I come from an Irish-American family full of cops and support my local police. I admire the courage of our police officers and understand that, all too often, they face serious danger to their lives, like this and this.
Still, the Binghamton mass killings raises the question that nagged so many people in the wake of the Columbine school massacre: did police wait too long because of inadequate training, misguided tactics, or a failure of command?
Here are two troubling passages from one news report today:
Police arrived in minutes, heard no gunfire and waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers. They then spent two hours searching the building. They led a number of men out in plastic handcuffs while trying to sort out victims from the killer or killers.
Another receptionist, 61-year-old Shirley DeLucia, played dead after she was shot in the abdomen and called the emergency dispatcher to get police to the scene within two minutes.
[Binghamton Police Chief Joseph] Zikuski said the injured receptionist stayed on the phone for 90 minutes, "feeding us information constantly," despite a serious wound in the abdomen.
Over that 60-90 minutes or more, New York State police and various SWAT teams arrived in force. But 13 now-dead victims (and four others critically wounded) lay about the floor for most of that time, since the shooting had taken place in the space of a few minutes. Of course, I don't have a clue as to how many of the victims had immediately mortal wounds. I also don't know how likely it is that out of the 13 gunshot victims who died, some might have been saved by quick action and medical attention. But my gut tells me that at least a few expired while police were gearing up and making plans.
This deserves to be investigated thoroughly -- not to point fingers but to help make sure that future police responses will be as effective and life-saving as possible. Tragically, we can all be sure that there will be another such shooting, regardless of whether gun laws are made tougher or not.
Whatever our own positions on gun control (I'm in favor of most sensible restrictions), we citizens have an unspoken deal with our law enforcement officials: we won't worry about arming ourselves, lest we add to the problem, and you will protect us. If you don't, this example of self-protection is going to look a lot more attractive.
It seems clear that we have a way to go before we can say we're being adequately protected from crazed gunmen. A good first step in improving the situation would be to scrutinize what, if anything, went wrong with the police response in Binghamton.
What do you think? Post a comment.