So what happens when that investigation is over and the case is closed? The Associated Press reports that those representing the victims’ families are concerned that nothing will happen, due to an exception in the Texas Public Information law that blocks information from being released in cases where no conviction has been made. It’s meant to protect wrongly accused Texans from having the details of their failed prosecutions released, but the Texas Attorney General’s Office — currently under the thumb of still-indicted Ken Paxton, go figure — has ruled that it also applies to cases in which there’s no conviction because the accused criminal is dead.
Since the 18-year-old gunman who used an assault rifle to systemically execute Texas grade school children is himself now quite dead, that means the state can (1) claim they can not answer public questions about Texas law enforcement’s lack of response until the investigation concludes, then (2) claim public records law forbids them from informing the public about what happened on that day after the investigation does conclude. A neat trick, and one that could allow the Texas government to refuse to answer parents’ questions about why police did not have the equipment they said they needed before they could engage the shooter, why police allegedly were carrying radio equipment that was not able to get a signal inside the school building, why school district police head Pete Arredondo was allegedly under the belief that no prompt action needed to be taken despite 911 calls being relayed to officers indicating the presence of living, hiding children trapped inside the school with the shooter and indicating that children had been shot and were in need of immediate medical attention.
There’s a muttering from the AP report about the Republican Speaker of the Texas House, Dade Phelan, voicing support for closing that records loophole so that families of murdered children can hear the answers to those questions, and a contradicting muttering from a Texas law enforcement. hack grumbling that law enforcement officials continue to be “always” opposed to closing the loophole in a way that allows the public to see more about law enforcement’s role in these cases, and since the Texas attorney general is himself under apparently-eternal indictment for federal crimes you can bet your own children’s lives that office will be working furiously to block public records requests here. If Texans do not like this they’re free to not vote indicted criminals into office. And if Texans have questions about why spending 40% of a small town’s entire government budget on policing still does not buy them the right to get basic questions answered about how 19 of their children were left to bleed out on classroom floors, they have every ability to decide for themselves whether that means the next police budget needs to be even higher or slightly lower.
In the meantime, it’s becoming more and more difficult to come to any conclusion about the Uvalde law enforcement community that does not involve the words “crooked as hell.” Nothing about the local police behavior makes any sense, from the inability of the town’s high-budget alleged SWAT team to engage in any capacity to the school district’s chief of police’s refusal to cooperate with investigations of the police response. The extremely charitable interpretation of all of this remains the same; Despite hoovering up 40% of the community’s entire budget, the town’s police proved incompetent when crisis struck.
But that kind of funding coupled with that level of apparent incompetence continues to give off a slightly “Putin’s Missing Army” vibe, in that it’s not exactly clear how much money can be spent to achieve results that uniformly incompetent unless somebody, somewhere, is pulling a grift. A bungled police response in a moment of crisis is one thing, but the sheer aggressiveness of law enforcement efforts to conceal just what happened on that day is bizarre even in the context of US law enforcement at largewhich is saying something.
And indeed, Vice now reports that the Texas Department of Public Safety is asking the attorney general’s office (run, again, by the still-indicted Ken Paxton) to block public release of police body camera footage on that day.
The Texas law enforcement claim, reports Vice, is that releasing the footage will allow other potential mass murderers to find “weaknesses” in how Texas police respond. The public isn’t allowed to know what the weaknesses in the police response were because, sorry, wee have to keep that information secret from the next mass shooters.
“Knowing the intelligence and response capabilities of Department personnel and where those employees focus their attention will compromise law enforcement purposes by enabling criminals to anticipate weakness in law enforcement procedures and alter their methods of operation,” says the Department of Public Safety.
Now, there are a whole lot of things to say about this very convenient assertion that the public should not see what their gargantuan funding of Texas policing is actually buying because we can not expose “weakness” to future criminals, but what might be most striking about the claim is that it suggests that this complete bunglefuck of a police response is close enough to the norm that future mass murderers can take it as evidence of how typical Texas law enforcement procedures work.
Prior news reports indicate that 911 operators can be clearly heard advising officers that children are hiding in the building, during the nearly hour-long period in which incident command held off taking action. We already know that the police response was wildly out of sync with what law enforcement officers are trained to do, in the case of an active shooter. Media reports have already indicated that unreleased footage contradicts early law enforcement claims about what happened.
If the Texas law enforcement community is rallying around a demand that the footage of these myriad errors and falsehoods be hidden lest it give new criminals ideas of how they operate, that suggests that the Uvalde police response is close enough to what it would have been in the rest of Texas that there’s something future mass murderers can glean from it. Isn’t that, ahem, even more of a reason to think that there’s something inherent to Texas law enforcement training that needs immediate public attention? Something that we should not be letting law enforcement officials hide under a vague insinuation of “unless you want even more dead kids, that is?”
We’ve all been operating under the assumption that the Uvalde law enforcement response was an outlier, in the state. A well funded force that finds itself, in a moment of crisis, too paralyzed to respond as trained. If we’ve got the whole of Texas law enforcement now asking that evidence be hidden in one of the worst mass shootings the state has ever seen, the “outlier” premise doesn’t look as likely as we assumed.
So there you go; That’s what we next are tasked with chewing on, in the nation’s gun and law enforcement debates. There are a lot of forces at work in Texas all gathering to make sure the parents of nineteen dead children are never given even basic evidence about what happened, how it happened, and what might have kept their children alive on that day. We started with the Uvalde school district’s chief of police clamming up and refusing to talk to investigators about his role as incident commander, but now the (indicted) Texas attorney general and state law enforcement groups at multiple levels are weighing in to indicate that the public won’t be seeing evidence or even the final investigative conclusions on what happened because Reasons, that’s why.
With every passing day that goes by, Texas officials ratchet down what they’re willing to let the town of Uvalde know about the catastrophe that happened there. Nothing here feels like Texas leaders have any intention of changing anything, in the wake of the murders. Instead the focus now is on burying whatever remaining evidence exists while top leaders vaguely promise to issue new rules about school doors, at some point, eventually.
With every new Uvalde update, everything looks worse and worse
Uvalde teacher who survived attack demands police be held accountable: ‘I will never forgive them’
‘Today we stand for Lexi, and as her voice, we demand action’: Uvalde parents confront Congress
Uvalde community isn’t getting Spanish-language updates from Texas Department of Public Safety