The rationale of culpability

      A recent review of the 3-year-old shooting incident at Virginia Tech by the U.S. Education Department found the university was too slow in its community alert on that day, which could be in violation of a federal "timely-warning" law.

   But I wonder if the reasons behind continued investigation go beyond legal nit-picking and serve as more of a self-protective rationale. Why squabble about a 3-year-old shooting that's among many violent, deadly active shooter incidents in the United States and internationally?

   In response to the 11-page review, the university countered with a 73-page document refuting the original. Depending on which side the commenter sits, he or she is finger pointing to ultimately identify (aside from the shooter) where mistakes were made, and to prevent future similar tragedies.

   This is not unlike a rationale victims sometimes use to help them cope with calamity. They think that by understanding why a crime happened, they can also find a way to prevent it. Though the rationale is self protective and a comfort for survivors, it is rarely accurate. As law enforcers know, some crimes are random and cannot be explained by circumstance alone, nor can they be avoided.

   This is especially true for spontaneous acts of violence. In the 2008 Northern Illinois University shooting, the perpetrator was not a current student at the school, had no known affiliation with the victims, campus building or class he chose to fire upon. Who would have ever predicted that the shooter was going to walk onto that campus and open fire?

   The culpability rationale is counterproductive to active shooter study and response planning. It does no good to identify the problem because it's the very phenomenon of the crime — the random, unpredictability of a deadly threat —that prohibits preclusion. That's what is so horrifying and frustrating to law enforcement.

   Report squabbles and over-analyses are not going to quell fears or comfort a community. Instead, time and energy are better invested in response, tactics and drill training to organize a swift, active response to the inexplicable active shooter.

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