PSL editorial: Uvalde catastrophe shows that cops do not keep us safe

The official report on the Uvalde school shooting has confirmed what has long been painfully clear: police responded in a catastrophic and disgraceful fashion as innocent children were being massacred. The utter cowardice and inaction by officers the day of the mass shooting exposes the cops’ myths and serves as a bitter reminder that police officers do not keep us safe.

The report, carried out by the Texas state legislature, found that “systemic failures and egregiously poor decision making” contributed to a disaster in which police “failed to prioritize saving the lives of innocent victims over their own safety.” Video made public shortly before the report’s publication showed cops in the school callously checking their phones and sanitizing their hands as children screamed inside the classroom where they were trapped with the gunman. Outside, police brutalized parents who were desperately pleading with them to rescue their children.

This cannot possibly be blamed on “a few bad apples.” Three hundred and seventy-six cops were present at the scene of the massacre. They came from a wide range of agencies, including Uvalde city police, Uvalde school police, San Antonio Police Department, Uvalde county sheriffs, Border Patrol, Department of Homeland Security, and Texas Department of Public Safety. 

Their total disregard for the lives of innocent children who attended a working-class Latino school is a reflection on the entire institution of policing under capitalism. When it comes to terrorizing and inflicting violence on defenseless people, the cops posture as courageous defenders of “law and order.” But when it came time to confront a mass shooter, not a single one of the cops on the scene decided to act.

As they so often do, the police lied about what happened. Steven McCraw, the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, falsely claimed on May 25 that police “did engage immediately” and that “As the shooter was approaching, there was a school district resource officer that approached him.” In fact, it took the police well over an hour to take action. 

A debate about public safety is raging across the country. Pro-police organizations, politicians and media outlets are attempting to manipulate people’s genuine concerns about safety to promote the idea that police should be celebrated and showered with even more resources. This, they hope, will help the cops regain their political footing after being challenged in historic fashion by the 2020 nationwide uprising against racism. 

What transpired at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde shows what a cynical maneuver this is. The multifaceted epidemic of violence in the United States can only be truly addressed by a profound transformation of society that ends the systematic devaluation of human life that is so pronounced in this country. Immediate steps like the expansion of social programs, violence interrupter programs and an end to the legal impunity enjoyed by gun manufacturing corporations can do so much more to alleviate the crisis than the enlargement of police power. As officers stood idly by outside the classroom on that tragic day, they proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that their role in society has nothing to do with keeping people safe.

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