06/01/22 Stephen Downing
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Uvalde Texas heavily armed law enforcement left 19 children and their teachers to be slaughtered by a lone gunman. Stephen Downing Deputy Police Chief of Los Angeles (Ret) joins us to discuss this horrendous failure.
DEAN BECKER (00:00):
Hi folks. Welcome to this. I'm not gonna say special, but an extraordinary addition of cultural baggage. I thank you for being with us. Um, our guest today is Mr. Steven Downing. He had a 20 year police career. He started in a squad car, finished his deputy chief of police, uh, in the city of Los Angeles, where there's much more to talk about, but I first, I just wanna welcome my traveling buddy from the leap mobile, Mr. Steven Downing. Hello, Steve.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (00:33):
Thank you, Dean. Good to be with you.
DEAN BECKER (00:35):
Yes, sir. Now, Steve, I don't know if extraordinary is the word we had a situation happen just one week ago in the city of U Valdi Texas. Tell me of your impressions. Just your initial impressions, sir.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (00:53):
Well, uh, first of all, uh, unfortunately it wasn't extraordinary. It was becoming ordinary and um, your first reaction is, is another shot to the gut. It just hurts. And you can only picture the picture, the slaughter of those young children. And again, and again, and again, say why can't we as a country, eliminate this tribalism and solve this problem. You look at other countries, you look at New Zealand and Switzerland and the UK, uh, parts of the UK, Canada, New Zealand is a perfect example. They had that horrible mass shooting in the mosques and they solved the problem. There's not been a shooting since they solved the problem as a country coming together, horrified by what happens and this rhetoric about hardening the target, hardening the target. Listen, uh, we've had arm guards at these schools, uh, in the past and they were ineffective. I guess you could put up a hundred around each school and maybe one wouldn't get through, but it is time to talk about finding a middle ground in my opinion.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (02:43):
And maybe there are some parts of the target that need to be firmed up and hardened a bit, but also gun control needs to be a part of that picture. And the idea that this 19 year old 18 year old on his birthday could go by two war level weapons by magazines and ammunition enough that he can kill 19 young children in a matter of minutes, reload, reload, reload. And right next door, you have the NRA having a convention, talking about that silly juvenile expression. They invented so long ago that it takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun. Well, that's a juvenile that's moronic, and it's an analogy that has no place in this discussion. We don't want bad guys with guns and the way to keep guns out of the hands of bad guys is to make sure they can't get 'em.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (04:10):
And there's lots of ways. We have more regulations to get a fishing license than we do an AR 15 and 500 rounds of ammo and five, uh, uh, uh, big mag, uh, magazines. So this country needs a discussion outside of the tribalism. And if we can't get both sides together, when you have the majority of the people in the United States want gun control, we know that when we can't get the people we elect together, then I think we maybe better think about electing people who are willing to get together and who were willing to find that middle ground, uh, and, and solve this problem. Like other countries have solved it.
DEAN BECKER (05:07):
Yes. Thank you, Steve. You know, um, the, um, the mass shooting that, that most people think was the first, it certainly wasn't, but was Colomb and, and one of our fellow leap speakers, he's now ill, but, um, uh, Mr. Ryan, um, was there, he was one of the first to arrive at, at the Colombian shooting and he was told to stand down and I know that plagued him for the rest of his life, Mr. Tony, Ryan. And we had a situation where dozens of cops were, I guess, told to stand down in alti in alti. Let's, let's talk about that situation, sir.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (05:57):
Well, that, um, it should not have happened. Uh, there's some breakdown in the training or breakdown in the ability to assess, uh, the difference between an active shooter and a barricaded suspect. And I have yet to see any reporting that suggests anything other than the fact that this is an active shooter situation inside of school and after Columbine, uh, which, which is what now 20 years ago, 22, I think. Yeah. Um, across the board, American law enforcement adopted, uh, what they call the Mactac. And it's a, it's a philosophy and a strategy and a tactic that is action, rapid deployment, multi assault counter-terrorism action capabilities. MacTech and that means that whoever's there you go, go, go. And your objective is to immediately stop the target. The rest of it is when you slow down, you can put up your perimeters and establish your cramp command posts.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (07:25):
But the first job of the first person that's there is to stop the shooter. Okay. That didn't happen. And it hasn't happened in a number of other situations. And the reason for that is, is because of the amount of damage that can be done by this active shooter, with a magazine, uh, that can, uh, pump lead a second apart. You know, uh, it's, it's, it's something that bottles the mind when you basically for 20 years trained to accomplish, um, to, to stop a situation like this. And yet you don't, but I've seen that a lot of times, um, often in riots situations in 1965, well, the watch riot, the lesson we learned is, is that you have to stop it and you can't continue to, uh, widen a perimeter, uh, thinking that it's gonna burn out. Uh, the fact is, is that almost Los Angeles almost burned down because, and the Watts riot, they kept widening the perimeter.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (08:49):
And so we built in new procedures and policies and command and control that says, don't do that anymore. We trained for it for years and years, since 1965. And then 92 came along after the Rodney king jury. And it repeated itself. Why did it repeat itself in this case because of politicians got involved and 20 years later, they're, they're coming up with the same weakness. And in situations that break down like that in situations like the school strength has to be the priority and immediate action has to be the priority and stopping the threat has to be the priority that didn't happen here.
DEAN BECKER (09:38):
No, sir, it did not. Now I wanna combine a couple of thoughts here is my understanding, and I'm no attorney, but following the, the situation at Colomb that the us Supreme court ruled that it is not law, enforcement's primary obligation to protect anybody who is not under their control, which to me seems so, uh, unAmerican, uh, to, for lack of a better term. And, and I guess what I'm trying to say here is that those kids in that school were under government control. Um, is there a penalty, is there anything that can be that, those, those law enforcement officers who stood down and let those children die? Is there any law that will prosecute them for their inaction?
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (10:31):
Well, I think it's primarily, um, um, a civil case. Uh, I don't know if there's criminal negligence involved in this, uh, because of the, uh, because of the concept that you discussed, it was dis um, decided by the Supreme court. Uh, I forget the term that they used, but it's a, uh, some, uh, presumed immunity,
DEAN BECKER (11:01):
Qualified immunity. Yes, sir. Qualified immunity,
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (11:05):
Qualified immunity. That's right. And, uh, but, um, B that it is, as it may, there is a responsibility. The schools had a responsibility, uh, to see that that hired guard was there and not driving around the school, had a responsibility to ensure that those doors were locked and, uh, things of that nature. Uh, but law enforcement also had a responsibility to respond in a different way. So I'm sure you're going to see a lot of losses, and I'm sure that you're gonna see, uh, municipalities and states pay a big price, uh, millions and millions and millions of taxpayer dollars for the negligence that took place here, but that doesn't solve the problem. We have municipalities paying out all the time for bad behavior for negligence, for incompetence all the time, but that's, that's, that's a burden on the taxpayer that continues, and we haven't solved the problem.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (12:20):
Uh, we haven't worked together to solve the problem. And so that discussion needs to, uh, recognize the costs of where we've been and what we've done, but also to recognize that it, there has been no solution and the hardening of the target, there has been no solution come from that. What we've done, um, over the years, let me give you one example. Um, the original SWAT team was invented in the Los Angeles police department. And the reason it was invented is because first responders went to a call in which they were outgunned and tactically outgunned. And so a bunch of people got together and said, we need to do something about this as a police department, we didn't have anybody else in society worrying about it. We didn't have a, a city council worrying about it. And so the police department solved the problem by coming up with the concept of a SWAT team.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (13:35):
And that has, that has become more and more sophisticated as the years have gone on. And as you know, a few years later, we had a thing called the north Hollywood shootout, where two guys highly trained, uh, ex-military wearing full body armor, having the biggest guns in the world. And the first responders got there. They were again, outgunned. And while they're waiting for squat to return, I mean, these guys have weapon weapons that are cutting their cars in half. So they broke into a nearby gun store and got rifles to at least hold 'em off long enough for SWAT to get there and, and counter them with, with, uh, heavier equipment. So as a result of that, they said, Hey, we need to put a rifle in every police car, a long rifle in every police car. So they went, bought a bunch of long rifles and across, across the country, that becomes, becomes a new thing.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (14:42):
And then, uh, uh, president Reagan, I believe it was that, uh, created the, uh, the bill that allowed military equipment, big tanks, and big guns and plane throwers and whatnot to be handed out across the country. And so they would go to major city police departments that had the capability to train their people 50% of their on duty time. But they'd also go to a little 15 man police department like this little town in Texas, this little town in Texas is a 15 man police department. And they have a nine man SWAT squad. I ask you, how do you do the job of policing in a city like that? When you have only 15 police officers and you have a SWAT squad, that's nine of them. The answer is, is that SWAT squad doesn't train. They got all the toys, they got all the big weapons, but they still have the policing job to do.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (15:47):
And so their training is gonna be minimal. I guarantee you, they're not training 50% of the time. So in a situation like this, you don't let little tiny police departments have squat squads. You have them become part of a regional organization. But my, the point of my whole discussion is, is that all of these years, all we've done is, is engage in an arms race. Pretty soon the gun manufacturers are letting other guns get on the street. So we gotta up the ante and harden the target, get more bigger guns and bigger sweat teams and bigger tanks and all of that. And we haven't solved the problem. We haven't solved the problem with school shootings, for sure. So we need to find that middle ground, we gotta stop the arms race with local law enforcement. We gotta do some control and regulation, reasonable controls and regulations to make sure these kinds of weapons don't get into the hands of these kinds of people.
DEAN BECKER (16:50):
Thank you. Uh, again, folks, we're speaking with Mr. Steven Downing, uh, uh, now retired, uh, deputy police chief of the city of Los Angeles. Uh, one of my fellow, uh, leap travelers in the leap mobile. Gosh, that's been too long ago now, Steve, I, um, you know, the, the, the first day the governor had his, his conference, uh, the, the, uh, department of public safety had their conference and the, the facts, the facts changed, the facts changed again, the facts are still changing to this day as to what actually happened. And I understand that police are allowed to lie. I mean, it, it tell me is that true. Police are allowed to lie in order to get a conviction or to cops blame their way out of things. Is that true, sir,
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (17:43):
They're allowed to lie.
DEAN BECKER (17:46):
Um, as, as part of the,
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (17:48):
I would say that any police officer that lies shouldn't have his job, because if you lie, that means you have no credibility. And the next time you go into court and raise your right hand, somebody's there to call you a liar and prove you're a liar. And so once you're proven to be a liar as a police officer, uh, you have no value, uh, to the organization or to the service of the people. So if you're proven as a liar, as a police officer, you should not have your job anymore, period.
DEAN BECKER (18:23):
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (18:24):
It's of explanation.
DEAN BECKER (18:26):
Don't narcotics officers lie every day, uh, when they're out there trying to recruit folks to sell to them, that sort of thing. Um, okay, Steve, now let's walk away from that. That's not the point for today. Um, you were talking about a good guys, the only solution for the bad guys and how untrue that is. And I think that comes from Ronald Reagan back when he was king of the Cowboys, it comes from John Wayne. It comes from this mindset that the good guy with a gun is going to stop everything. And, and I, I wanted to kind of talk about, I, I have never been in this situation, I can't say, but I know that I, I feel in my heart that if I knew little kids were six inches on the other side of this wall, getting murdered, I'd find a way. And they were 19 cops in that hallway hearing the rounds. No, I, uh, you know where I'm headed with this, please respond Steve.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (19:26):
Oh, uh, finally somebody who arrived, as I understand, it was, uh, a member of the, uh, border patrol SWAT team. They still had the incident commander who was inside, who had made that call, uh, uh, very much earlier and still making that call when he arrived. And my read on it is that he made an assessment. He asked his questions, and this is my supposition, but he asked his questions and he made a decision that this incident commander, uh, uh, couldn't find himself, uh, didn't understand, uh, what he was doing. And so he elected to disobey that order and take the action. He was trained to take, he took it and he killed him and it was over. But also, as I understand, during that same waiting period, there were other people who took things into their own hands. Uh, the guy from the barbershop who borrowed the bar barber's shotgun and went to the school and, uh, rescued quite a number of children, including his own.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (20:51):
So the incident commander failed a lot of people, and it took someone to overrule him, that person that overruled him, that took courage to do as well, because, uh, he could very well be facing some form of disciplinary action. I would think anybody that tried that would be crazy, but he overruled the, uh, an incident commander, uh, in charge. However, you, as a police officer have no obligation to follow an illegal order. And so in the case of this guy, I think that, uh, his decision will, uh, will stand and, uh, he'll be applauded for it. Um, if, if there's room for applause in this situation.
DEAN BECKER (21:48):
Yeah. You're talking about the gentleman who took him out.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (21:51):
I'm talking about the gentleman that overruled the incident commander, right? Yes, sir. The border patrol squad guy that got
DEAN BECKER (21:57):
There. Now, I, I, I, you know, it is just hard for me to, to grasp this one we've we've had, what was it? Uh, the Washington post reporting. There's been 12 mass shootings over this holiday weekend here in these United States, four or more people shot or killed in 12 different shootings here in the us. It's like, it's almost like it's contagious, right? Your thoughts, Steve.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (22:31):
Well, I'm sure that there's a building block that takes, uh, that takes place with, uh, copycat and people are, are, uh, stimulated, uh, people that, that have mental health problems are stimulated and, uh, get into the copycat mode. Um, but the bottom line, the common denominator in all of this is every one of these people had access to weapons of war that they shouldn't have had access to. They, they, we should have done something 20 years ago after Columbine to stop this, we should have done what New Zealand did after the Mo shootings. We should have done what was done in Switzerland. And, uh, but we can't do that because the tribalism is so has so divided this country. We can't get together on anything. We can't get together on something that, that is easy to agree on because if the other guy came up with it, I automatically have to oppose it because the other guys are Republican and I'm a Democrat are vice versa.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (23:51):
It's back and forth like that. They, there is no sense to the division except their quest for power. And we need to unload those people and find people that are reasonable that want to come together that want to find a middle ground on this thing. We call the second amendment. Hey, look, if you look back on the Capone days when they were writing through, um, uh, Chicago leaning out of their cars with what they called it, a Tommy gun, well, the Tommy gun was a weapon of war and they did something about it back then, what they did to, uh, uh, get around the second amendment. I believe they put a tax stamp, a federal tax stamp on every Tommy gun in existence. And if you wanted to have one, you had to pay 50 grand for it, or whatever, you know, 10,000, I don't know what the price was, but they made them prohibitive to own.
DEAN BECKER (24:56):
Yeah, well, I, I wanna come back to the, the SWAT team, you know, you were talking about how that town with 15 cops was really too small to, to have their own SWAT team. And, and I, I wanted to kind of think about it like, um, it's, it's just posturing. I, I think at that level, because they, they were unable to coordinate. They, they were unable to group together. They were unable to be at that school and in time to do anything. And, and I guess what I'm, I'm wanting to say is that it, it brings to mind for the most part, SWAT teams think ahead, they, they plan an endeavor, at least the, the, the narcotics, uh, bus, um, because they, they call 'em narcotics, uh, bus, but they're SWAT teams. They're, they're geared up to the max helmets and, um, flash bang, grenades, and, and all of this stuff. They're ready to go to war, but they wait till four in the morning and the people are asleep. And I guess what I'm trying to say, sir, is it takes a different set of courage to make one of those narcotics busts, as it is to go into a room where you might get shot in the face, your, your response to that, Steve.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (26:04):
Well, uh, number one, if you have a responsibly trained SWAT team and a responsible set of standards for the use of that SWAT team, the SWAT team doesn't roll, unless the first responder comes up against a situation that is beyond that first responder's capability in Los Angeles. For example, the SWAT team doesn't serve narcotic search warrants, unless unless there's advanced intelligence that the place they're gonna take down is highly barred and stopped with big guns that require the capabilities of SWAT to take 'em over in Los Angeles. You don't the SWAT team doesn't roll until the SWAT team. Commander is convinced that the situation requires them. Nobody in the field can order the SWAT team. It's a SWAT team commander that makes a decision. Yes, you need us. Yes, we're going. And then when they arrive, he is automatically the incident commander. He automatically makes the decisions. Now I'm talking about a big city SWAT team in Los Angeles. There's I believe 10 SWAT platoons, 50% of them are training while the other 50% work with the usual reserved forces in a non SWAT posture. But every SWAT officer spends 50% of his on duty time training.
DEAN BECKER (28:02):
Well, Steve, um,
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (28:03):
DEAN BECKER (28:04):
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (28:04):
All departments don't do that, but they have all this equipment and they want to use it. And that's where all these narcotic rage and these accidental killings are coming from. It's irresponsible deployment of SWAT squads, this little town in Texas that was responsible for the Rob elementary school. They have no business having a, uh, a SWAT squad, none.
DEAN BECKER (28:31):
Well, Steve, we, we do have to cut it off there. Uh, once again, we've been speaking with Mr. Steven Downing, um, 20 years, uh, law enforcement does, and, uh, he retired as a deputy police chief of the city of Los Angeles. Uh, Steve, thank you, sir.
CHIEF STEPHEN DOWNING (28:46):
You're welcome, Dean. Good seeing you again.
DEAN BECKER (28:48):
Thank you for listening to this edition of cultural baggage, please visit our website, drug truth.net. And again, I remind you because of prohibition. You don't know what's in that bag. Please be careful.