‘A sense of pride’ swells across US police ranks as officers hail the quick, heroic Nashville school massacre response
(CNN) -- As bystander and body-worn camera videos have revealed law enforcement failings -- from the murder of George Floyd to the delayed intervention in a Texas school shooting -- even some of the country's most seasoned officers have started to question how US police do their jobs.
But this week's swift, bold response -- likewise captured on bodycam -- of officers to an assault at a packed, private Christian school in Nashville has prompted a swell of esteem, appreciation and hope among police across the nation, many who've struggled with waning community trust and tough recruitment in the face of recent years' scrutiny.
"There's a little bit more of a sense of pride today because of what they saw in our profession being demonstrated in Nashville," Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum told CNN this week.
Harrowing footage released by police shows Officers Rex Engelbert and Michael Collazo charging Monday morning into the Covenant School and taking out a shooter who'd just killed three 9-year-olds and three adults and was unleashing bullets from an upper window.
Within 3 minutes of arriving, they'd hunted down and fatally shot the attacker -- announcing to their comrades: "Suspect down! Suspect down!"
"These officers demonstrated what the American police officer is capable of when given the right equipment, the right training and the appropriate mindset," former DC Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone told CNN.
Indeed, the decisive actions by Engelbert and Collazo may offer a "textbook" lesson as police train to limit the carnage of America's seemingly inevitable next mass shooting, some in the field told CNN. Meantime, exposing the officers' willing risk could help flip long-running skepticism among police about what behind-the-scenes behavior body-worn cameras might catch -- while enticing more changemakers to the profession.
"This type of professional response," said former Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, "is something that needs to be seen."
Bravery and professionalism earn broad praise
The wide exposure alone of the violence the Nashville officers faced -- and how they countered it -- has fueled a surge of pride that's rippled across police blogs and social media as officers nationwide have hailed the two and their colleagues at the scene as heroes.
First-person video of Engelbert and Collazo's response "is an example of getting the word out as to exactly what police officers are facing when they get a call like this," said Davis, who acknowledged "there have been terrible things shown on police body cameras" in other cases.
It's important for the public to be able to watch videos like this so ordinary people can see how inherently dangerous police work is, said Brenda Goss Andrews, president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement and a retired Detroit Police Department deputy police chief.
"When we rush in, we're thinking about saving lives and whatever it is that we need to do to make sure citizens aren't harmed," she told CNN. "I think people need to be reminded of that."
In contrast with headlines about potentially awkward -- perhaps even criminal -- behavior by officers across states caught on tape, the Nashville bodycam footage also highlights "the importance of training and teamwork," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which aims to improve professionalism in policing.
"Officers knew what they had to do and did it, even though some appeared not to have full body armor," he said. "It didn't matter: Lives were at stake."
The bloodshed "could have been worse without this great response," Mayor John Cooper said.
Metro Nashville's police chief has echoed that and commended his team's widely lauded actions in the face of yet another US school shooting.
"We will never wait to make entry and to go in and to stop a threat, especially when it deals with our children," John Drake said, calling to mind the widely maligned 73-minute wait by law enforcement in Uvalde before that shooter was confronted and killed.
Drake's leadership in the Nashville shooting's wake, including releasing the police bodycam footage within 24 hours, has earned praise, too.
"Kudos to the chief for getting this out so quickly," Davis said. "This is one of these things that we really need to be transparent about to regain the trust of the American people. This goes a long way toward that happening."
Drake is "an incredible police leader that knows that for us to do our job, we had to be effective crime fighters while still building trust with the community," Schierbaum said
'You can change lives every day'
As police departments nationwide work to regain trust and enlist new officers, the Nashville mass shooting response could serve as an example to emphasize, retired Sacramento, California, Police Chief Daniel Hahn said.
"I think there's a lot of reasons why people don't want to join law enforcement," he told CNN. "We really have to promote the fact that we make a difference, that you can change lives every day."
And this week's attack was "a textbook operation by law enforcement that was executed flawlessly," said Jonathan Wackrow, a former Secret Service agent and CNN analyst.
To that point, US police forces now will pour themselves into Nashville shooting after-action reports, review the videos and even study the reactions of Engelbert and Collazo.
Their work, of course, will aim to prevent more loss of life as the US gun violence scourge drags on.
"We have to remind ourselves that at any moment, we could be called upon to be the department of action," Schierbaum said. Officers would be "putting ourselves in danger for the sake of Atlanta -- and we're going to be prepared to do that."