FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!
Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton

Randy Sutton is a 33-year law enforcement veteran, a trainer, and the national spokesman for The American Council on Public Safety. He served 10 years with the Princeton (N.J.) Police Department and 23 years with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, retiring at the rank of lieutenant. He is an author who has published multiple books on law enforcement.

Security Policy and the Cloud

Ask The Expert

Mark Rivera

FBI-CJIS Security Policy Compliance Officer

Mark Rivera, Customer Retention Manager and CJIS Security Compliance Officer with Vigilant Solutions, served for sixteen years with the Maryland State Police, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant with thirteen of those years at the supervisory and command level. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Management from The Johns Hopkins University and Secret clearance through the FBI, Baltimore.

June 2016 (2)
May 2016 (3)
April 2016 (2)
March 2016 (1)
February 2016 (3)
January 2016 (1)
December 2015 (1)
November 2015 (5)
October 2015 (1)
September 2015 (3)
August 2015 (3)
July 2015 (6)
June 2015 (3)
May 2015 (2)
April 2015 (3)
March 2015 (5)
February 2015 (1)
January 2015 (1)
December 2014 (9)
October 2014 (2)
September 2014 (2)
August 2014 (2)
July 2014 (1)
June 2014 (2)
May 2014 (2)
April 2014 (4)
March 2014 (2)
February 2014 (3)
January 2014 (3)
December 2013 (2)
November 2013 (2)
October 2013 (3)
September 2013 (5)
August 2013 (3)
July 2013 (3)
June 2013 (3)
May 2013 (4)
April 2013 (3)
March 2013 (5)
February 2013 (3)
January 2013 (3)
December 2012 (5)
November 2012 (2)
October 2012 (4)
September 2012 (2)
August 2012 (5)
July 2012 (4)
June 2012 (3)
May 2012 (5)
April 2012 (6)
March 2012 (5)
February 2012 (3)
January 2012 (5)
December 2011 (5)
November 2011 (3)
October 2011 (3)
September 2011 (3)
August 2011 (2)
July 2011 (2)
June 2011 (3)
May 2011 (4)
April 2011 (3)
March 2011 (5)
February 2011 (3)
January 2011 (3)
December 2010 (2)
November 2010 (4)
October 2010 (4)
September 2010 (5)
August 2010 (4)
July 2010 (4)
June 2010 (4)
May 2010 (4)
April 2010 (3)
March 2010 (3)
February 2010 (1)
January 2010 (3)
December 2009 (4)
November 2009 (4)
October 2009 (2)
September 2009 (3)
August 2009 (4)
July 2009 (5)
June 2009 (3)
May 2009 (5)
April 2009 (4)
March 2009 (4)
February 2009 (3)
January 2009 (2)
December 2008 (4)
November 2008 (3)
October 2008 (3)
September 2008 (3)
August 2008 (2)
July 2008 (3)
June 2008 (4)
May 2008 (5)
April 2008 (5)
March 2008 (4)
February 2008 (5)
January 2008 (3)
December 2007 (2)
November 2007 (5)
October 2007 (4)
September 2007 (4)
August 2007 (5)
July 2007 (4)
June 2007 (4)
May 2007 (5)

A Whole Village to Raise…Only One Madman To Destroy

The events in Newtown give us a glimpse into one man's madness and society's need to protect its innocents.

December 20, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

Photo: Kelly Bracken
Photo: Kelly Bracken

Having spent an hour on the elliptical, I'd worked up a pretty good sweat and was exiting the doors of the gym last Friday when I unplugged the earpiece of my iPhone. On its screen, my iTunes workout playlist dissolved to a friend's Facebook message:

"Praying for the 18 innocent little souls and their families"

Even 30 years ago, the implications of such words would not have escaped me. But then I would have attributed the assumed fate of those children to some unfortunate misadventure something that, while tragic, had not been consciously orchestrated. A fire, or bus accident. Some structural collapse.

On this date, I did not.

Getting inside my car, I called the wife and asked her if she'd heard anything about a school shooting.

"No, hold on."

Within seconds she was relating to me what she'd found on the Internet regarding the horrors of what had taken place in Newtown, Conn.: Twenty children and six adults slaughtered. I hung up then jabbed the AM dial of the car radio and listened as still more details emerged on the horror. I found my eyes burning...probably from sweat.

Back at home, I turned on the TV. It came on with images of crying children, their little hands clasped upon one another's diminutive shoulders as they were being led single-file from the school grounds. I watched in horror at the spectacle of cameras and microphones being shoved in the faces of already traumatized kids.

What were these media ghouls thinking? Where were the responsible adults to put their calloused idiocies in check?

Interspersed with these images were still others, those of police officers rapidly descending on the school grounds, their facial expressions a mélange of courage, horror, and sensitivity. I wondered what they were feeling at the time. I thought about what they would be feeling later.

But the image that stood out was that of a terrified girl in a blue sweater sobbing in the middle of one of the evacuation lines.

A mere child.

Watching her, I recalled another child, one who'd once sat in a movie theater and watched a John Wayne movie called “Big Jake.” I remembered how he and the rest of the audience had sat silently as numerous men, women, and children were shot and killed on screen. Not until the machete death of a dog did the audience register any protest, and then it came with a collective, "Oh....!"

The child in that long ago movie theater had been bewildered at the relative weights of life that the audience had apportioned those on screen, and wondered how it was that one loss was somehow deemed more deserving of sympathy than another.

Now an adult, that same child has come to somewhat understand the gradient scale by which we measure travesties, by which we commit our sympathies, and how cruel fate can be for children whose lives were taken from them before they'd truly begun. How upon hearing that the shooter had killed himself, he could think to himself: Oh. Good.

I even understood the desire of those to find some silver lining, to somehow extract from the tragedy some profit, a catalyst for change. And the recommendations came fast and furious, and none faster than in the law enforcement community as thoughts, opinions, and speculations were shared in cyberspace. There were even comments reflecting on the number of such shooters whose tox screens would reveal all manner of attempted psychiatric chemical intervention.

On the pro-active front, some suggested that teachers should be taught to fire handguns, and armed like their Israeli counterparts (or have on-duty officers assigned to school campuses as in the state of Georgia). But while there are American teachers that might prove adept at getting target acquisition on some madman, many don't like firearms, and might not only prove resistant to such training but possibly incapable of successfully deploying them. In any event, I don't see school administrators beating down doors to get training with the same enthusiasm of those determined to have firearms seized or restricted.

Personally, I wondered why officers themselves—on-duty and not—couldn't play more of a preventative role. Within a small block of my local elementary school live at least four active or retired officers, myself among them. When my son attended it, I often wondered if the school would begrudge my occasionally sitting in some unoccupied office as I wrote for POLICE. And I had every reason to suspect that other officers would be willing to stop by the school and lend an unsubsidized vigil.

I believe that if enough cops across the country are given permission to hang around their local schools, and the practice becomes common knowledge, that it might be enough to deter a prospect contemplating an attack; failing that, it might at least mitigate the losses attendant to an attack. But then, the skeptic in me can't help but suspect that school administrators would be of a mindset similar to the proprietors of certain venues who prohibit armed off-duty cops.

As it was, I was left to contemplate the possibility of hearing gunshots and approaching sirens.

To paraphrase forest Gump, "I'm not a smart man, but I know what crazy is." I know it covers a broad range of psychologically compromised individuals, from those whose messiah complexes lead them to believe they are Jesus or the president, to the straitjacketed, foaming-at-the-mouth-gibbering-jabbering madmen. I also know that mental illness comes in more subtle forms and that it walks among us and lives with others that love and care about those afflicted with it.

Among the caregivers of the mentally ill are those who find themselves the unwitting aiders and abettors to their loved ones’ crimes. Not unlike the governor who keeps his zombie-fied daughter chained up in "The Walking Dead," they are possessed of a hell-bent astigmatism that prevents them from seeing a danger so clearly before them.

In the case of the former, not only do they fail to alert authorities to prospective threats, but inadvertently avail these people the means to carry out these threats. In Nancy Lanza's case, it was the apparently disastrous attempt to bond with her reportedly autistic son Adam through firearms.

I do not intend to made some blanket condemnation of firearms, as I am a strong believer in Second Amendment rights. But I would question the wisdom of availing arsonists matches with which to play, and given the fact that Adam's only friend was a computer screen, I have to wonder what Adam Lanza dully absorbed through it. How many rousing rounds of "Call of Duty" he might have played. How much he studied mass shootings that preceded his atrocity.

Nor do I do mean to sound callous towards these family members; indeed, they not only have my sympathy, but my empathy. In previous blogs I have written of my own familial and professional experiences with mental illness, from routinely having to respond to local mental health centers to intervene, to dealing with my own father's mental illness and having to put police hazard entries on his address.

Watching that TV and watching all of the events in Newtown, I anticipated that the days and weeks to come would be filled with renewed calls to arms by some and for nenewed control by others, and my own need to offer some thoughts if not profundity.

But sitting there I noticed that my perspiration from my workout had given way to a general dampness that adhered my shirt to my torso and I somehow felt much, much colder than when I'd first left the gym. I realized that I needed to take a shower.

A long shower.

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
It's easy! Just fill in the form below and click the red button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.
First Name:
Last Name:
Zip Code:
We respect your privacy. Please let us know if the address provided is your home, as your RANK / AGENCY will not be included on the mailing label.
E-mail Address:

Police Magazine