A Few Bad Men

Letters to the Editor

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.

No one should ever expect perfection out of their local police, because their local police are not perfect people. I see no evidence of gross malfeasance by police in the Columbine tragedy. I see no evidence of cowardice. I see men and women performing to the best of their abilities under conditions that Prendergast probably can't even imagine. If there is any cowardice in this tale, it's found in the words of those who sit in the safety of their air-conditioned offices and render verdicts on those out there doing the job.

I look forward to a companion piece on the cowardly men at Normandy Beach. I have heard that many of them became afraid and tried to conceal themselves from enemy fire and that some of them actually made mistakes. I understand there was quite a bit of blood, smoke and confusion over there, but that is no excuse. If the men on that beach did not perform as they were trained to perform, and if they were anything less than perfect, the American people deserve to know the truth. It's up to you, Mr. Prendergast!
John Kennedy
St. Louis, MO

Blame game: What sane police department would devote the dollars, hours and armament necessary to be able to competently and efficiently respond to the kind of mayhem created by Harris and Klebold? As someone who spent his childhood in Littleton's creeks, parking lots and school cafeterias, I'm continually stumped as to why Denver refuses to place the blame for Columbine in the one place it belongs: the laps of the Harrises and the Klebolds. Before Columbine, the metro area would have been shocked to learn that the Jefferson County sheriff was anything but a few cops short of a Winchell's, and now they're wondering why he wasn't Norman Schwarzkopf.

Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold and their families are to blame. Let Stone get back to directing traffic at Red Rocks.
Andrew Bulkeley
Berlin, Germany

The last Don: Deputy Barney Fife left Mayberry to become a detective in Mt. Pilot. Where did Sheriff Stone come from?
Joseph Falco

Parents Should Be Seen and Not Heard

A class act: I couldn't miss the ironic timing of Eric Dexheimer's "Send Me In, Coach!" in the July 13 issue. Although amateur athletics here in Colorado have yet to reach the point of murder, sometimes they seem to come very close. We all should applaud the efforts of Mary Ann and Tom Van Buskirk, who help teach coaches the right way to behave. Too bad we can't require that parents take their classes, too.
Jon Boyd

Coach baggage: Eric Dexheimer's column really hit home. My husband has coached our children's various teams for fifteen years. As a coach's wife, I'd like to remind all parents out there who have children playing various sports: Please, don't criticize your kids. Believe it or not, the coach really does know more about the sport than you do, or at least s/he doesn't have the same narrow view that you do. While you focus on your kid, the coach is focusing on the team. It's a helluva concept, but most sports really are supposed to be team efforts. Let the coach do his/her job and teach your kid a thing or two. You're the parent. Be there to support, praise and encourage your child.

And for those of you who must criticize the performance of other players, please don't do so within earshot of the players you are criticizing or of their parents. You're apt to elicit a response from a protective parent you weren't anticipating -- not to mention what it does to the self-esteem of the child unfortunate enough to have overheard your opinion. Contrary to what you may believe, your little Johnny or Suzie isn't the only player on the team who has something positive to offer. Why not try encouraging and praising all the members of your team? You might just find that that approach makes for a wonderful experience for everyone.
Name withheld on request

Singing the Blues

Hey, sailor: Kyle Wagner is right in "Good God!" her July 13 review of Sacre Bleu. After laying down some cash there, I got the feeling that the place is a Slut on Sunset. She'll go through the crowd for a stretch and move on when the cards are maxed and only the derelicts want some.
Mark McCue
via the Internet

Blow hard: Hey, c'mon! I'm a Denverite currently traveling in South America, and even down here I've heard the stories about Sacre Bleu. Or, as I've heard more accurately, Sacre BLOW. That is not in reference to the food, but to the late-night party scene that has overtaken the place! How do those people stay up so late? That said, Sacre will be the first place I go to when I get back to Denver, but only if Don Gragg is still chef.
Thom Wise
Sucre, Bolivia


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