By : Grace Raih
6 min read
In 2018, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida filed a lawsuit against the Broward’s Sheriff's Office and the school police deputy for their failure to intervene in one of the deadliest school shootings in US history. A federal judge ruled with the cops stating that government agencies “had no duty to protect students who were not in custody”. This was no lone decision, but a part of a larger pattern of case law establishing that police have no legal responsibility to provide protection to citizens.
The response by hundreds of law enforcement officers and subsequent disordered cover up of the Uvalde school shooting has so clearly exposed the lie of American policing, as damning and disturbing information continues to be released. As children made desperate calls to 911 from inside a classroom of unimaginable horror, cops paced hallways, checked their phones, and peered behind corners and ballistic shields all while fully strapped in militaristic gear and weaponry. Parents who pleaded for the police to save their children or attempted to do so themselves were tackled, handcuffed and even tasered by police on scene. One fraught mother Angeli Gomez was handcuffed after urging police to do something, was let go, climbed a fence and ran straight into the school to save her two sons, along with other children. Gomez was harassed by the Uvalde police department for daring to share her story with the media.
This year, Uvalde County received a $ 3.3 million grant through a program called Operation Lone Star. Operation Lone Star is a controversial Texas directive accused of human rights abuses that was launched in March 2021 by Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety to “combat smuggling of humans and drugs into Texas”. This multibillion-dollar operation has mostly arrested people who commit low level drug crimes, further criminalized immigrants, provided law enforcement with unchecked surveillance capabilities of Latino residents, and put more fire power in the hands of the police. The city of Uvalde is a border town with mostly Latino residents that invests nearly 40% of its annual budget in their police department while maintaining its own S.W.A.T. team. The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety stated that there were enough armed police to have stopped the shooting at Robb Elementary within three minutes. Despite their extended arsenal, it took an hour and 14 minutes for any law enforcement to engage with the shooter.
The police are not required to protect you. That is not merely a leftist sentiment, but rather a legal precedent based on well-established Supreme Court rulings. The narrative that the societal function of police is to protect and serve is a false comfort, when in actuality the police exist as the violent enforcers of racial capitalism. Law enforcement will show up in droves to protect corporate property from climate protesters, beat people who oppose their brutalization of Black Americans, criminalize immigrants and terrorize Latino communities, yet, when school children are being slaughtered they manage to stand around and do less than nothing.
Originally published in-print in Boston Compass Newspaper #149 August 2022
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