Monday, April 6, 2009

Outside authorities should review the slow police response in Binghamton mass killings



Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski, who was on the scene of the shooting and in command within a few minutes of the 911 call is on the defensive. People are asking the obvious questions:

-- Why did police wait an hour or more to enter the building, even though the shooting was over by the time they got there two minutes after a critically wounded receptionist called 911?

-- Would any of the 13 gunshot victims who died have been saved by prompt emergency treatment?

The county prosecutor has jumped in to back the Chief with some sweeping assertions that some people are going to find hard to accept:

"No decisions by the police had any bearing on who died," Broome County District Attorney Jerry Mollen told reporters Sunday.

The first officers arrived at the American Civic Association about three minutes after the first emergency calls were made Friday, according to a timeline by the Binghamton Police Department.

Officers did not enter the building for about 40 minutes, police said.

"No one was shot after police arrival, and none of the people who had been shot could have been saved, even if the police had walked in the door within [the] first minute," Mollen said. "The injuries were that severe."

I'm sorry but I'm not buying it just because Mollen says so. Frankly, it lacks credibility to say that not one victim might have had a chance to survive if treated immediately. People often survive grave wounds, even gunshots to the head. And many gunshot wounds lead to death by bleeding and shock. In any case, it's not for a prosecutor to be making such judgements, particularly in a small community like Binghamton and the surrounding Broome County where the police chief and prosecutor are close working colleagues.

Mollen went on to say that aid the issue of the police response was "an obvious question" that will be investigated, but "now's not the time."

Why is now not the time? As any prosecutor knows, the time to collect and understand all the facts surrounding a crime of this magnitude is as soon as possible -- while the evidence, including the recollections of witnesses, is fresh. The same certainly holds true for understanding a closely related event like the police response.

This is a job for an appropriate, credible outside authority -- perhaps a special commission appointed by the Governor. The point of such a review would not be to punish anyone; such after-the-fact finger-pointing about decisions made under pressure is never helpful. The goal is to find out exactly what happened and why, in order to improve the future ability of police departments everywhere to respond more effectively to such terrible crimes. We had been led to believe that the lessons taken from the Columbine rampage had shaped better police planning. Perhaps it did and nothing needs to be changed now. Then again, we should not be taking Mr. Mollen's or Chief Zikuski's word for that.

What's your opinion? Post a comment.

26 comments:

  1. Sadly, the only people who believe "now is the time" to say/do anything will be the gun-controllers who blame ALL violence on the 2nd amendment.

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  2. If this had been a fire would the firemen have
    waited an hour before entering the building?
    I think NOT,professional yellow tape installers indeed!

    Len Bennett Eastern Canada

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  3. I just posted about this yesterday. The AP reported that the police waited for about an hour before entering the building to make sure it was safe for officers." (Italics added)

    As I wrote,

    >>>we don't give cops guns so they can make sure they are safe. They are supposed to protect the usually-unarmed masses even at risk to life. It is merely luck that the Binghamton shooter had stopped killing people by the time the police arrived.

    Suppose the police had heard more gunfire when they arrived. Would they have immediately charged the building? How many shots would it have taken for them to do so? One? Five? A dozen? More? Or would they have decided instead that it was really too unsafe for them to enter?

    Don't expect an investigation worthy of the name. As you've actually demonstrated, the coverup and buttsaving has already begun.

    Remember the old saying, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away"? Well, when seconds count, the Binghamton police are only an hour away.

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  4. Our 2nd Amendment rights are under attack. This is out of Alinskys playbook. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it. Cut off the support network and isolate the person from sympathy. That attacks the institution. Works for journo-lists too.

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  5. I imagine there were some PD troops who were itching to get in the building asap.

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  6. I am a former officer in NJ.
    I have to imagine the 1st officers were held back from going in by "superiors".That's their nature, at last most of the ones I know/knew anyway...
    Here 's the unvarnished,inconvenient truth.
    Cops arrive "after the fact" in almost EVERY CASE LIKE THIS.
    One has to wonder what the outcome would have been if some of those murdered were themselves armed...

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  7. It seems to me that D.A. Mollen has forgotten where his paycheck comes from.

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  8. Police/Swat officers these days are great at dressing up all "Tactical" and looking cool. But we know cowards when we see them.

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  9. I thought that after Columbine, police around the country were being trained to go into a situation like this IMMEDIATELY, and *not* to wait for SWAT. I was stunned when I first read that the NY cops waited until they thought it was "safe" to enter the building.

    Too bad all the dead folks are immigrants and not familiar with American litigation, or their families would be suing the city and the police department into bankruptcy for negligence, using Columbine as the example.

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  10. Some of the same questions about the Von Maur shooting in Omaha, December 5, 2008.

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  11. The cover-up is almost as shameful as the original cowardice. We know that at least the receptionist who called the police was severely wounded and certainly needed prompt attention. A disgrace on the order of the Colorado school shooting--secure the area, break out the donuts and wait until we are absolutely positive the danger has passed, then bring the victims out in handcuffs.

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  12. Waiting for an hour doesn't reflect well on Binghamtons "finest"...They are lucky the shooter committed suicide as oppposed to continuing to massacre people until he was shot. The death toll could have been 10 times the amount in light of the police departments failure to act. If this is going to be the response of officers in the future you might as well just send the Coroner to to pick up the bodies when the shooters run out of bullets and tell the cops to stay at Dunkin' Donuts until their crime scene tape is needed.

    It is a good thing the officer at the nursing home in North Carolina didn't take the same approach as these guys or everyone at the nursing home would have been killed.. Another reason to move South...

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  13. Small point of order: "...after a critically wounded receptionist called 9-11". The receptionist probably called the emergency number, 911, and not the date, September 11th.

    As to the substance, it does boggle the mind and make you wonder what the police are for when they stand around while people bleed to death. Citizens shouldn't have guns (according to a certain self-righteous segment of the population and political leadership) and yet, when the people who carry guns on their behalf and whose job it is to protect them fail to come to their aid you have to ask why that makes any sense. If it's "too dangerous" for the people with guns how dangerous must it be for the people without. Be a man, get in there, and save some lives. Otherwise, get out of the way.

    "I have to imagine the 1st officers were held back from going in by "superiors".That's their nature, at last most of the ones I know/knew anyway..."

    That's what I was thinking. It might have been a bad thing, not a good thing, that the police chief arrived on the scene so quickly. A tactical commander might have done something useful, but the chief, perhaps, reverted to an overly-cautious bureaucratic CYA mode as if he was back in his office.

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  14. Its not that bad. Its worse really. The police chief knows that the higher the body count the more the calls for "Gun Control" therefore better to wait to give the shooter plenty of opportunity. After all the one hour they waited will help ensure the "safety of the officers" from the peasants in the future as well.

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  15. Suppose the DA is correct. So what? How is that relevant? How exactly did the police determine that no one in the building needed immediate medical treatment?

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  16. I'm not surprised. The police do not have to put their lives at risk if they don't want to. This has been supported by a Supreme Court decision.

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  17. This behavior sends a clear message to crazy mass-murderers: kill a bunch of people, then find a good tactical position, wait an hour, kill the first cop you see. The cops will reward you with hours more free time to kill more innocents or escape.

    Incentives matter.

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  18. This obviously means that they need lots more money, lots of new guns, lots more fancy equipment, special training classes in Florida (in February) and a brand new tank to carry it all around in. THEN they'll be ready, by golly!

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  19. The media initially called out that it was a hostage situation. The McDonalds killings in San Diego many years ago continued after the police arrived because the standing order was to have the negotiating team there before any action was take. Was this the situation here as well?

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  20. Maybe the public needs a new phone number to call when you are in dire need of help. Call "711" for the SWAT team since the police might just let you die. It just goes to show you that the government cannot always be there to help you. People should be allowed to carry concealed weapons to protect themselves(sane adults that pass a gun handling course).

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  21. Mars vs HollywoodApril 6, 2009 at 3:19 PM

    A lot of people don't seem to understand how these sorts of responses work. After Columbine, a lot of agencies developed a policy for "active shooter" situations. This is one where the suspect cannot be negotiated with or contained, because he's just killing people, as opposed to taking hostages or barricading.

    In these scenarios, there is no time to call SWAT or negotiators, so the first officers on scene have to make immediate entry. The important thing to remember is that this is ONLY done if you know that the active shooter is still killing people.

    The gunman in Binghamton was in fact dead before the police arrived, and so there would be no indications that would have triggered the "active shooter" response protocol. It's reasonable to think that the responding police didn't know what they had.

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  22. Last week, a LONE 25-year-old police officer, Justin Garner, rushed into a nursing home in NC, confronted the gunman, and stopped the massacre. The police in Binghamton must have been waiting for their numbers to increase to ONE BRAVE OFFICER!!

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  23. Mars vs Hollywood -- I understand the "active shooter" protocol, which makes sense, of course.

    However, it does not -- or should not -- follow that police wait and gear up in every other situation when there is no sign of an active shooter. There has to be some judgement made about the relative risks. In this case, it seems (!) that poor judgement was exercised. I say "seems" because I don't really want to point fingers. My view is that an outside authority should look into this and report the facts. Leaving it to the local authorities won't do.

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  24. You guys need to put yourselves in the cops shoes. Are you going to rush into a building with armed assailants? If the cops just blaintintly ran in the building they would have been shot. What use would a dead police officer be to the civilians? Why dont you think of the other side of the argument before you go and run your mouth against those who protect you.

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