abbott and his allies in the legislature wouldn't have gutted the healthcare benefits of retired teachers.

That armed officer who failed to confront the killer? He's not a bug in the system. He's a baked-in feature.

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