Justice Department launches review of law enforcement's response in Uvalde Experts are already on the ground in Texas. They plan to review documents, interview law enforcement officers, and consult with families of victims and survivors.


Justice Department launches review of law enforcement's response in Uvalde

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Two weeks after a mass shooting killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, the U.S. Justice Department is on the case. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a review of law enforcement's response to that shooting at a press conference in Washington today.


MERRICK GARLAND: The review will be comprehensive. It will be transparent, and it will be independent.

PFEIFFER: NPR's Carrie Johnson was at the DOJ this afternoon, and she's here to give us details. Hi, Carrie.


PFEIFFER: The Justice Department is calling this a critical incident review. What is the goal here?

JOHNSON: The attorney general says his heart is broken over the loss of life in Uvalde, Texas. He says he knows the DOJ can't do anything to bring those people back, but Merrick Garland added this.


GARLAND: But the independence and transparency and expertise of the Justice Department can go a long way toward assessing what happened in Uvalde with respect to the law enforcement response and to giving guidance for the future, and that's what we're here for today.

PFEIFFER: Carrie, who will be leading this review?

JOHNSON: The lead is a guy named Rob Chapman. He's the head of the Office of Community-Oriented Policing at the Justice Department. But those folks at the so-called COPS office will be helped by a number of outside experts. That includes law enforcement executives who responded to a mass shooting in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., years ago and the Pulse nightclub shooting that killed 49 people in Orlando, Fla.

That last one is a little controversial since, in the aftermath, police were criticized for not moving more quickly. It turned out some victims died from blood loss while they waited for authorities to bust into the nightclub. And, of course, there are a lot of open questions about long delays at Robb Elementary School, too.

PFEIFFER: Right, so many open questions. What are the next steps here?

JOHNSON: Well, the attorney general says some reviewers are already on the ground in Texas. They're going to review documents, like training manuals, look at all these videos that have come out. They're also going to interview law enforcement, school officials and family members of the children and teachers. There's no set timetable for the review, but Justice says they'll publish a written report when they're finished. The whole idea is to offer lessons learned and best practices for the future.

PFEIFFER: So many parents and lawmakers have been calling for accountability in Uvalde. Is there any chance that this Justice Department review could result in criminal charges for anyone?

JOHNSON: I don't think so. This is not an FBI investigation, not a criminal investigation. The attorney general says the Justice Department is moving in here because of a request from the mayor in Uvalde. There has been some mixed messages about whether the Texas authorities are getting access to all the police they want to interview there, but Merrick Garland told reporters he's not worried about that.


GARLAND: We have been promised, assured and welcomed with respect to cooperation by every level of law enforcement - state, federal and local. And we'll participate in that vein, and we don't expect any problems.

JOHNSON: Now, it would be a big story if law enforcement on the scene at Robb Elementary decided not to talk to the Justice Department, so let's all stay tuned there.

PFEIFFER: Carrie, before you go, I understand the attorney general had a message for Congress today.

JOHNSON: In a roundabout way - Merrick Garland says he'd be happy to work with lawmakers on Capitol Hill as they negotiate over new gun safety measures after the shootings in Texas and in Buffalo, N.Y. There are bipartisan efforts underway in Congress to develop some new proposals on guns, but it's just not clear whether Congress will accomplish anything, even though public opinion polls suggest voters would be open to things like expanded background checks.

PFEIFFER: NPR's Carrie Johnson. Carrie, thank you.

JOHNSON: Happy to be here.

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