What is a Sheepdog? It is a special breed of people who watch over others. Sheepdogs prevent ‘wolves’ or bad people from hurting the sheep. Sheepdogs run towards the danger rather than away from it. They protect others, even at risk of their own lives. They provide cover, they do not seek it. This breed of personality is often synonymous with the men and women who wear a badge and comprise the Thin Blue Line.
On occasion, there are those who, while their intent is heartfelt and they mean well, are not capable of being a sheepdog.
Once such instance occurred on Valentine’s Day, 2017. Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Douglas High School, killing 17. The actions, or lack of, the deputies from the Broward County Sheriffs Office has been a major point of contention in the wake of this tragic massacre.
Earlier this month, Deputy Scot Peterson and Sgt. Brian Miller were fired. Now Deputies Edward Eason and Josh Stambaugh were terminated after an internal affairs investigation into seven officers, all of whom responded to the shooting at Parkland.
Accusations against three officers were found non-sustained and will be returning to duty. This is according to Sheriff Gregory Tony, who replaced former Sheriff Scott Israel. Israel was Sheriff at the time of the Parkland shooting. He was removed from office by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in essence for ‘neglect of duty’.
According to FoxNews, each of these officers were fired for neglected duty for failing to “take timely action on the occasion of a crime when gunshots were heard in Building 12 or attempt to locate and confront the active shooter or determine the source of the gunshots.”
Peterson, the school’s resource officer the day of the shooting, was subsequently arrested and charged with eleven criminal counts of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. If convicted on all charges, the 56-year old could potentially face nearly 100 years in prison.
According to a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE):
“The investigation shows former deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting that killed 17 children, teachers and staff.”
FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said, “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
Peterson’s lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo III, said in a statement:
“We will vigorously defend against these spurious charges that lack basis in fact and law. Specifically, Mr. Peterson cannot reasonably be prosecuted because he was not a ‘caregiver’, which is defined as ‘a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child’s welfare.’”
“President Eisenhower has said that ‘the search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.’ Today the individuals who have made this charging decision have taken the easy way out and blamed Mr. Peterson for the actions on February 14, 2018, when there has only ever been one person to blame, Nikolas Cruz.”
What was missing from DiRuzzo’s statement? He definitely tried to point out that he was not a caregiver, but he failed to mention that he was also no sheepdog.
In the case of former Deputy Eason, the internal affairs report revealed that he provided inconsistent and conflicting statements to investigators. It also shows that instead of responding to the gunshots, he went to nearby Westglades Middle to lock it down.
He never transmitted his actions and took 19 minutes to check the doors of the middle school. Eason was also faulted for failing to formally report a tip he received in February 2016 that Cruz was making threats on social media to shoot up a school.
Stambaugh failed to run toward gunshots on multiple occasions to stop the shooter, according to the report.
“Stambaugh appeared to take cover over assisting deputies entering a possible hot zone,” it said based on videos from his body camera.
At one point, Stambaugh told an officer from the Coral Springs Police Department nearing MSD’s building 12 — where the shots were being fired — to “watch yourself” as he remained behind cover.
“This was neglect of duty, and it was one of the most severe consequences as we lost 17 people,” Sheriff Tony said.
In contrast, on April 30thof this year, a gunman opened fire on the campus of University of North Carolina-Charlotte. While the shooter was ultimately stopped by another student, video shows UNCC police running full speed towards the danger.
— Savannah Levins (@LevinsReports) April 30, 2019
We have so many examples of cops doing the right thing, the right way. Often it goes unreported.
In this instance, we had a collective group of officers who fail to do what they swore to do.
A Sheriff was removed from office by the governor. Four deputies were fired. One is facing 100 years in prison.
These are not sheepdogs.
Fortunately, we have nearly a million men and women in law enforcement that fit the description.