Connecticut State Police say in a new report on the Newtown school massacre that unnecessary personnel potentially contaminated the crime scene by stepping on bullet casings and glass shards before they were collected for evidence.
State police released a long-awaited report Friday that reviewed their response to the 2012 shooting that killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
"Whenever law enforcement responds to a major event, a major incident, it's important that when it's over, you take the time to review it," retired Connecticut State Police Lt. Paul Vance said.
The 74-page after-action report on that shooting was released Friday afternoon. To read the full report, click here.
"It wasn't too, too bad, but there were instances where there were some problems with communication, initial response setting up a command post, but these are minor issues, the real issue is, you expect the response to be textbook," Vance said. "It can't always be textbook when you have this type of tragedy and emergency."
In the report, state police concluded that the response to the shooting "was handled effectively."
"Had it not been for the heroic actions of the teachers, school staff and the response force, the number of victims could have been higher," the report stated.
The report concludes state police handled the response effectively, but it makes numerous recommendations about crime scene integrity, how to deal with victims' families and other issues.
"That's what this document is designed to do, its designed to help other first responders, be better at what they do," Vance said.
One recommendation is limiting access to the crime scene to authorized personnel. The report says uninvolved police officials and "dignitaries" were allowed in and disrupted the crime scene.
"Although the response to the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School is commendable, this AAR conveys many recommendations and lessons learned for improving response and rescue capabilities to better meet the challenges of this type of emerging threat. This important information should be shared with other jurisdictions around the country so the nation benefits from Connecticut State Police’s experience, both in preparing for the police response to mass casualty events and the subsequent investigative and support service challenges they pose," the report concluded.
Connecticut State Police released the following statement on Friday afternoon after the release of the report:
In the months following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Connecticut State Police (CSP) commenced the process of compiling an After Action Report to assess its response as a law enforcement agency to the active shooter situation that overtook Newtown and to identify opportunities to improve upon past practices. Feedback was solicited from dozens of individuals notably, responding troopers, agency support personnel, other state and local agencies, and family members of victims. The many responses that we received guided the writing of the report released today. The CSP is committed to continuous improvement and to that end, we collected and considered the many ways to improve training and inform policy and procedures. A number of the recommendations in this report have already been implemented, and others are in process. For example, one of the challenges noted in the report was the inability to communicate with other first responders due to limited cell capability. DESPP is working on behalf of the state to implement a broadband network for first responders, which will give priority and preemption for communication for first responders and emergency management during catastrophic incidents. Additionally, a number of the recommendations in the report proposed continuation of and enhancements to specific types of training, including crime scene management, medical, and active shooter tactical training, all of which have been integrated into CSP’s training curriculum. Other recommendations are suggestions to continue certain procedures in place, and required no additional action. For the relatively few recommendations that have not yet been implemented, CSP will continue to incorporate the field’s next and best practices as quickly as necessary and feasible. The Connecticut State Police will continue to strive towards excellence in all that it does, and glean as much as it can from this tragedy and others occurring in the country and around the world.
State police's initial report was released nearly a year after the shooting.
Officers from the Newtown Police Department were the first to respond to the scene. A prosecutor's report in 2013 said that nearly six minutes passed between the arrival of the first Newtown police officer and the time officers entered the school. Officers were not able to intervene before the gunman turned the gun on himself.
In Oct. 2017, the FBI released documents related the investigation.
The report does not specifically address why it took more than five years to complete.
Copyright 2016 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.