Blue Lives Matter More Than Yours
Once again, Uvalde shows Cops don't accept risks.
When it comes to this newsletter, my job is to mix analysis with humor to entertain and inform readers.
Today, I did not do my job.
There’s no humor in the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Once again, we find ourselves trapped in a grotesque Groundhog Day. It’s America’s 27th mass shooting of the year. Democrats have (again) already surrendered on gun safety legislation. Republicans are (again) saying anything to shield guns. They’re currently suggesting door control.
While the majority of the focus is (rightfully) on preventing gun crime, I’m yet again tearing my hair out at the systemic failure of a different institution — The Police.
While the events prior to the shooter entering Robb Elementary School are still in dispute, we do know police were on the scene within minutes of the first shots. (Some accounts even have the police engaging the shooter before the killing.) But they did not enter the school. They did not try to stop the killer. They did not try to save lives. They set up a perimeter, called for backup, and waited. And waited. And waited. 40 minutes went by. Parents arrived and urged the cops to “Get in there!” A few of them even considered rushing in themselves, unarmed but determined.
The cops didn’t like this. They detained one parent and threatened to tase others. Here’s the video. Notice the cop in the foreground. His rifle is stashed and his taser is ready. The preference for non-lethal weaponry suggests he views the parents as more of a threat to him than the shooter.
Andy Specht @AndySpechtCops stood outside the school while the killer rampaged inside. Onlookers yelled at them to go in. They didn’t. One parent urged bystanders: “Let’s just rush in because the cops aren’t doing anything like they are supposed to.” @AP story: https://t.co/l2CqPCzmAf
Every solution we’ve heard from the Right on how to stop these atrocities centers on The Police. Ted Cruz’s “single door” idea rests on the laurels that an armed officer could stop a shooter. Republicans want more cops in schools. And for the last decade Americans have been lectured about “The War on Police,” a fantasy that criticism of police violence against civilians (particularly Black males) is misguided and unfair. After all, “These brave officers risk their lives for us every day.”
But they don’t risk their lives. The Thin Blue Line myth posits cops as superheroes, charging into the fray to shield innocence from evil. This notion is disproven by a long string of data points, of which the Uvalde shooting is just one of many. And what the trend shows is that cops don’t see themselves as protectors, but as enforcers. Enforcers of the traditional social order, of which they are at the top.
If Uvalde PD did view themselves as protectors, they would have done anything to stop the massacre. The first pair to engage the shooter wouldn’t have retreated, as confirmed in the statement below. Those who arrived during the assault would have rushed inside. But alas, the police prioritized their own lives over the children.
Now, defenders of the police will claim “These were just a few bad apples. Clearly, this particular police department was caught off-guard, but you can’t judge the whole institution on a small sample.”
Unfortunately, we have a large sample.
During the Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in 2018, the cops waited outside. During the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, the cops waited outside. Here’s a personal experience of, yet again, cops holding back to “avoid unnecessary risk to officers.”
Supposedly, Columbine changed the way police reacted to active shooters. Post-Columbine tactics encourage police to rush towards the sound of guns to intercept the shooter, not set up a perimeter and “wait for backup,” though that’s exactly what they did in Texas. Uvalde PD claims they were waiting for highly-armed SWAT, but as we can see in the video above, there are multiple officers outfitted with body armor and powerful weaponry, putting them at a tactical advantage over the shooter in both numbers and experience.
One can only conclude that the reason they didn’t enter was concern for their own safety. That concern cost 19 lives and an unquantifiable amount of pain.
The ideology of Blue Lives Mattering More Than Others isn’t limited to mass shootings. Time and time again we hear killer cops justifying murder with “I was afraid for my life.”
The cop who killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice wasn’t prosecuted, as “he had reason to fear for his life.” (Rice was holding a toy gun.) The cop who killed Philando Castille was acquitted, his defense built on his “fear for his life.” To list all the instances of this would crash Substack’s servers.
This rot isn’t individual, it’s institutional. Not only is it the go-to defense for killer cops, but the Supreme Court has enshrined cops’ right to shoot “if they fear for their own life.” Of course “fear” is a subjective metric, so cops don’t have to prove they were in danger, just that they felt they were in danger. The mere perception of a threat (or the pretending of such a perception years later at a trial) is all a killer needs to walk.
And it’s all they need to explain why they were taking cover outside an elementary school massacre.
Critics of American policing have long argued that the culture of police departments is deeply flawed. I count myself one of these critics. But every time a concern is raised, a protest marches, or grieving families ask for an explanation, they’re met with excuses, scorn, and a fable of Fascist cosplaying. (I’m still waiting for Denver PD to solve the fatal shooting that took place 50 feet from my front door. I’ve seen them tear down homeless encampments but have heard nothing about solving the murder.)
Until American Police understand that putting on a badge comes with a risk, and accept that risk as the duty to sacrifice their lives for others, Americans will continue to die.
And if cops don’t want that risk, Amazon is hiring.