No Duty to Protect The Children

Marjory Stoneman Douglas Highschool is a name and place that brings strong emotions, to say it succinctly. Some of the strongest come against the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Specifically their former School Resource Officer, Scot Peterson, who waited outside the school, “taking cover”, for 45 minutes while 17 people were killed within. Scot has received active shooter training. Every active shooter program I know teaches their officers to find and stop the threat. Every cop I spoke with after this event was shamed by Peterson’s actions. It brought shame to a profession under fire enough as is. It undermined the legitimacy of why the police are there.

But was it illegal?

Well, we now know the legal consequences for a school resource officer who waits and does nothing. Nothing.

Ex-Parkland resource officer who stayed outside during mass shooting found not guilty

A jury has acquitted Scot Peterson, the ex-school resource officer who stayed outside during the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on all counts. The case was notable for the state’s decision to bring the child neglect charges under a Florida statute that governs caregivers, arguing Peterson as a school resource officer had a duty to protect the students.

The case is an interesting one. We know that law enforcement in the general sense has no legal duty to protect you specifically, they can’t be held negligent for not saving you. But the premise that a school resource officer, by nature of the specifics of their job, does have a specific duty to protect the school and children under their care is a case worth considering. It is uncomfortable to note that a teacher appears to hold more liability for the well being of their students than a police officer when a police officer is the only one of those two professions trained for a gunfight. Peterson was specifically trained for this gunfight, school active shooter.

The ruling in the trial of a law enforcement officer for his response to a mass shooting found Peterson not guilty of seven counts of felony child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury. Peterson wept in court as the judge read off the verdict, later telling reporters outside the courtroom “I’ve got my life back.” The 60-year-old, a former deputy for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, described the years since the shooting as “an emotional roller coaster.”

Well Scot, good for you I suppose. Seventeen people, fourteen students, lost their lives while you chose to wait for three quarters of an hour as “the best you could do”, but a jury found that neglect by a peace officer specifically assigned to the school for safety wasn’t criminal neglect.

Oh, thanks for David Hogg too. He’s a treat. A real shining example of the grift of tragedy, he has made the massacre his personality.

Peterson was accused of failing to confront the gunman according to his active shooter training, instead taking cover for more than 45 minutes outside the school’s three-story 1200 building before the killer was apprehended. State prosecutors accused Peterson of ignoring his training and doing nothing as 17 people, including 14 students, were gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Peterson’s attorney argued that he didn’t enter the building under attack because he couldn’t tell where the shots were coming from. Peterson said of the shooter: “The only person to blame was that monster. It wasn’t any law enforcement, nobody on that scene, from BSO, Coral Springs. Everybody did the best they could. We did the best we could with the information we had, and God knows we wish we had more at that point.”

Okay, Scot… But your best, their best, and Ulade’s ‘best’ seems to contrast very very differently from Nashville’s… why is that?

We have a serious problem between our effective and ineffective law enforcement responses to massacre level violence, we also have a serious problem holding officer accountable for failures of initiative, aggression, and judgement. Trying and failing should be no fault, but failing to try? Uvalde and MJD here contrast starkly against the result in Nashville at The Covenant school. There, Tennesse officers aggressed smoothly through the school, hunted the attacker, and neutralized them.

Then the internet did what the internet does.

Mockery of the shooter abounded, as it should in my opinion. Like how we clowned on this dunce.

No sympathy, no compassionate understanding, no foundation of legitimacy should every be given to these broken monstrous excuses for human beings. We should be cruelly analytical of their faults, their failings, and their decisions so that we can better respond to the next unhinged assailant who for [insert motivation] decides killing kids, co-workers, gay people at a bar, or concert goers is the thing to do to get their mad out.

We highlight the heroes who didn’t freeze up when the moment came, unlike Peterson, and we give them the deserved accolades for acting when the monstrous tendencies of humanity reared their ugly face in public.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.