Letters to the Editor

From the week of July 20

A Few Bad Men

The wrong stuff:I read Alan Prendergast's latest account of the Columbine disaster/fiasco, his July 13 "The Lost Command," along with his previous reports, and it appears that what happened was the lack of the "right stuff." What we should learn from this human tragedy is that it will take a better effort to acquire and train personnel with the stuff necessary to make quick, correct and efficient responses with valor. Officer Robert Armstrong's statement that "it breaks the mold" sums it up best. Klebold and Harris did not "opt" to make a quick exit through suicide -- rather, they likely assumed the SWAT (in this case, SQUAT) response would be overwhelming, and this was a planned exit. Had they known or predicted the "wrong stuff," their plans would have killed many more -- thus the paradox.
Jonathan M. Dietz
via the Internet

Life savers: Hey, man, why are you trying to crucify the police? Do you think they intentionally delayed the Columbine rescue? I can't believe someone would write the article Prendergast did, so it seems I must explain things to you. When a coach scripts a game, he is deciding the best way to handle different situations and successfully execute the plan; however, the actual game almost never follows a script exactly, and modifications must be made. Although the coach now has to assess the situation with different tactics, he's still trying to win the game. Do you understand my point?

There is a saying among lifeguards and divers regarding drowning victims: "Don't make yourself one." In other words, you need to plan how to save someone before you blindly charge ahead and worsen the problem you initially tried to correct. Nobody wanted to prolong the Columbine situation. The police certainly had everyone's best interests in mind. Remember, there were so many things going on at once, it is inaccurate to exploit any single event. For victims associated with the Columbine shootings, the pain must hardly be bearable, but to those with pending lawsuits, I must say this: Remember what you taught your children -- that two wrongs do not make a right -- and look yourselves in the mirror.
Tony Chiang
via the Internet

Copping a plea:I was a police officer and resigned for some of the reasons in this article. It's a shame when an individual cannot perform like one, based on the fact that he works for an agency that is all about conformity: "It's my way or the highway." Most, if not all, law-enforcement and government agencies are industries that produce a bunch of clones and drones. It is sickening that not one officer entered that building for fear of being disciplined by a superior. When you take an oath to protect and serve, which is the primary duty of the police department, you must have the courage to put your own life at risk for the sake of others; this means getting in the line of fire if need be and overcoming a fear of being disciplined by a supervisor. It was cowardly on the part of these officers not to enter that building. There were no heroes among the first arriving officers.

Now the cellar-dweller Boulder Police Department has some company. For our governor, who didn't press any harder for an accurate and thorough report, let this be one more botch-up the voters should remember come next election. And one last thing: These officers are public servants above all. If a supervisor gives an order that an officer strongly believes is not the best interest of the community, then he must have the competence and courage to reject it.
Name withheld on request

Keyboard cops:I'm always amused when people who probably have never faced anything more threatening than a computer keyboard criticize police officers who risk their lives at places like Columbine High School. I had my fourteen-year-old son read Prendergast's article and told him that it was a perfect example of why many career officers are looking forward to retirement. It isn't the criticism cops receive these days; we expect criticism. It's just getting a bit frustrating to witness the joy some people take in criticizing men and women who go into situations most people flee. Prendergast seems to enjoy his desk job a little too much, so I nominate him to be the first to enter the building if we should ever go through another national trauma like Columbine. He and his keyboard should take the point.

Prendergast's chief criticism seems to be the caution exercised by the officers on the scene. His grudging acknowledgment of the officers' courage leads me to believe that he would have felt better if more officers had rushed headlong into the school and surrendered their lives valiantly instead of slinking around corners and checking out possible pipe bombs. His nitpicking analysis of Sheriff John Stone's report leads me to believe that he has never been involved in a life-or-death situation where chaos is the norm and where men and women under pressure may perform superbly but not perfectly.

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