By: April Carson
The entire district police force has been suspended by the Uvalde, Texas, school district, which is still facing intense criticism for its police department's failures both during the May 24 elementary school shooting and subsequently.
Later that day, Hal Harrell, the superintendent of Uvalde ISD, announced his retirement. There was no indication of when Harrell would retire; however, the transition will be discussed during a secret session of the school board on Monday.
The district said it has requested more Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to be stationed on campuses and at extracurricular activities during the police department suspension. The district added that it is confident staff and student safety will not be compromised during this transition period. It is unclear how long the school district police suspension will last.
Lt. Miguel Hernandez and Ken Mueller were both tasked with leading the department in the aftermath of the tragic shooting that killed 19 students and two teachers. However, they have been placed on administrative leave after an investigation was launched. The district has not released any details about the investigation, but it is clear that they are taking this matter very seriously.
In August, Hernandez acknowledged in a law enforcement communication that he'd gotten formal notice from DPS that an officer applying to Uvalde's school police force was being investigated for her action at Robb Elementary.
According to the school district, Mueller has chosen to retire.
The school district said that officers employed will fill other roles in the district, including four officers and one security guard. This is according to the information detailed on the district's website.
The families of the victims, headed by Brett Cross who is the guardian of 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, had been holding a 24/7 vigil outside the school district headquarters demanding transformation. The families are now approving of Friday's police department announcement.
"We are speaking out, because we haven't gotten any," Cross said. "It's a win and we don't get very many of them. We've gotten a little bit of accountability."
"This is what we've been asking for — it's more than we've been asking for," Kimberly Rubio, whose daughter was killed at Robb, stated. "We want to see change. We don't want this to happen to another family."
In a press conference on Friday, district officials announced that Chief Roland Rodriguez and all of the officers employed by the Uvalde Police Department have been suspended indefinitely. The district will now be contracting with the Uvalde County Sheriff's Office for law enforcement services.
"The Uvalde school district is committed to providing a safe environment for our students, staff, and community," superintendent Dr. full name said in a statement. "This decision was made in the best interest of our district as we continue working to heal and move forward."
"It's a little bit bittersweet," said Gloria Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter, Jackie, was fatally shot.
"This is a small win," Berlinda Arreola, Amerie Jo Garza's grandmother, said. "We're not done yet." "This is an excellent example of why we didn't quit," added Arreola.
"We will continue because there are still other children in this area that go to school. We have a lot of siblings of the deceased who attend here," she added. "We want to ensure that our children are safe and secure, as well as ensuring that the people charged with their protection are committed to doing so."
The officer's suspension comes the same day as Crimson Elizondo's firing, one day after she was hired by Uvalde's school district despite being under investigation for her conduct as a DPS trooper during the shooting.
After the shooter gained entry into Robb, Elizondo was the first DPS member to enter the hallway. According to an internal review done by DPS and later described to ABC news, trooper Elizondo did not bring her rifle or vest when she entered the school.
The trooper was among seven DPS employees whose conduct is now being investigated by the agency's inspector general as a result of possible failure to follow established processes. The seven were suspended, however, after Elizondo resigned from DPS to work for the Uvalde schools; she was no longer subject to any internal discipline or repercussions. Her actions — if found unlawful or policy-based — would be included in the final report from the DPS Inspector General.
In a statement to ABC News, DPS said it "takes the safety and security of our schools very seriously" and that it would "continue to work closely with local law enforcement and school districts to ensure the best possible protection for students."
The school district added on Friday that the police department's "decisions concerning" it have been pending the completion of investigations from the Texas Police Chiefs Association and private investigator JPPI Investigations, but recent discoveries have raised fresh concerns about department activities.
The JPPI investigation's results "will guide future personnel decisions" and the Texas Police Chiefs Association's review will show what needs to be changed in order for the department to improve, as stated in the statement.
In August, the school's police chief, Pete Arredondo, was dismissed.
The district has not elaborated on the specific allegations against Arredondo, but said they were "related to his management" of the department. Arredondo had been with the department for about 18 months.
How to Create Positive Change in Black Communities
About the Blogger:
April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
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