Quick actions of Nashville officers saved lives, former Utah chiefs say
Mar 28, 2023, 3:37 PM
(Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE — The officers who stopped an active shooter at a Nashville elementary school on Monday did exactly what they were supposed to do.
That’s according to at least two veteran police chiefs in Salt Lake County who viewed the body camera video released Tuesday.
“Textbook,” is how Chris Bertram, a retired Salt Lake County chief sheriff’s deputy and current associate professor of criminal justice, described the actions of Nashville police.
Chris Burbank, vice president of law enforcement strategy for the Center for Policing Equity and former chief of the Salt Lake City Police Department, says “without a doubt,” the quick actions of the officers in Tennessee saved lives.
A 28-year-old gunman forcibly entered the Covenant School in Nashville on Monday and killed three children and three adults before being shot and killed by police. The first 911 call was received at 10:13 a.m. By 10:27 a.m., former Covenant student Audrey Hale, who was transgender, was shot by police.
Nashville police released body camera videos from two officers on Tuesday. The videos begin with officers about to enter the school. One officer is heard yelling, “Let’s go. I need three,” while another yells, “One more.”
“They formed an emergency action team,” Burbank told KSL.com.
After the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, law enforcement agencies across the nation were trained on forming emergency action teams. The first three to four officers who arrive at the scene of an active shooter form a team whose goal is to essentially “go to where the problem is,” Burbank said.
Bertram said the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Unified Police Department constantly train in the same way, that the first three or four officers at a scene form a team and go in, then the next three to four officers who arrive form another team.
It’s the same tactic Salt Lake police used in 2007 to stop an active shooter at Trolley Square. The goal is to not search every nook and cranny in the building, but to go where the biggest problem is and stop it, the former chief said.
“Your job was not to rescue, it was to find the threat and stop the threat,” Bertram added.
In Nashville, officers are seen running between classrooms as they quickly clear each room. An officer can be heard several times yelling, “Let’s go!” to keep everyone moving at a brisk pace. When shots are heard on the second floor, the officers are seen in the videos immediately running toward where the shots came from and confronting the gunman.
“You watch these officers frantically looking,” Burbank said. “I’ve been through that training. That’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.”
The hurried nature of an emergency team puts officers in a little more danger than a normal standoff situation, he said. Adding: “That’s what has to be done.”
Bertram says he was impressed by the discipline of the Nashville officers and how they were able to recognize what weapon would be most useful for each area they checked, noting that the “team” of officers was armed with a handgun, shotgun, and assault rifle.
Some have already noted the contrast in the way Nashville police responded versus how officers in Uvalde, Texas, responded to a mass school shooting in 2022 that left 21 dead. Police in that incident waited over an hour before confronting the gunman.
“Uvalde was really the standout, ‘What the hell were you doing?’ It was so frustrating to watch,” Burbank said. “This one, they did a good job (in Nashville). They responded as best they could and as quickly as they could.”
Bertram says Uvalde was a good reminder for police departments nationwide about why training and being prepared are still so important.
“Complacency is the architect of our downfall,” he said. “The expectation of the public is we’ll be prepared.
“Whatever training they’re doing (in Nashville), it’s working,” Bertram said.