In the ten weeks since the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, each new disclosure has cast the responding officers in a worse light. First, police claimed that a school resource officer engaged the shooter before he entered the building; no such thing occurred. Then came the footage of parents being restrained by men in tactical gear outside as their children were killed within. Doors that were supposedly locked turned out to have been unlocked the whole time; requested firepower was on site sooner than spokespeople recollected. But the simplest distillation of the scandal is a matter of mathematics: It took 75 minutes for some of the 376 law enforcement officers who arrived at the scene to enter the classroom and kill the shooter, who had by that time murdered nineteen children and two teachers without being properly engaged by the police.
It’s not that American officers are gun-shy, exactly. Over 1,000 people have been shot and killed by police in the United States in the past year. Police forces across the country are being militarized—Uvalde, which is a town of 15,000, did much to advertise its own SWAT team—and new recruits are increasingly being trained into a violent paradigm that requires them to habituate themselves to the act of killing until they are ready to do so at a moment’s notice. Gone are the days of officers who aspire to resemble Mayberry’s Andy Taylor, the idealized small-town policeman who strolled his beat without so much as a holstered sidearm on his hip. Instead, we live in the age of the heavily armed and armored “warrior cop,” who may avail himself of virtually any pretense to end your life with impunity.
These two bodies of information—the calamitous failure of police to use force to end a mass killing in progress on one side, the rise of the warrior cop on the other—might initially appear to conflict with one another. But as we attempt to square the rise of the warrior cop with the utter failure of the police in Uvalde, what becomes clear is that Uvalde is not an outlier. Rather, the Uvalde tragedy is perfectly consistent with the warrior-cop ethos.
It is not clear at this time whether the Uvalde police specifically undertook warrior-cop training programs or overtly embraced its ethos in other ways, but the mindset is prevalent in officer training programs, police unions, and publications for cops all around the country; the federal government even makes grants available to fund warrior-cop training workshops, as detailed in a jointly published story by Slate and the Trace about the burgeoning warrior-cop industry. Whether or not Uvalde cops attended warrior-cop training in a formal context, the ideology is in the water; there is no escaping it.
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