After five months of criticism and outrage for failing to hold the Uvalde Police Department accountable in the aftermath of the Robb Elementary School shooting, the Uvalde Texas school district announced Friday that the entire district police force had been suspended, according to ABC News.
The district said it requested more Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to replace the school district officers. Though the length of the suspension has not been specified, troopers will be stationed on campuses and will monitor extracurricular activities in the meantime. “We are confident that staff and student safety will not be compromised during this transition,” the district said in a release.
Brett Cross, the guardian of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia who was killed in the shooting, had rallied victims’ families together to lead a round-the-clock vigil outside the school district headquarters until they implemented changes to prevent something like this from happening again in their town.
“We’ve gotten a little bit of accountability,” he told ABC News. “So, it’s a win, and we don’t get very many of those.”
Gloria Cazares, whose nine-year-old daughter, Jackie, lost her life in the shooting, called the department suspension “bittersweet,” adding that, “we’re not done.”
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“Officers currently employed will fill other roles in the district,” the school district said. ABC reports that, according to the district’s website, that means at least four officers and one security guard will be affected by the suspension
Uvalde school district Superintendent Hal Harrell also announced he would be retiring several hours after news of the suspension dropped. Lt. Miguel Hernandez, who was leading the department after the Uvalde shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers, and Ken Mueller, the district’s director of student services, were both placed on administrative leave, though Mueller has since chosen to retire.
Police officers who arrived at the scene in response to calls that a shooter had entered the elementary school were widely condemned for waiting more than an hour to storm the school. The shooter was ultimately left alone with students and teachers for 77 minutes before the 376 cops interfered. The event has been widely regarded as an “abject failure” of law enforcement to protect the lives of the community’s children.
The suspension of the school district’s police force comes one day after the firing of Officer Crimson Elizondo, one of the first cops to arrive at Robb Elementary, who allegedly botched rescue attempts. According to ABC, a DPS internal review showed Elizondo did not bring her rifle or vest into the school. Yet, somehow, the trooper was hired by Uvalde’s school district after the massacre, while simultaneously under investigation for her involvement as a DPS trooper.
“They don’t know how to hire people, they don’t know how to vet officers,” Kimberly Rubio, who lost her daughter at Robb Elementary, told ABC. “They haven’t provided proper training.” Ahead of the school year, several parents said they were taking their children out of public school, in favor of online and private education because they did not feel confident their children would be safe.
On Friday, the school district said that “decisions concerning” the police department had not been made because they were waiting on the full investigations from the Texas Police Chiefs Association and the private investigative firm JPPI Investigations. But “recent developments have uncovered additional concerns with department operations,” they said, adding that the investigation “will guide the rebuilding of the department and the hiring of a new Chief of Police.”
The school district’s former police chief, Pete Arredondo, was fired in August.