The Texas Tribune and ProPublica collaborated in an investigation of the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas.

We know that Governor Greg Abbott immediately responded to the massacre of students and teachers at Robb Elementary School by congratulating the Texas State Police for their prompt and effective response. Either he was misinformed or he lied. The school was full of law officers but no one made a move to save the children for over an hour.

The investigation revealed that the state is withholding records of that terrible day.

Ever since the Uvalde elementary school shooting left 19 students and two teachers dead, blame for the delayed response has been thrust on local law enforcement. The school police chief was fired and the city’s acting police chief was suspended.

But the only statewide law enforcement agency, the Texas Department of Public Safety, has largely avoided scrutiny even though it had scores of officers on the scene. That’s in part because DPS leaders are controlling which records get released to the public and carefully shaping a narrative that casts local law enforcement as incompetent.

Now, in the wake of a critical legislative report and body camera footage released by local officials, law enforcement experts from across the country are questioning why DPS didn’t take a lead role in the response as it had done before during other mass shootings and public disasters.

The state police agency is tasked with helping all of Texas’ 254 counties respond to emergencies such as mass shootings, but it is particularly important in rural communities where smaller police departments lack the level of training and experience of larger metropolitan law enforcement agencies, experts say. That was the case in Uvalde, where the state agency’s 91 troopers at the scene dwarfed the school district’s five officers, the city police’s 25 emergency responders and the county’s 16 sheriff’s deputies.

The state police agency has been “totally intransparent in pointing out their own failures and inadequacies,” said Charles A. McClelland, who served as Houston police chief for six years before retiring in 2016. “I don’t know how the public, even in the state of Texas, would have confidence in the leadership of DPS after this.”

Instead of taking charge when it became clear that neither the school’s police chief nor the Uvalde Police Department had assumed command, DPS contributed to the 74-minute chaotic response that did not end until a Border Patrol tactical unit that arrived much later entered the classroom and killed the gunman.

“Here’s what DPS should have done as soon as they got there,” said Patrick O’Burke, a law enforcement consultant and former DPS commander who retired in 2008. “They should have contacted [the school police chief] and said: ‘We’re here. We have people.’ They should have just organized everything, said, ‘What are all of our resources?’ And they should have organized the breach.”

DPS has fought the release of records that could provide a more complete picture of the role state troopers played during the mass shooting. Agency officials declined to answer repeated questions from ProPublica and The Texas Tribune for more than three months, citing an ongoing investigation. On Tuesday afternoon, DPS officials said they had referred five responding troopers to the agency’s internal affairs division, the Office of Inspector General, for an investigation into whether they broke any department policies. Two have been suspended, according to DPS.

DPS also released a July email in which its director, Col. Steve McCraw, said the agency would “provide proper training and guidelines for recognizing and overcoming poor command decisions at an active shooter scene.” The agency has refused to share its active shooter policies and training manuals.

The latest moves by DPS come a week after reporters from ProPublica and the Tribune sought comments from the four appointed members of the Public Safety Commission, which oversees the agency, about the response by state troopers.

DPS did not identify which officers were being investigated or detail potential wrongdoing.

Previously, agency officials referred reporters to comments made by the head of DPS during a June legislative hearing in which he largely blamed the Uvalde school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, for the failed response.

During that testimony, McCraw told lawmakers that the time it took for law enforcement to rescue teachers and students at the elementary school was an “abject failure.” He called Arredondo the only obstacle between armed police and the teenage shooter while dismissing the idea that DPS could or should have taken control of the emergency response.

“I’m reluctant to encourage or even think of any situation where you’d want some level of hierarchy where a larger police department gets to come in and take over,” McCraw said.

Yet, DPS has sprung into action time and again when disaster strikes in Texas, which has proved key during mass shootings and public emergencies, local officials across the state said.

More than three decades ago, for example, state troopers helped local law enforcement confront a gunman after arriving within minutes of a shooting at a Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, about 60 miles north of Austin. The shooter killed himself after a brief exchange of gunfire.

“They knew that people were dying, and so they acted,” said Suzanna Hupp, a former Republican state representative whose parents died during the 1991 Luby’s massacre. She said that didn’t happen in Uvalde, adding that “clearly there was a command breakdown there.”

In a 2013 chemical explosion in West, about 70 miles south of Dallas, state troopers immediately took control of the law enforcement response at the request of the county’s emergency management coordinator. And in the 2018 shooting at Santa Fe High School, about 30 miles south of Houston, state troopers quickly fired at the gunman, according to local law enforcement officials who initially responded. The rapid engagement by school police and DPS was key to the gunman surrendering, district and county officials said.

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How do you spell “COVER-UP”?