The cops had framed it as their moment to be heroes. Mass shooter—Salvador Ramos was killed by police before he could take any more lives. Cameras ready, the Uvalde police force were congratulating themselves before all the victims had been identified, patting themselves on the back for how “quickly” they acted. The officers were eager to accept praise from the likes of Texas Governor Greg Abbott who unsurprisingly portrayed the cops as heroes who “acted quickly” showing “amazing courage.”
The Uvalde shooting comes just over a week after a white supremacist attack on a supermarket in Buffalo left eleven, all Black, people dead. In response to mass shooting after mass shooting, politicians are quick to jump to the need for even more cops, with more “power” to “protect” the public. As NYC Mayor Eric Adams recently tweeted: “The response is not meeting the threat. Law enforcement is getting guns and killers off the street. They need the power to keep them off.” The mayor’s statement is completely nonsensical as usual because it has no relevance to the Uvalde shooting, since the suspect had no criminal record.
More cops is the proposed answer from these politicians. However, looking at the Uvalde mass shooting as an example, what becomes revealing itself is the utter cowardice and incompetence cops continue to show time and time again. And beyond cowardice and incompetence, the Uvalde shooting shows us cops not only don’t keep the public safe, it’s arguable they directly make things worse and even put more lives in danger. In the case of Uvalde, this combination of factors allowed close to twenty children and two teachers to lose their lives. Since the shooting, the police have changed their story over a dozen times as to what their response is.
As we now know, thanks to eye witness accounts, contrary to the initial police account of how the cops jumped into action attempting to address the threat, the Uvalde police sat outside for over ninety minutes as the shooting occured. As if this wasn’t already bad enough, parents also filmed heavily armed police standing around, some of them joking while they implored the police to go in and stop the killer. As parents like Javier Carzares became more and more frantic, the parents organized themselves and started to rush toward the school. Sadly, Javier Carzares’ daughter was killed by the shooter. In the end, this was what got the cops to “jump into” action. But the cops didn’t jump into action to actually stop a shooter slaughtering teachers and children, instead the cops began to tackle concerned parents to the ground and handcuff them to prevent them from going into the school to try to save their children.
The police that actually did enter the school, admittedly to went in to save their own children, getting them to safety and leaving other children to die. Out of the others who say they attempted to try to “save” other children, we now know that 19 officers actually were outside of the classroom where the shooter was and made the active decision not to break down the door as children alive in the room continued to call 911 to plead for help. One cop (or federal agent, it is unclear whether it was a local police officer or a federal agent in this case) may have actually been directly responsible for the death of a child. A fourth grader interviewed stated he and some classmates were hiding under the table under table cloth. An officer told children to call out for “help” even though the shooter was still alive and armed. A trusting child called out for “help” and the shooter saw her and shot and killed her.
Uvalde is clearly an exceptional example of police incompetence. But cops have given us different examples time and time again that they not only lack the ability to protect the public, but also lack the intent. For example, in the 2018 Parkland massacre, a school officer—school officers are often touted as the “solution” to preventing school shootings as if greater numbers of armed cops in schools would be able to stop shootings—ran to a position of safety instead of trying to do anything to stop the gunman. In 1999, cops acted similarly in the Columbine massacre chasing shooters into the school, not doing anything to protect students. In the Buffalo shooting, a former federal agent was aware of the shooter’s motives before he carried them out. Yet, time and again the police gladhand themselves as heroes.
In Uvalde, while the cops seemingly did whatever they could to actually endanger or directly assault more people, parents and teachers were jumping into action. One parent, Angeli Rose Gomez, was stunned at the sheer police incompetence. “The police were doing nothing,” she said, “They were just standing outside the fence, they weren’t going in there or running anywhere.” Gomez was eventually handcuffed by police for “intervening in an active investigation” but she was able to convince the police into letting her loose. She then rushed the school, hopping the fence, while the cops were busy tackling another parent. She got her child out. Another pair of parents managed to get to the school, breaking the glass and rescued multiple children.
It wasn’t just parents that acted heroically. Teachers also protected children laying their bodies over kids as the bullets hailed. Two teachers died trying to protect children in their classrooms. Irma Garcia’s death was so hard on her husband that he died from a heart attack shortly after Irma was killed. The family says he died of a broken heart.
To be clear, while the teachers and parents, unarmed, risked their lives to save children, a majority of the heavily armed police force—police who always seemingly find it crucial to claim how they “put their lives on the line” every day to “protect the public”—stood outside focusing more on tackling and pepper spraying parents than saving kids.
Is it just not enough “training”? Just some “bad apples”? No, similar situations continue happening because the institution of policing does not exist to protect people, on the contrary, all it knows is how to brutalize people. Cops don’t protect kids or anyone else because the institution of policing exists only to protect property of the rich and capitalism. The Supreme Court actually has reaffirmed this in multiple cases such as DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle Rock vs. Gonzales.
Instead of protecting people, cops act as the armed wing of a capitalist society which itself does not value the working class, especially working class Latino people. The contempt for the residents of the city is infuriating. 40 percent of the budget goes to this clearly contemptuous police force. Meanwhile, teachers are paid around $58,000 a year.
As Democrats and Republicans debate about gun control, they are both in agreement that the police should get more money. Republicans use racist implications to claim there is rising crime (though we know in big cities and suburban areas this is false). Democrats on the other hand not only lie about rising crime, but attempt to seem more nuanced by claiming they want to give police more money for “training,” as if that is a solution.
Regardless of the argument, the result is the same. Around the country, police departments greedily eat up 40 percent—and in cases like Uvalde and in Los Angeles close to 60 percent—of city budgets. LAPD kills more people than any other police department in the country. There has only been five days in 2022 that the police didn’t kill someone.
Despite it being clear that cops don’t protect us, they continue to obtain increases in funding precisely because they act as the armed wing of the state and protect the status quo. It is no surprise, even in the current climate, on the anniversary of George Floyd’s murder and the Black Lives Matter uprising that demanded various types of police reform, that politicians would work to contort themselves to get more money to police. As Ezra Brain recently wrote, “Gun violence and mass shootings are an epidemic of a capitalist system that is in decline, of an imperialist country which sustains itself on the blood of imperialized nations.” As the crises of capitalism intensify, the ruling class will need more and more forces to keep the masses in check.
More police in schools is clearly not the answer. Police in schools have targeted Black and Brown children disproportionately creating a culture of fear and brutality. According to the ACLU, Black students Latino students, and students with disabilities are unfairly targeted when police are on their campuses. They are overrepresented in arrests and detentions. Police do not make schools safer but instead onlymore dangerous.
The sad and infuriating response of the police in Uvalde reaffirms the fact that the police need to be defunded and abolished. The issues that cause mass shootings won’t be solved by more police. And the crimes in society are largely due to poverty, with many people under this system under this system barely surviving in the face of billionaire capitalists who ruin the planet. Fury at the shooter, the police, and the horrors created by this society must be channeled into organization, political activism, demonstrations and strikes. Brave and unarmed parents stood up when the police were unwilling. To protect the future we must defy the police as those brave parents did. To defeat the police, bigotry, and misery we need to stand up and fight capitalism.