What experts say police should have done in the Uvalde school shooting "It'd be great if you had some help — but I can assure you those kids need help more than you need help," says Steve Ijames, who trains police agencies on active-shooter situations.

Here's what experts say police should have done in the Uvalde school shooting

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/1101812648/1101872012" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


How long should authorities wait before entering a school if there's an active shooter inside? And how should police deal with distraught parents? The school shooting tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, has put a renewed focus on how police train for active shooter situations. NPR's Cheryl Corley talked with tactical experts and has this report.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: For parents in Uvalde, it was a wrenching situation, with many attempting to intervene themselves as they waited for police to take action as a gunman went on the attack at Robb Elementary School. Today Colonel Steven McCraw with the Texas Department of Public Safety says the on-scene commander at the time believed that the gunman was not an active shooter but instead a barricaded subject.


STEVEN MCCRAW: From the benefit of hindsight, where I'm sitting now, of course it was not the right decision. It was a wrong decision, period. There's no excuse for that.

CORLEY: There are few national standards when it comes to policing. But there is some consistency, says Steve Ijames, when it comes to active shooting protocol. He's led training sessions for police agencies since the mid-1990s to help them determine ways to respond.

STEPHEN IJAMES: The protocol is, as soon as you determine that you have an active shooter, you don't wait for anyone. You enter, and you move to neutralize. And it may be at your peril. I can assure you those kids need help more than you need help.

CORLEY: Thor Eells, the executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, or NTOA, agrees. He says the agency began providing active shooting training in 1999, just after the shooting massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado. Since then, there have been a litany of others, including students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut a decade ago and the attack on students and faculty at a high school in Parkland, Fla., four years ago. There's been a change during that time, too, says Eells, in police protocols. NTOA teaches and encourages agencies to not wait, to instead have single officers intervene in defense-of-life situations.

THOR EELLS: Having said that, it's probably an equal split within law enforcement as to whether that's a good idea or not. They believe that that would be unnecessarily sacrificing and/or misusing a vital resource.

CORLEY: What's crucial, say the training experts, is for police agencies to work hand-in-hand with school districts to create emergency protocols, with details about the layout of schools and personnel. And the very best way to ensure that kids inside school are protected, says trainer Stephen Ijames, is having a system in place to make sure a dangerous person doesn't have access to the school at all.

IJAMES: So the first step is not about the police responding to an in-progress tragedy. It's keeping the problem outside of the school. So it's physical security first.

CORLEY: Like locking doors and then figuring out what practices should be in place to secure student areas if a person does get inside. Experts say the tragic lesson of this latest mass school shooting is that there must be constant vigilance, that law enforcement has to continue to adapt strategies and tactics to fight the devastation that's occurred in so many schools in the country. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Chicago.

Copyright © 2022 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.