Here’s the very first quote in a BBC News story under the headline, “Navy Yard: Swat team ‘stood down’ at mass shooting scene”:
“I don’t think it’s a far stretch to say that some lives may have been saved if we were allowed to intervene,” a Capitol Police source familiar with the incident told the BBC.
The story continues:
Multiple sources in the Capitol Police department have told the BBC that its highly trained and heavily armed four-man Containment and Emergency Response Team (Cert) was near the Navy Yard when the initial report of an active shooter came in about 8:20 local time.
The officers, wearing full tactical gear and armed with HK-416 assault weapons, arrived outside Building 197 a few minutes later, an official with knowledge of the incident told the BBC.
According to a Capitol Police source, an officer with the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Washington DC’s main municipal force, told the Capitol Cert officers they were the only police on the site equipped with long guns and requested their help stopping the gunman.
When the Capitol Police team radioed their superiors, they were told by a watch commander to leave the scene, the BBC was told.
Let that sink in a moment. Cops specially trained and armed to deal with exactly the situation facing them at Navy Yard were told to go away. The story ends with this:
A Capitol Police officer who heard the Cert request over the radio to engage the gunman reported colleagues within the department felt frustrated they were told to stand down.
The officer described a culture in which emergency responders are instructed to not extend themselves beyond the Capitol grounds for fear of discipline.
“They were relying on our command staff to make the right call,” another Capitol Police officer said. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that happened in this case.”
This would be outrageous on its own. But careful readers of articles on these mass shootings will no doubt have detected a pattern of this kind of conduct. Though these stories do not receive a lot of coverage – apparently criticizing cops is almost as big a taboo as criticizing the military in many circles – they are easy to find.
For instance, last December there was the horrible shooting at the elementary school in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. CNN put together a timeline of the events at the school from the moment the first emergency call was made. Here’s CNN’s summary:
Police and other first responders arrived on scene about 20 minutes after the first calls. Police report that no law enforcement officers discharged their weapons at any point.
Now let that sink in. A school full of small children and defenseless teachers. A gunman shooting up the place. And police wait 20 minutes to get there. The shooter killed himself before police reached him.
But that was great response time compared to that of cops who lollygagged their way to the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. Here’s CBS News on that, taken from a report the news organization did 10 years after the incident that included information that had been known only to police insiders at the time:
[B]y the time the first SWAT team was assembled and geared up to enter the building, it was 12:06 – 47 minutes after the shooting had begun.
It was more than three hours before cops had worked their way through the building.
Radley Balko, author of the recently released book, Rise of the Warrior Cop, reports scores of incidents in which innocent persons have been killed in SWAT raids, sometimes at the wrong addresses. He writes:
In my own research, I have collected over 50 examples in which innocent people were killed in raids to enforce warrants for crimes that are either nonviolent or consensual (that is, crimes such as drug use or gambling, in which all parties participate voluntarily). These victims were bystanders, or the police later found no evidence of the crime for which the victim was being investigated. They include Katherine Johnston, a 92-year-old woman killed by an Atlanta narcotics team acting on a bad tip from an informant in 2006; Alberto Sepulveda, an 11-year-old accidentally shot by a California SWAT officer during a 2000 drug raid; and Eurie Stamps, killed in a 2011 raid on his home in Framingham, Mass., when an officer says his gun mistakenly discharged. Mr. Stamps wasn’t a suspect in the investigation.
SWAT cops apparently have no problem throwing hand grenades through windows and smashing down doors in the middle of the night to pounce on unsuspecting people. They have no problem beating up and even killing these people, many of whom have been shown to have been doing nothing illegal. Yet they have repeatedly stood outside buildings while innocent people inside the buildings have been slaughtered by deranged gunmen.
SWAT was ordered to “stand down” rather than stop the killer at Navy Yard. They were useless when needed most.
But we can bet they’ll soon receive orders to crash through the doors to the house or apartment of the next person in their area who is suspected of growing a marijuana plant, and they’ll do it fearlessly. Maybe they’ll even get the right address.