And maybe, not so much the cowardice of the SRO Peterson. He screwed up. But he says he wasn’t sure where the shots were coming from. If he is not lying, then the arriving officers were no help. I have experience being the back up or setting up responding officers as the initial officer on scene. Every cop has at least once in their career. I listened to the radio traffic. I suggest everyone do the same and think to themselves what would you do with the information you were getting? Because trust me, the information sucked!
First and foremost the SRO should have went in if he was ALMOST sure the gunfire was coming from the building. That would have been the smart choice. One round fired when he was inside and he would have known for sure. It is a totally different sound. However, this inaction comes back to panic, stress, tunnel hearing and training. He may have decided to wait for back up, KNOWING his duty was to go in, siding with caution over bravery. That’s a conscious choice and the wrong one. But understandable under the circumstances. Being brave is a lot tougher than people think. At some point in your career caution dominates bravery. That is why you don’t see 40yr old privates in the Army. If the SRO made that choice, it is something he only knows and has to live with.
If he wasn’t sure and was confused on the location, his back up was no help. What good would it do to run into any building, just to be in a building, if the shooter is actually outside? Almost immediately you can hear an officer claim he heard gunfire coming from the field. Now if the SRO was confused and not cowardly, then this information cements his initial concern, that the shooter made it outside on the campus, shooting running students. This is also reinforced by one officer saying he saw wounded in the field. If you think the shooter is in a building, how are students wounded in the field?
Understand, this is minute four or five into the shooting. One second, you are a semi-retired fat cop SRO with 33yrs on the job, maybe looking to retire at 35, and the next you are sprinting into the worst nightmare of any police officer’s career. That is some serious change of gears for anyone. If his mindset was lax from years of being an SRO, he may not have been able to switch out. By the time he got there, he was reverting to the REAL training the police get, set the perimeter.
This is all about visualization and MINDSET, MINDSET, MINDSET!! If the SRO never believed this would happen to him at this school, and never mentally practiced what he would do IF it did, then when the shooting started, he was already in trouble.
The first major error after the SRO’s decision to not go into a building was that NOBODY asked if someone had. The Captain, who was trying to manage a scene she was not at – the sound of her radio indicated she was in her office or a building- that would be an interesting piece of information to have- is making a bad command decision. It is the guy on the scene who is in chart. She should have asked if anyone had gone in. That alone might have shaken the SRO loose from being frozen with indecision. But she allowed the SRO to start the perimeter decision making cycle and it was downhill after that. Again- NOBODY ASKED IF ANYONE WAS IN A BUILDING OR HAD EYES ON THE SHOOTER!!! NOBODY COMMANDED ANYONE TO GO IN AND SEE!!
In law enforcement, micro managing to prove your worth as a commander is a goal. Ninety-nine percent of the time the police do not need the help of their commanders. It is almost a useless position except for the large amount of paperwork that is generated inside the police bureaucracy, usually between each other. My commander, who used to be my sergeant and a very, very good leader, would stand in the hallway in the middle of the day just looking to talk to someone. He’d show up on crime scenes I’d be working and hang out because he was bored. We would laugh at him as he would lean over to see what we were doing during a search. Once we asked him what was going on and he said moving up the chain was a good financial decision for his family, but he hated the job because it took him away from fighting crime. He wasn’t a cop anymore, just a paper pusher. That Captain is the quintessential paper pusher by this time in her career.
The second major error was that dispatch did NOT tell anyone responding they were getting actual calls from a building (which they were) and telling the deputies of the location. In fact, the major contribution from dispatch was “911 was blowing up”! Okay, what were the callers SAYING!! Did they have eyes on the shooter, what building were they in? How long since he left? What did he look like? I was stunned the officers on the scene were getting bad descriptions while the 911 people were actually talking to eye witnesses.
To that point, I was also horrified that the police were eager to give out a description of the suspect saying he was “ROTC”! How? Why? After that it was ROTC with a maroon shirt and black pants. Thank God, one of the real heroes that day, the real ROTC cadets, didn’t pick up the dropped weapon and try to give it to the police, they would have shot him!
But it goes to prove that confusion dominates everything in a large incident like this.
Here’s the bottom line. In a free society, sometimes bad guys get away with doing bad things. It is the cost of a free society. If the right cops, with the right mindset, are right there when it happens, the bad guy gets nabbed. If not, then it looks like the mess we see here.
But the other REAL CRIMINAL here is the Sheriff. He is guilty of the crime of being a self centered, lying, political, irresponsible politician who is as accountable for this tragedy as anyone. And the fact he was “shocked, SHOCKED, I tell you!” that his SRO hesitated, but only AFTER the CNN townhall, when we find out he knew all along, shows he is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder and should be immediately removed. These people have no conscience, no guilty, no remorse. Studies have shown they will drag anything they lead into the gutter. (Ask the State Department about Hillary’s time in office and how many compromises they made.)
He should not be in charge of an agency that is responsible for the law enforcement and protection of the people of Broward. He can do a Alicee Hastings and run for Congress. But he can’t run a Sheriff Department, because if he does a bad job there people will- and did- get hurt.