Police Response to the Columbine School Shooting of 1999

The Columbine school massacre refers to a school shooting where two- high school students killed thirteen and injured twenty-one people. Among those who died were a teacher and twelve students. The two attackers, Klebold and Harris, later turned guns on themselves. The event is considered one of the deadliest mass killings in the history of the United States. It is also one of the worst episodes of school violence (Marsico, 2010). The police arrived at the scene 47 minutes after the shootings had started. The situation revealed the weaknesses in the police response in case of active shooting. This paper criticizes the police response and provides recommendations of what can be done to prevent such crimes in the future.

The response by police is criticized as being extremely slow. The police took quite some time before arriving at the scene. The students made calls to the police reporting the gunshots, wounded students, and explosion in the school building. The police arrived at the scene after some time. However, after arrival, they seemed confused about the steps to take and waited until the SWAT team arrived. The first police officers to arrive only surrounded the school to prevent the attackers from escaping but they did not enter the building to save the victims. The confusion among the police officers could have provided the attackers, Harris and Klebold, with adequate time to continue their massacre. The attackers spent 32 minutes in the library shooting aimlessly and setting bombs. Some people argue that if the police had interfered, more lives would have been saved (Marsico, 2010).

The SWAT teams were also involved in the scene. SWAT is an abbreviation for Special Weapons and Tactics; it comprises a group of trained and experienced officers. These officers are only called upon in situations that require special tactics or increased firepoer. During the Columbine shooting, the SWAT teams were assigned the task of entering the building. However, these teams also spent a lot of time to respond, as they had to decide to enter the scene from behind a fire truck. The officers also appeared unprepared, each taking a small step as if expecting an attack from an unknown source. The first SWAT team entered the library where the shooting was taking place at 12:06. Other groups arrived later, long after shooting had stopped. However, the attackers turned guns on themselves two minutes after the SWAT team entered the building. Moreover, they did not reach the bodies of the attackers until three hours after the shooting commenced. If the police had responded immediately, the lives would have been saved and massacre stopped. The IMS groups were not involved in the incident since it was considered more a crime scene.

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There are a number of things that can be done by the police teams in case the crime happens in another school. First, the police should move into the scene and respond quickly even though they may lack adequate information. The police should also employ the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment tactics, which assigns a team of four officers to move into the building where the shooting is taking place. These officers are specially trained to advance towards the source of gunfire and attempt to neutralize the attacker within the shortest time possible (Marsico, 2010).

In addition, the police should consider applying National Incident Management System (NIMS). The system integrates the functions of multi- agencies involved in the scene. The system allows for quick and effective coordination and communication between the school administration and other agencies. The system also facilitates the interagency cooperation, priority setting, as well as effective flow of information and resources. The police should also locate ann incident command post in a safe place so as to coordinate the activities of all the agencies operating in the area. These measures will ensure that there are no conflicts among the groups taking part in the rescue operation. The other important thing in such a situation is correct positioning and coordination of the staging areas. These areas should be equipped with a landing site so that any rescue team does not waste a single minute trying to identify it. Tactical staging area is also an important area for police and SWAT coordination. The police should be assigned the task of surrounding the scene and putting a perimeter fencing while the SWAT groups move into the scene to fight the attackers. However, it will depend on the scene itself. The evacuation area should also be set up in order to facilitate the reunion of parents and students. An interview area is another important issue required for facilitation of quick information collection from the witnesses. Most of these staging areas should be manned by the police officers and other personnel (Kass, 2009).

However, the only way to save lives is to ensure quick response and enough knowledge of the police in the urgent course of actions immediately after arriving at the scene. In addition, the attackers should be neutralized as soon as possible before they commit extensive violence. The police should also evacuate the victims from the crime scene quickly enough. The training of officers, therefore, should be extensive and adequate. However, other tactical strategies such as the ones indicated above should be employed (Kass, 2009).

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In brief conclusion, it is clear that the response of the police into the Columbine High School Massacre was not effective. The slow actions of the police officers and SWAT teams have resulted in more deaths. In the future, the police should use various modern tactics in order to save lives.

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