Opinion: Police protocol exists for a good reason

The story of Ahmed Mohamed, the teenager from Irving, Texas, who was arrested after his teacher mistook a homemade clock for a bomb, has sparked quite a bit of controversy. Social media discussion about his arrest mostly has focused on discrimination based on Ahmed’s race and religion, and concerns about whether he should have brought the clock to school in the first place. Both arguments, however, forget that regardless of his race, religion or actions, based on the available information it appears the police did not follow the proper procedure for handling bomb threats.

The step-by-step approach to address such threats and related incidents is outlined in directive 8.02.1 from the Texas Police Department General Order Manual, which is available online for public access at the city of Texarkana website and likely is not too different from the city of Irving’s own approach to addressing such threats.

First of all, the clock was confiscated by an English teacher before the police arrived at the scene. This could lead one to believe the school did not actually perceive the homemade device as an immediate threat. Once summoned to the school, officers arrested Ahmed and presumably took the device to be examined. However, had they actually had reason to believe there was a threat, the officers should have evacuated the school, and created a secure perimeter of at least 500 feet around the building to make sure no students were harmed as they examined the suspected bomb and contacted federal authorities, according to directive 8.02.1.

We, the Editorial Board, remember the April 2013 incident when Truman State was placed on a brief lockdown after a witness reported seeing a man with a handgun at the edge of campus. During that incident, students were sent alerts regarding the emergency situation. Campus was placed on lockdown, meaning students could not enter or exit campus buildings, ac-
cording to an April 2013 KTVO article. Police patrolled the area searching for the man, discovered it was a student with a BB gun and then determined there was no apparent danger to the campus community, according to the same article.

There are similarities between this incident and Ahmed’s. Both featured potential harm to a large number of students, happened on school grounds and involved police response. While neither incident posed a legitimate threat, police responded to each in very different ways.

To read the rest of the editorial, pick up a copy of the Sept. 24 Index, either on newsstands or online.