EDINBURG, RGV – U.S. Senator John Cornyn, U.S. Representative Michael McCaul and local law enforcement officials met today at Dr. Kay Teer Crawford Elementary School to discuss a new law encouraging active shooter training.
On July 22, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Protecting Our Lives through Initiating COPS Expansion (POLICE) Act. The bill allows law enforcement and other first responders such as the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Fire Department to use Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) federal grants to prepare personnel for active shooter scenarios.
Cornyn said about $2 billion in federal funds are granted to state and local governments and about $185 million is available for the COPS program.
“The POLICE Act is an example of bipartisan legislation–which is now the law of the land–demonstrating Congress’ ability to actually respond to a need in a bipartisan entitlement sort of way,” Cornyn said. “That will surprise a lot of people because many people don’t think Congress can do much of anything, but at least this is one small example where we can do something that’s good.”
Hidalgo county has approximately 20 law enforcement agencies, about three to four police departments and two university/college police departments. Cornyn said the legislation is designed to provide availability of active shooter training to all law enforcement.
“If we’re going to save lives–to ensure that people aren’t bleeding out or otherwise need to get to the emergency room on a timely basis, then it’s really important that we have the ability of our first responders–the EMS and fire department–to be able to train together with law enforcement in order to save lives and provide access to emergency care,” Cornyn said.
Cornyn said the Act stemmed from the phenomenon the nation has seen recently, such as the San Bernardino, Orlando and Dallas shootings. The bill is meant to secure the communities across the state in the event an active shooter scenario occurs.
“The importance of making sure that our law enforcement across the board have access to the same standard of training and are ready to respond is really a matter of saving lives,” Cornyn said.
As Chairman of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), McCaul said he sees the threats reaped on frequently from terrorist attacks in different countries. DHS still monitors airplanes and bombs, but the upcoming threat today are active shooter events.
“The active shooter is becoming the method of choice for ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). We saw this played out in Paris [and] in Brussels,” McCaul said. “It’s also becoming the method of choice against law enforcement and the method of voice against our students. I want to thank the men and women standing behind us for their dedication to keeping Americans safe. I think cops lives matter. Every day they go into the battle lines and put their lives on the line and we need to respect that.”
McCaul introduced a new bill that will allow DHS to grant additional funding for active shooter training. The bill will be discussed once Congress returns from recess.
Cornyn, McCaul and other local law enforcement officials discussed the POLICE Act and other concerns regarding efficiency of local law enforcement operations including a lack of funds.
The active shooter simulation featured several injured students and a masked man with a shotgun. Law enforcement gunned the man down and secured the perimeter while medical personnel assisted those in need.