Did Virginia police wait too long before trying to enter the classroom building where Seung Hui Cho killed 31 people? The five minutes police spent breaking into Norris Hall proved to be crucial as Cho moved unimpeded, with police locked out, says the Associated Press. State police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said that if police had rushed into the building without a plan, many would have likely died right along with the staff and students. “If you go in with your backs turned, you’re never going back,” she said. “There’s got to be some sort of organization.”
Some experts disagree. “You don’t have time to wait,” said Aaron Cohen of IMS Security of Los Angeles, who has trained SWAT teams around the country since 2003. “You don’t have time to pre-plan a response. Even if you have a few guys, you go.” After the 1999 Columbine massacre, police around the U.S. adopted new policies for “active shooters.” Police would no longer respond to emergencies by surrounding a building and waiting for a SWAT team. Al Baker, a former 25-year veteran in the New York Police Department, said sometimes officers have to do what is necessary to enter a building – whether it’s throwing a rock through a window or driving a car through the door. The crucial issue is ensuring that they have the proper training and equipment. “This is a seminal moment for law enforcement as far as I’m concerned because it proves that minutes are critical,” he said.