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Uvalde School District suspends the district's police department

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

Today, the school district in Uvalde, Texas, suspended its police force. It follows the botched response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in May. Nineteen students and two teachers were killed. And parents had been calling for this department to be dissolved.

Texas Public Radio's David Martin Davies was outside the Uvalde School District building when that announcement was made earlier today. Hi, David.

DAVID MARTIN DAVIES, BYLINE: Hello, Juana.

SUMMERS: So, David, if you can, remind us what led us to this moment?

DAVIES: Ten days ago, some of the parents of children lost in the Robb Elementary shooting began a protest in front of the school district headquarters. And they were demanding that the members of the district force be suspended and then investigated for their actions the day of the shooting. Now, they have been camping in front of the entrance 24/7. I was interviewing Nikki Cross, the mother of slain 10-year-old Uziyah Garcia, when they got the word about the district's decision.

NIKKI CROSS: That means our demands have been met here, of course, about suspending. So all police...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Yeah, there is no police force.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There's not going to be no police force there at the school.

CROSS: Well, we have plenty of DPS...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Oh, well, yeah...

CROSS: ...Plenty of city cops, plenty of sheriffs, which is what we've been saying.

DAVIES: Two members of the district police force have been put on administrative leave, and one has decided to retire. That's according to the district. Another officer and the chief, Pete Arredondo, they've already been fired.

SUMMERS: David, what can you tell us about how this decision came about?

DAVIES: Well, the district is not saying why it did this. They're just saying recent developments have uncovered additional concerns with departmental operations. What the parents say - without their protest, this wouldn't have happened. And they say that their protest was galvanized by the recent hiring of district officer Crimson Elizondo. Before she was hired, she was at the Texas State Trooper. She was a DPS officer. And she was at Robb Elementary, at the shooting. And she was recorded saying that if her child was inside, she would not be outside. And so she was fired from her job as a trooper. And then she got hired at Uvalde CISD police. And the parents were outraged. Here's Nikki Cross again.

CROSS: It was a huge slap in the face to even find out that she was hired. And we were already hurt by just her being hired, and then to find out what she said and what - her lack of inaction that day hurt even more.

SUMMERS: That rage definitely echoes what I heard from parents when I visited Uvalde back in late August. What was the reaction there like today?

DAVIES: Well, word spread quickly among the parents of the children who died. About a dozen people just suddenly showed up at the protest site outside the school board headquarters. And, you know, it was muted celebration, giving high-fives. But some were in tears. And the protesters, you know, they broke up camp right there. And they picked up all their gear, and they drove off because their goal had been achieved.

SUMMERS: In the couple seconds we have left, what can you tell us about what happens next?

DAVIES: Well, for now, the district has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety to provide additional troopers on campus security. The Uvalde School District superintendent, Hal Harrell, is now saying that he could be retiring. In an email to staff, he said that the school board will discuss the superintendent retirement on Monday.

SUMMERS: That is Texas Public Radio's David Martin Davies. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Martin Davies is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience covering Texas, the border and Mexico.
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