Uvalde teaches us about policing in America


Americans maintain a bargain with their police: Officers will run toward danger while the rest of us seek shelter, and in exchange we cede to police enormous discretion, abundant resources and the benefit of the doubt regarding their actions. That bargain is too rarely examined absent a shocking and deadly incident. The police murder of George Floyd was one such breakdown. The killing of 19 elementary school students and two adults on May 24 in Uvalde, Texas, is another.

By any measure, the law enforcement response during the approximately 80 minutes of horrific slaughter at Robb Elementary School was a shameful, abysmal failure. Official accounts of what happened, and when, have repeatedly shifted. But following reviews of audio and video recordings, it’s evident that police waited outside classrooms for more than an hour as the shooting continued inside; during that time local police blocked federal agents from entering the school (federal tactical officers ultimately entered and killed the suspect); terrified students called 911 from inside their classrooms and pleaded for police to enter, to no avail; police outside the school threatened desperate parents with arrest to keep them from entering to rescue their children when the officers would not; and school police and city police communicated poorly.

We need police. We also need to question what we demand of police and the power we give them. We cannot turn away from tragic results in Uvalde and in Minneapolis and in the countless other cities and communities in which Americans are insufficiently protected and improperly served.

The Los Angeles Times