Florida School Massacre Rife With Controversy

Is a Civil War brewing among American cops as a result of the Florida school massacre? The politics of mass murder—aka active shooter—has resulted in political shots being taken and people are running for cover.

Scot Peterson

Newly retired Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson says he is no coward.

The longtime campus cop at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been nationally ridiculed over the last week for his response to a mass shooter on campus. Even pro-police President Donald Trump took a swipe at him. Trump claimed he “most likely” would have charged in himself, even unarmed.

On Monday, Peterson pushed back against the critics in his first public statement, essentially arguing he did the right things in an uncertain, chaotic situation, reported the Miami Herald.

“Allegations that Mr. Peterson was a coward and that his performance, under the circumstances, failed to meet the standards of police officers are patently untrue,” according to the statement sent from Fort Lauderdale attorney Joseph DiRuzzo.

Sheriff Scott Israel

The incendiary comments directed at cops by cops all over social media was surely sparked by the original repudiation of Sheriff Scott Israel.

“I am devastated. Sick to my stomach. He never went in,” Israel said during a news conference Thursday. Continuing, he publicly chastised Peterson by saying he needed to, “[A]ddress the killer. Kill the killer.”

Israel’s comments drew praise from many who also felt “sick” to their stomachs.

His accusation has turned the one-time school resource officer of the year into a political scapegoat for what appears to be a string of local and federal law enforcement errors revolving around the deranged student who murdered 17 people on the school campus.

More Peterson

In fairness to Peterson, he said he did not storm the halls looking for the shooter because he initially “heard gunshots but believed those gunshots were originating from outside of the buildings on the school campus,” according to a statement from his attorney. “BSO trains its officers that in the event of outdoor gunfire one is to seek cover and assess the situation in order to communicate what one observes with other law enforcement.”

He “took up a tactical position” between two other buildings next to Building 12, where the suspect spent six minutes unleashing gunfire with an AR-15.

“Let there be no mistake,’’ DiRuzzo’s statement continued, “Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day.”

However, people now appear angrier with Peterson (and other deputies) than the killer.

Policies

Despite Israel’s public criticism of Peterson (and the NRA), his grandstanding appears to have hit a brick wall as many of his policies are now under scrutiny.

Moreover, people who sided with him a week ago are now wondering what has been going on as reports have filtered out that Israel’s policies sided with former President Obama’s politics regarding turning a blind eye to students engaged in criminal conduct. As a result, the conservative movement in Florida has Israel in the crosshairs and is calling for his resignation.

Memo

A Broward County internal memo reads in part, “As (sic) the moment we find our agency up against a flurry of media allegations and a personal attack against our Sheriff. SI stood with us now we must stand with him. … It’s important that they know we ‘stand as one’ during this difficult time.”

So various reports indicate the Broward County Sheriff’s Office is investigating many of its’ own deputies for neglect of duty, but Israel has yet to give an account of apparent policies that may have contributed to the tragedy.

Florida School Massacre

Law Enforcement Today columnist Kathryn Loving authored a fantastic piece titled, “The Social Bomb Theory: We Created These Monsters.”

I don’t know what Broward County’s policies are regarding crime on campus, but any agency that ignores criminal conduct by students is facilitating the development of beasts on the street.

Tactical Movement Toward the Threat

Enter the politics of mass murders—aka active shooters. The American public (and many people in law enforcement) is tacitly endorsing reckless abandon as we make a mad dash to the suspect who is spraying gun lead all over the place.

Before going on, I want to be extremely clear regarding my position. Cops should do everything possible to neutralize a homicidal suspect (regardless of where he’s located). Tactical movement toward the threat is required. But it’s not a suicide mission!

Clueless Blowhards

I heard two, talk radio show hosts excoriate Broward County Sheriff’s Department. These are the same guys that roasted Darren Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department along with the six exonerated cops from Baltimore.

Moreover, their “expert guests” had two things in common; impeccable academic credentials, yet neither one had faced gunfire. Furthermore, these professors had never worked in the field of law enforcement; they’ve simply served as “mentors” to the cops who’ve earned their college degrees before realizing very little classroom chitchat helps when the stuff hits the fan.

Do We Have a LEO Civil War Brewing?

Now we seem to have a civil war brewing among our ranks. I hope I’m wrong, but the ruthless back and forth comments by people claiming on the world wide web to be cops are dispiriting.

Moreover, headline news quotes one chief saying, “Get out of the business if you’re not going to run to gunfire,” while another defends tactical deployments and movement toward the gunman. I agree with both statements, but we seem to be willing to slaughter our own based upon speculation and innuendo. As a result, there is a need for tempered comments at a time when emotional temperament has erupted.

Perhaps we can agree on this; a cowboy charging blindly into a stampede is a fool, yet a rodeo rider sitting on the fence is worthless.

Painfully Obvious Suggestions

So how do cops ward off politics yet engage a mass murderer? There is no need to call me “Captain Obvious.” There is a bit of satire involved in these seven painfully obvious suggestions:

  1. Plan
  2. Train
  3. Adjust plans based upon changing variables
  4. Train some more
  5. Know your plans as well as every high risk policy in your manual
  6. Integrate training into every level of the organization
  7. Command staff needs to stand by pre-determined plans and training
Conclusion

Finally, in addition to the aforementioned suggestions, law enforcement professionals should do everything in their power to intercede and divert juvenile crime. There has to be a sense of accountability and counseling deployed by youth services (law enforcement/juvenile probation), the school counseling system, and hopefully a family or guardian of some form. Ignoring the red flags of juvenile deviance is simply creating more people prone to violence.

Jim McNeff, editor-in-chief, Law Enforcement Today