Czech police cleared of serious faults over Uherský Brod shooting
Police came in for a lot of criticism in the immediate aftermath of the Uherský Brod shooting in which a gunman shot dead eight before killing himself. The main answers were given on Tuesday when the results of the internal police investigation were revealed.
When the special police squad eventually intervened, the gunman and victims were already dead but one man hidden in the restaurant toilet was freed after an almost three hour ordeal.
Could the first police on the scene have done more? Should the intervention team have got to the scene and acted earlier? Were police communications with the town hall and hidden man adequate? All these questions circulated after February 24 with the spotlight very much on the police force and minister of interior and misgivings voiced whether the right decisions in such an intense and stressful situation were taken.
The answers were given on Tuesday when the results of the independent internal police investigation were made public. The investigation examined all the communications linked with the incident and interviewed those concerned. And the overall verdict was that the police reacted correctly and in line with their rules and responsibilities.
The fundamental fact was that after the initial salvo of shooting when the gunman entered the restaurant police did not know how many hostages he still had or even if there was more than one gunman involved. One of the severely injured women who managed to escape from the scene could not shed light on the situation inside.
When communications were later opened up with the gunman, he claimed to have five unhurt hostages he was willing to release if he was given access to a television broadcaster. Police realized they could not intervene to save the man in the toilet without putting him, themselves, and the believed hostages at risk.
So it was only after the line to the gunman went silent and repeated attempts to communicate went unanswered that the special intervention force was finally sent it.
It had taken one hour for the intervention force to arrive by road from Brno but at least two helicopter trips would have been needed to transport the squad and they would not in any case have been able to intervene because hostages lives were still believed to be at risk.
Moves to increase the overall size of the Czech police force after years of cuts, possibly obtaining bigger helicopters to transport special intervention teams, and improving the current rules on gun permits are now being looked at.