Investigation Finds Reports Analyzing the Police Response to a Mass Shooting Too Often Incomplete, Unreleased

While active shooter training varies widely across the country and that law enforcement officers make similar mistakes in mass shooting after mass shooting, those failures are not always clearly identified in reports dissecting the incidents, adding to the difficulty of learning from past missteps, Lexi Churchill and Lomi Kriel report for ProPublica, The Texas Tribune and FRONTLINE.

Despite the U.S. facing more than 120 mass shootings in the past two-and-a-half decades, an investigation by the three publications found that there is no agreed-upon national standard for who conducts after-action assessments of law enforcement’s response, what they should examine or whether the resulting findings should be released. An analysis of more than three dozen publicly available after-action reports, finding that some excluded key details about officers’ actions or failed to fully explore other missteps, including individual delays in engaging the shooter. Experts who conduct such reviews said that they can face limitations that include key personnel declining to speak and an unwillingness or inability, legal or otherwise, to share records. In other cases, the scope of the review may be restricted to a specific aspect of the shooting, such as the medical response, or confined to the role of the agency that requested the report. 

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