April 04, 2009

How Many People Died Because of the Binghamton Police Response?

By all accounts, there were 14 dead (including the shooter) and four wounded when police finally entered the American Civic Association in Binghampton, NY yesterday, at least an hour after a three-minute rampage had ended with the death of the shooter.

If autopsies determine that even one of the 13 victims died after the "golden hour" and could have been saved by police immediately entering the building and getting them medical care, instead of forming a perimeter and just waiting, then I hope the citizens if Binghampton call for Chief Joseph Zikuski's ouster.

Why do I have a CCH permit? Because when seconds count, police are just seconds 25 yards and several hours away.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at April 4, 2009 09:27 AM

What are the chances that the American Civic Association proudly proclaims itself as a "gun free area?" Even in the South where I live, such signs are becoming more prevalent. Whether the ACA indeed has one, I bet there are several places learning the lesson from this and putting up bigger signs. :)

Posted by: Tregonsee at April 4, 2009 09:49 AM

Gun free, should just be easy pickings.

Posted by: bill-tb at April 4, 2009 10:33 AM

I'll go you one better: if autopsies prove even one of the dead victims was still alive and could have been saved by immediate action, I want to see Chief Zikuski prosecuted for second-degree murder under the "depraved indifference" section of New York's murder statute.

Posted by: wolfwalker at April 4, 2009 11:59 AM

Interesting question. Here we have the real differences between the 80's model of shooter/terrorist response and the contemporary response.

In the 80's model, it was assumed that time was on the side of the police and that the longer a terrorist or shooter was in contact with those he had taken hostage the more likely he was to see them as human beings and the less likely he was to harm them irrespective of his motivations or demands. This model also assumes that such shooters are essentially American criminals who do not wish to die, and who are motivated by greed and self interest. In application, this model required that no mere civilians, all of whom would be unarmed, try to resist--they're just not qualified!--that the patrol officers who initially respond do nothing but contain and control--keep anyone from getting in and the shooter from getting out--and call the professionals, a SWAT team and police administrators who would establish a perimeter, establish a command post complete with refreshments, establish contact with the shooter so negotiations can begin, and conduct recon so that a plan can be formulated if many hours of negotiations fail. In this model, despite the number of initial deaths, the police generally would not employ deadly force against the shooter unless and until he had executed at least one hostage after negotiations had been underway for some time. This was the model employed at Columbine where a teacher who could have been saved bled to death over many hours while the police vainly dithered trying to establish contact with the shooters who were many hours dead while trying to come up with a plan. With this model, if the shooter is not a common criminal, tens, even hundreds will die in the hours required for this response to manifest.

The more contemporary model requires that the first officers on the scene immediately assault and engage the shooters in the hope of saving lives. This model recognizes that shooters are not common criminals, intend to die by their own hands or by forcing the police to kill them, and will kill as many innocents as possible until they are stopped or choose to kill themselves. In this model, time is not on the side of the police. In this model, even with the fastest possible police response, tens will die if the shooter is not a common criminal.

While the contemporary model is unquestionably the most potentially effective model in terms of saving innocent lives, it requires courage, daring, and most importantly, it requires that police administrators give substantial authority and power to the lowest ranking members of their forces. It also requires substantial training and a sea change in mindset. It is clear that not every America law enforcement agency has recognized the need to make this change, or having recognized it, has yet to surrender authority, do the necessary training, or fully implement it.

In virtually every active shooter case in American history, the police, no matter the rapidity of their response (the police responded relatively rapidly at Virginia Tech), had no effect whatsoever on the death toll. Most of the attacks have taken place in "gun free" zones where the killers were certain that their intended victims could not effectively resist them.

The only effective responses, responses that have stopped the killers and saved innocent lives, have been mounted by armed citizens, and in a few cases, intended victims who overpowered the shooters.

So what are the lessons we should learn? They are few and simple. The police cannot protect us and have no legal obligation to do so; they will almost always be a non-factor in stopping these attacks (no one is responsible for my personal safety but me). "Gun Free" zones only invite attacks and must be abolished. Concealed carry by those in high risk facilities such as schools is the only effective means to immediately stop assaults when they occur.

Posted by: Mike at April 4, 2009 12:21 PM

When I showed my wife the article i saw online, i higlighted the same line. Police waited for hours to go in?

YOU'RE THE FRIGGING COPS. Its your JOB to go in there. Protect and serve, indeed. But protect and serve who?

Posted by: John at April 4, 2009 03:06 PM

It is easy to sit back at a safe distance after the fact and dictate what these cops should have done. But how many among you would have just rushed into this building not knowing where the shooter was? This action could have caused more deaths, to policemen as well as to civilians. The shooter might have been captured or killed by policemen, unfortunately we will never know.

I would love to have some type of device that would render any handgun completely useless. This would guarantee that neither policemen nor others would be harmed, at least by a handgun. That isn’t reality. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if every police officer could wear the mantel of hero simply by possessing some magical ability to be completely immune to whatever a maniac bent on destruction could throw at them. Then maybe these police officers would never be bogged down by that very human instinct that we all have called fear for your own safety.

Posted by: Greg W at April 5, 2009 08:40 AM

I took the liberty of using your post (and comment #4) to launch a discussion.

During the 10:00 PM newscasts here in Milwaukee, a Milwaukee Police Department spokesman specifically stated that the MPD was using the "new model" referred to by your commenter--IOW, they were trained to go in aggressively to stop the "active shooter."

In contrast to Binghamton...

Posted by: dad29 at April 5, 2009 08:47 AM

Dear Greg W:

You'll notice that my comments did not disparage the police, but merely outlined police tactics and facts regarding active shooter incidents. As a police and SWAT veteran, I do have some experience in these matters.

Monday morning quarterbacking is indeed easy, and no officer should ever recklessly throw their life away or recklessly endanger others. However, every police officer knows that by taking the oath of office, he or she is voluntarily putting themself in the line of fire, and that when the sound of gunfire is heard, they are duty and honor bound to run to it rather than away from it.

In active shooter situations, doing nothing is far more likely to result in additional deaths than immediately assaulting the shooter. In fact, the courts understand this principal well, and should an officer accidently injure an innocent in the process of stopping an active shooter, they are not held liable for such injury because the alternative is much, much worse.

Indeed, police officers experience fear, but because they experience it so often, in so many different ways, they are much better at dealing with it and doing what needs to be done than are most people. This is what the public expects of them, and what the police expect of themselves.

Posted by: MIke at April 5, 2009 04:31 PM

and that when the sound of gunfire is heard, they are duty and honor bound to run to it rather than away from it.

Fair enough. But it's important to note that when the Binghamton police showed up, there was no sound of gunfire. The gunman was, in fact, dead.

Your points above about the new model of active shooter response are well taken (I'm a patrol officer in a mid-sized department in the South). However, it's important to note that they apply ONLY in known active shooter scenarios.

The reports I've seen indicate that the first 911 calls that came in were patchy, panicked, and in broken English, understandably so. My guess is that the police responding did not have a clear idea what they were dealing with.

Posted by: Mars vs Hollywood at April 5, 2009 05:14 PM

I agree that something's not right about slow police response. There should be an outside investigation.

I've commented on this here:

Posted by: John Burke at April 6, 2009 01:54 AM

Thank you for this view of true madness.
The solution to the problem of guns is more guns?? What happens when one of you decides he's having a "poor life" and decides to shoot up some "liberal" institution?
What about the three good Pittsburgh cops, shot in the head in the prime of life by some sniveling punk who was afraid the police would take his guns away [if only they had!]? Note that the third of these was a black officer who was actually off duty and headed home but turned around and rushed to the aid of his white comrades, only to be shot dead himself.
We need to start seizing all handguns--and most long guns--in the possession of anyone not a sworn police officer.
Second Amendment? No problem! That amendment was written in the 1790's. You can have all the flintlock pistols and single shot muskets you can buy. But a military weapon capable of firing fifteen shots in five seconds? No way, Beauregard!

Posted by: Randolph at April 7, 2009 09:36 PM