Mass Shootings

Was Scot Peterson's Cowardice a Crime?

The criminal charges against the former Broward County sheriff's deputy for failing to intervene in the Parkland shooting seem like a stretch.

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Former Broward County sheriff's deputy Scot Peterson has been widely vilified for failing to intervene in the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. But did Peterson's failure amount to a crime? Although that is what local prosecutors argue, it seems like a stretch.

The arrest warrant approved by Circuit Court Judge Andrew Siegel this week charges Peterson with seven counts of child neglect, a felony, and three misdemeanor counts of culpable negligence as well as one misdemeanor count of perjury for allegedly lying to investigators about how many shots he heard while taking cover 75 feet away from the building where a gunman was murdering students and teachers. Only the perjury charge seems like a straightforward application of the relevant statute, while the other charges are novel applications of laws that are generally invoked in very different contexts.

As relevant here, Florida defines "neglect of a child" as "a caregiver's failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person." A "caregiver" is defined as "a parent, adult household member, or other person responsible for a child's welfare." Did Peterson, as the resource officer assigned to the high school, qualify as a caregiver, and did he therefore have a legal obligation to risk his life by running into the school? Not surprisingly, Peterson's lawyer, Joseph DiRuzzo, argues that he did not. But other legal experts are also skeptical.

"This is a unique prosecution, pushing the bounds of criminal liability," Miami defense attorney David Markus, who is not involved in the case, told the Associated Press. "While elected prosecutors many times bow to the court of public opinion, our justice system demands that a case like this be tested in a court of law. Legally, this is a tough one for the prosecution." Michael Grieco, another defense attorney who is also a Florida legislator, agreed that "the decision to criminally charge Mr. Peterson, although popular in the court of public opinion, will likely not hold water once formally challenged."

The culpable negligence charges seem closer to the mark than the child neglect charges but will still be hard to prove. The Florida Supreme Court has defined culpable negligence as conduct "evincing reckless disregard of human life or of the safety of persons exposed to its dangerous effects; or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of indifference to consequences; or such wantonness or recklessness or grossly careless disregard of the safety and welfare of the public, or that reckless indifference to the rights of others, which is equivalent to an intentional violation of them."

Peterson is charged not with doing something that recklessly endangered others but with failing to do something (enter the school and confront the gunman) that might have prevented harm to others. The arrest warrant argues that Peterson could have prevented several murders if he had done what he was supposed to do. DiRuzzo argues that Peterson "was not criminally negligent in his actions, as no police officer has ever been prosecuted for his or her actions in responding to an active shooter incident." The fact that the prosecution is unprecedented does not necessarily mean it is unwinnable, but it does suggest that the statute is not an easy fit (although you could also argue that Peterson's failure was uniquely egregious).

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh notes that even when people (such as parents) have a special duty to protect someone, they are not legally obligated to intervene if it exposes them to a risk of death or serious injury. "My quick research has revealed precedents supporting this in Alabama, California, Michigan, Montana, and North Carolina, and no precedents imposing a more categorical protect-even-at-risk-of-death duty," he writes. "Likewise, the few states that purport to impose a more general duty to help even strangers generally limit that duty to safe rescues." The question is whether Peterson, as a police officer trained to deal with active shooters, had a legal duty that went beyond what would be required of a mother who is afraid to get between her violent husband and the child he is beating.

Matthew Mayer, an expert on school violence at Rutgers University, notes that the charges against Peterson assume that if he had entered the school he would have been able to interrupt the attack. The case "rests on him being in the correct place at the right time and getting there and successfully firing shots," he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "That is 100 percent speculation."

Eugene O'Donnell, a former NYPD officer and a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, takes a similar view. "Criminalizing someone for not acting in the middle of a mass murder is built on the preposterous notion that police officers are Navy SEALs in disguise that can spring into action," O'Donnell told the Sun-Sentinel. "You never know what you're going to do when the bullets start flying."

O'Donnell said he could see why a police officer might be fired in a case like this (Peterson resigned), but criminal charges are another matter. "This is headhunting," he said. "This is trying to make someone pay for a tragic series of events."

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who headed the state commission that investigated the Parkland shooting, disagrees. "Scott Peterson is a coward," Gualtieri said. "He's a failure. And he's a criminal. No doubt because he didn't act people were hurt and people were killed."

But H. Scott Fingerhut, a law professor at Florida International University, emphasizes the distinction between moral and legal responsibility. "We don't know what his lack of action legally caused," Fingerhut told the Sun-Sentinel. "What we think morally is one thing. But our criminal justice systems are based on legal liability or guilt, meaning what can be proved."

These dueling views also can be heard in the reactions from people directly affected by the Parkland shooting.

Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, was one of the students who died that day, welcomed Peterson's prosecution. "It's about accountability, and there's to be more in Broward County," he told The New York Times. "We knew all along that this guy did something very terrible. He let my daughter die, and a lot of other victims in the school—teachers and children—and he didn't do his job."

By contrast, Daniel Bishop, who was a sophomore at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when it was attacked and subsequently joined fellow students in campaigning for stricter gun control, questions the charges against Peterson. "It wasn't his fault," he told the Times. "Who am I to place blame on anyone besides the one person who should be held accountable?"

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  1. There should never be any criminal charges against someone that refuses to do something. Well, in an ideal libertarian society, there wouldn’t be any criminal charges at all, only torts. Though I recognize such a position is controversial. In any case, criminal punishment for refusing do to something is slavery. If someone breaks a contract by refusing to do something, they are financially liable, but cannot be compelled. If you pay someone to mow your lawn, and they refuse to do it, you cannot compel them to mow. You can only compel them to return the money, plus any damages determined by the courts.

    1. I’m of two minds. On one hand I agree with you, but on the other hand these are not citizens in good standing to use the “just wanted to be left alone” defence; they’re self-styled demigods who purport to have the moral authority to execute anyone at anytime if their razor-sharp spidy senses twinge a single hair on the back of their neck; and call it “justified”. If we have an institution of police at all, might we not at least let’s make them criminally culpable for trying to stop mass murders taking place right in front of them? That’s why taxpayers have to buy them guns and body armor after all…. And if they don’t like it, well, hopefully they’ll all quit.

      1. What about a fireman that refused to enter a burning building with his fellow firemen & a few people die in there?

        In my 60 years on earth, I have never heard of a fireman getting cold feet & refusing to rush in. But, I have heard of several instances like Peterson here & I can see both sides of the argument! Personally, I vote to prosecute!

        1. What are you fucking idiots talking about? If we all agree that a cop gets to kill anyone he wants, then it MUST be true that he get to NOT kill anyone he wants. Either way, it is not for us peons to second guess the manifest destiny or papal infallibility of our cops. If this cop wanted to, i’m sure we could all agree that he had the right to shoot and kill every student he encountered. If there was a blind student with a seeing eye dog, well then OF COURSE we would expect that he would shoot the dog (if the blind person reached for her dog whistle, he would of course have to shoot her too). Come on, let’s face facts; his cowardice probably saved lives. He was doing the students a favor. He’s going to get his pension, and he probably stubbed his toe during this regrettable incident, not to mention his mental trauma, so he will go on disability (and if ANY of you naive slobs think this won’t happen, you are stupider than Tony (a fate worse than death).

          1. LOL!!! Do you have too much caffeine to day?….I do not agree that a cop gets to kill anyone he wants to! He should’ve done his job….Lives were at stake!

          2. – “If we all agree that a cop gets to kill anyone he wants…”

            If we all agree that you regularly pleasure yourself while viewing images of kittens being tossed into a wood-chipper….

    2. “If you pay someone to mow your lawn, and they refuse to do it, you cannot compel them to mow. You can only compel them to return the money, plus any damages determined by the courts.”

      Yet if lawn-mower man refuses still to return your money, then what, are you shit out of luck? No. Rather, we call that theft, and use the collective power of the state kick their ass, rather than you going over to his place armed to extract your due.

      Same with this situation. There was a contract for performance of specific duties in exchange for salary, pension, health benefits, etc. The contract, being breached, results in some state administered ass kicking.

      1. “”Yet if lawn-mower man refuses still to return your money, then what, are you shit out of luck? No. Rather, we call that theft, and use the collective power of the state kick their ass, rather than you going over to his place armed to extract your due.””

        Wrong. You take him to small claims court. Failure to abide by the court ruling if you win is still not theft. You can petition the court to have a Sheriff confiscate some of his property.

        1. Pretty sure ” use the collective power of the state kick their ass, rather than you going over to his place armed to extract your due” is pretty means pretty the same as “have a Sheriff confiscate some of his property” seeing as how that sheriff is no doubt armed.

          I think his use of ‘ass kicking’ was metaphorical.

          1. It is wrong to call it theft. Theft is a criminal act and needs intent. In a civil matter the concept is conversion:

            The elements of conversion are[iv]:

            the plaintiff’s ownership or right to possession of the property;
            the defendant’s conversion by wrongful act inconsistent with the property rights of the plaintiff; and
            damages.

            In the lawn case and Peterson’s case, however, conversion isn’t even the issue; the issue is breach of contract.

            Is Peterson is guilty of breach of contract? Probably not. That contract was negotiated by his union. Sure, there is a conflict of interest when the employer (the public) includes the employed, i.e, the employed (and all their public employee friends) get to influence the election and vote for the employer’s negotiators. But the courts have long recognized public unions’ right to exist, so there is little hope they would recognize the conflict of interest here.

      2. Yet if lawn-mower man refuses still to return your money, then what, are you shit out of luck?

        Pretty much.

        1. “I want my two dollars.”

          1. go that way, really fast. if something gets in your way, turn.

          2. “Do you have any idea the monetary value of the side of this mountain?”

      3. >>>Yet if lawn-mower man refuses still to return your money, then what, are you shit out of luck?

        yes. you shouldn’t have given money until the mower was moving forward and operational.

        1. yes. you shouldn’t have given money until the mower was moving forward and operational.

          I should have just said that.

          Now, if only the ‘public’ would see that giving someone a gun and a badge is like paying a teenager to mow your lawn 2 months from now.

          1. exactly. … also i’d reprimand his attorney or mr. pro se for wasting the state’s time over his own lack of diligence

            *if* i’m the judge … idea of working for the state creeps me

      4. The courts have repeatedly held that police have no duty to perform any public safety services.

    3. Negligence that leads to people getting hurt or killed allows for normally innocent behavior to be a crime.

      End that legal theory or your complaints wont do much.

      Hit another vehicle and seriously hurt the driver is usually a simple civil case. Drinking alcohol (negligence) and crashing into another vehicle seriously hurting the driver allows for a crime based on criminal negligence.

      1. Fail to vaccinate your child and risk losing them to the state forever.

      2. IIUC his negligence came from his communications and actions that stopped other Broward officers from entering. Entry was made by another county’s officers that ignored Peterson.

        1. That may depend. If he received a stand down order from his command then he was just passing the orders of their superior.

    4. Sorry, no. This guy accepted the terms and conditions of being a LEO. Cowering outside a building when a mass shooting of children who are essentially held captive by the state pursuant to truancy laws doesn’t cut it.

      Just like in the military or certain government jobs, he agreed to be subject to special laws. No one forced him to do any of it. So let him swing for his dereliction of duty.

      1. he agreed to be subject to special laws

        Yeah, like qualified immunity. I am unaware of any special laws that go the other way. Unless you want to argue he violated the kids civil rights. Their right to speak has certainly been infringed by his failure to defend them.

        1. qualified liability would be awesome.

          1. If you are ever in Utah, I would love to buy you a beer.

            1. sweet i ski park city w/locals sometimes i’ll let’cha know.

            2. I thought real beer was illegal in Utah.

      2. A soldier who did this would be prosecuted for cowardice under the UCMJ; depending on how seriously the court viewed the incident, he might be executed. The same is true for a soldier who told his superior to eff off. Anyone who joined the US military after about 1973 voluntarily agreed to this, but historically it also applied to draftees, and the military was harsher then than it is now.

        An army cannot fight a war without such special laws. If men can draw pay and consume GI supplies, equipment, and transportation, then quit their job in the middle of a battle because it suddenly got to dangerous for them, the army can only win the easiest battles.

        Peterson went through training as a cop and drew his salary for many years as a cop, then failed to do the job when it became dangerous – but there is no special law making that illegal for cops. Perhaps there should be.

        But you can’t prosecute him under a law made after that day. He should receive the maximum sentence for perjury, with that felony conviction ensuring that he is never hired as a cop again, nor can own a gun. Maybe the federal “honest services” law would apply, but it’s penalties are too light for this dereliction of duty.

        I’d rather see the _other_ special laws and privileges for cops removed to make them the same as other citizens. Make ignorance of the law be no excuse, just like it is for other citizens. Prosecute them consistently for false official statements and perjury, rather than just the 1 in 1,000 times the public becomes outraged at a lying cop. Put them through the same interrogations and investigative tactics as other citizens when they are accused of crime. Prosecute cops who arrest someone for “resisting arrest” but can’t prove an underlying crime for false arrest. Send a cop who panicked and shot someone who was not really a threat up for murder, with a life sentence or a death sentence.

        But until the cops are treated like us otherwise, their special privileges should come with special responsibilities. If their only excuse for their actions is “I was afraid for my life”, fire the cowards – and if it’s more likely than not that their cowardice resulted in death, execute them!

        1. Why perjury?

    5. “There should never be any criminal charges against someone that refuses to do something”

      So, one cannot negotiate that for oneself? Ever? That’s not Libertarian.

      1. That’s what “inalienable” means. This is something in which I disagree with Walter Block. He claims you can sell yourself into slavery. I disagree, and so does Rothbard.

        1. “I disagree”

          I can appreciate that. But it again brings me to who that choice belongs, and I think the answer is me. How would you police it? By invalidating a contract between two willing parties? I don’t think that holds water.

          As to slavery, I think you’re overstating it a bit. The Military, for example, does this, and I believe certain types of engineering require a form of legal liability that ends in jail. I’ll read the link you sent.

          1. How would it be policed? Easy. If you sign a contract for being a slave and later change your mind, you just leave. If the other party comes for you, or prevents you from leaving, you ask the law for help. Since the contract was not valid, the law would be on your side to protect you from the other party.

            As for military service, Rothbard wrote about this as well. In his eyes, and mine, military service contracts that force you to serve a certain amount of time under penalty of jail time are invalid from a libertarian perspective. If someone decides to leave the military before their time is up, they should be held in breach of contract, but not put in jail for desertion.

            1. So, they shouldn’t be held to the agreement they made because you think it’s not libertarian? Why do the principals care? How would you stop them? Your position is fine as long as one party is looking to get out, but that wasn’t my question.

              “How would it be policed? Easy. If you sign a contract for being a slave and later change your mind, you just leave. ”

              That’s not policing it and not what I am talking about.

              Two parties agree and abide by a criminal punishment contract. You a third party have stayed you think it is invalid. They do not. They aren’t trying to leave, nor will they as both sides are happy with the contract.

              Why do you get a say in it at all?

            2. “. If the other party comes for you, or prevents you from leaving, you ask the law for help. Since the contract was not valid, the law would be on your side to protect you from the other party.”

              This looks an awful lot like you’re saying “I would use force” in answer to my question. That’s definitely not libertarian.

              And you still haven’t explained WHY it isn’t libertarian. I own myself. I can dispose of myself in any manner I choose. I don’t care what Rothbard thinks about it because I OWN MYSELF. His opinion literally means nothing.

              1. Libertarians aren’t opposed to the use of force, but to the initiation of force. Force to recover stolen property (which is what a breach of contract is), or force in defense of your life or property, are perfectly valid.

                And yes, you do own yourself. But you own yourself ALWAYS. You can, for example, commit suicide, because your life is your own to do with as you please. You can also have yourself lobotomized, or to have some procedure done to yourself to make you want to obey someone for the rest of your life. Those are acceptable. But if you choose to become someone else, and later change your mind, you have the right to stop being a slave. Because at that moment, you will still own yourself. If you have the capacity to express self-ownership, you automatically have it.

          2. The Military is exactly like this. If I join the military (I did.), and then refuse to do my duty, they can and will prosecute me. I saw it happen to people.

            Let’s face it. Police are just the arm of the military that we accept to “police” the homeland.

            1. Police are just the arm of the military that we accept to “police” the homeland.

              No. No. A thousand times no. DO NOT EVER equate the police with military. That kind of thinking leads to MRAP parades, masked midnight door-kickings and dog shootings, and occupational-force “us vs. them” mentalities.

              Cops are there to extract property and liberty from the citizenry. They aren’t military.

            2. They prosecute you under the UCMJ. That’s an internal disciplinary process.

        1. The problem with that reasoning is, the contract doesn’t become involuntary because one party wants out. It cannot be magically converted into an involutary agreement because one party enforced the terms the other party agreed to.

          Honestly, as an argument it isn’t convincing at all.

          1. The contract wasn’t valid in the first place.

    6. Well there are laws that allow for specific performance as a remedy for breach of a contract in certain instances.

    7. Ok, then we take away his pension and bill him a set amount for life for not fulfilling the obligations he was paid to perform for 30(?) years. It took a while for us to realize he wasn’t fulfilling the duties he was hired for, but now that we know he wasn’t ever going to protect the public, we’ll correct that mistake.

    8. Petesron’s case is different. He swore an oath to uphold the law (like all police officers). I would think the central question is did he follow police department protocol for the situation. If he did he will be hard to convict. If he did not, I can see a jury convicting him of something. Still the case is chilling, because the criminal charges are not about committing a crime, but about a bad outcome, and that alone should scare us all.

    9. IIUC it was Peterson’s follow on actions while cowering that stopped other officers from entering the facility. It was another county’s officers, responding to the call, that ignored Peterson and made entry.

  2. Didn’t do what he was paid to do.
    A jerk, but not a criminal.

    1. As a member of government, a part of the criminal justice system, and under oath to protect the people, what he did was indeed a crime. He willfully allowed murders to occur, and ordered his men to allow murders to occur.

      I don’t expect the same from the common man on the street. But this is not the common man, this was an agent of the state with the authority to intervene and stop a deadly crime in progress. And he did nothing.

      As an agent of the state he should be held to a higher moral standard than the common man. But damned progressives have made moral standards obsolete, so that now even conservatives are defending scumbag cops like this.

      1. In Florida, I cannot find an oath that includes “protect the people”.
        While the Highway Patrol oath includes bravery, it is not clear it requires storming into a firefight.
        The FDLE ethical standards do include the phrase “Police officers shall not, whether on or off duty, exhibit any conduct which discredits themselves or their Department”, but then the context includes nine specific rules, eight of which deal specifically with sexual conduct, use of alcohol, and use of narcotics. The ninth deals with associating with known criminals, but only “where such associations will undermine the public trust and confidence in the officer or Department” (?)

        1. I did find Fort Lauderdale’s oath.
          “that I will support the Constitution of the United States, the
          Constitution of the State of Florida, and the ordinances of the City of Fort Lauderdale;…and that I will faithfully
          perform the duties of the office upon which I am now about to enter.”
          Now the oath says “perform the duties”. I am sure the police department has duties listed that include “protect the people”.

          1. Not to mention that Peterson was not only well trained but also a trainer and Broward POC for Active Shooter. That training is very specific and details the priority of life to protect; starting with victims, bystanders, LEOs, and lastly the shooter(s).

          2. Violation of an oath is not a criminal offence. See every politician ever. It is a reason to be fired.

      2. You should never expect an agent of the state to act with a higher moral standard than civilians.

        1. I have run to help people, even as a civilian.

          1. The Komen 5k doesn’t really help anyone

        2. Especially one that is trained, armed, and given special legal latitude to do so.

        3. In my Libertopia they would!

        4. You should never expect an agent of the state to act with a higher moral standard than civilians.

          FTFY

        5. You should hold an agent of the state to act with a higher moral standard than civilians, but don’t expect them to live up to that standard, much less the standard they hold us to.

        6. He was charged with a crime. In other words the discussion is about a LEGAL standard for a police officer, not a moral standard.

      3. Not sure about the FL law as written but if police were generally held to the military UCMJ as well as modern ROE we would all be better off. Except Officer Peterson of course who would have been shot by firing squad for displaying “cowardice in the face of the enemy”

  3. I’m having a split with some of my friends on this. I contend what he did wasn’t a crime. A fireable offense, yes. Open to civil lawsuits… mmmmaybe. But not a crime.

    1. It ought to be a fireable offense not subject to union grievance processes.

      1. The union should be subject to civil suits too, for keeping the worst of the worst officers on the force through the grievance process.

        1. As should the school district for warehousing the kids as targets, promising to protect them, and failing.

          1. Why not?

    2. I would agree that this is both the logical and legal conclusion. But it fails to mete out any justice to Peterson. Between the court rulings that police have no duty to perform and the police unions’ relentless defense of the pensions of bad cops, the parents will continue to be forced to pay this coward who took their money to defend their children and then failed utterly when circumstances called upon him to actually do so.

      1. It’s a complicated subject that touches on many areas. I think at a certain level of incompetence an officer should be able to be fired at either a reduced pension or no pension.

        1. Would it not be similar to a dishonourable discharge from the military? Can that also came with prison time for failure to fulfill the recruitment contract?

          1. The breach of duty of care comes under the tort of negligence. To prove negligence you are going to have to overcome the ‘reasonable person’ standard. His lawyer (paid for by the police union) is going to have a field day with a reasonable person confronting an armed gunman.

            1. In his case, does the reasonable person standard become reasonable cop instead?

            2. Is his lawyer actually paid by the police union? In other articles, we learned that he didn’t pay union dues. I even read insinuation that he was the union’s sacrificial lamb since he wasn’t paying union dues.

          2. I fully agree it should be exactly like the military.

    3. That’s my position here. I find it a really bad precedent to charge someone with a crime for cowardice. If he had specifically allowed the shooter into the school then you can get him for negligence and child endangerment. I find it hard to compel him to go in all cowboy style in an extreme and unanticipated circumstance. That said, he should be fired for failure to perform his duties

  4. Put me down in the “not a criminal but certainly guilty of dereliction of duty and should be fired and sued for his paychecks’ return” column. You pay somebody to do something and they don’t do it you at least get your money back, don’t you?

    1. My understanding is that even though he resigned in disgrace before he could be fired, because of the police union contract, he’s still entitled to an $8k / month pension for the rest of his miserable, cowardly life. If he had been fired he would not be entitled to this, at least not at this level. And if he is convicted of criminal charges, he gets no pension benefits whatsoever.

      So that might be part of the motivation here.

      1. That’s fucking crazy that he’s paid 8k a month. Nauseating.

    2. That was my comment, basically.

  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but haven’t courts agreed that a LEO has no obligation to keep individuals safe?

    1. For example, an NYPD officer couldn’t be charge with a crime when he hid while someone was being stabbed on the train.

      1. Failure of the courts does not make this crime not a crime. Police have the moral and legal duty to act to protect the people. Period.

        Notice I said “act to”. They might not succeed, they may be incompetent in their attempt, but they do need to act if they are able.

        If the system won’t hold them to that then the system needs to be replaced.

        1. they may be incompetent in their attempt

          There’s the rub. This officer might just be grossly incompetent. Drawing lines here is hard, and there’s a good chance an injustice will occur.

          1. The line is really not that hard. Most cops are grossly incompetent.

            The courts tend to mistakenly set that line based on what most cops do. Since most of those cops are incompetent, that line is incorrectly set.

        2. “”Failure of the courts does not make this crime not a crime.””

          Please point to the criminal code which says it is a crime. Just because you think it’s a crime doesn’t make it one.

          1. You’re confusing law with a government imprimatur.

            1. If there was a “legal duty to act to protect the people” FL would not need to get creative by charging him as a caretaker. They would charge him under the law which required an officer to protect.

      2. I really wish this was common knowledge. My bet is most people don’t realize this.
        Then again, many people (it appears) seem to think they are entitled to social security….and that we have a surplus in a “lockbox”…and that Area 51 really has aliens (ok, that might be true).

    2. Not quite. A police officer cannot be sued by the victim (or his/her family or heirs) for failing to keep an individual safe. The courts have never held, however, that the state is unable to prosecute those officers for the same behavior.

      Of course, the courts have never held the reverse either. As far as I know, this is the first time it’s come up for police. In the context of the military, it’s well-established that the state can prosecute for that behavior. Since police are a para-military organization, I think the question is whether the court will focus more on the para- or on the -military part of that description.

      1. What the military can charge it’s members with under the UCMJ (including executing them for cowardice in battle) is irrelevant. Police are civilians and not subject to the UCMJ. There is no equivalent law for civilians.

  6. If anything, I’d say his crime was fraud. If he’s going to dress like and get paid to be a police officer then he needs to be ready to be a police officer.

    1. I’m sure he could shoot dogs like the best of them.

  7. More evidence that Americans are instinctive bootlickers who treat uniforms like sacred vestments. No outrage whenever a demi-god uses lethal violence against a mortal who reached for his wallet after being pulled over for a turn signal violation, because the demigod was scared and mortals are incapable of understanding the pressure demigods feel. But when a demigod fails to use lethal violence in a situation, the mortals quickly form a mob to destroy the imposter who besmirched the reputation of the true demigods who “risk their lives every day” to protect our freedom and precious bodily fluids.

    All charges are legally bogus. Negligence requires an underlying relationship where the defendant had a LEGAL DUTY TO ACT and failed to ACT, and this failure was the ACTUAL AND PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE HARM. The actual cause of harm here was bullets passing through flesh. Some or all of these bullets were fired when Peterson was physically too far away to do anything about it, even if he was the selfless heroic demigod Americans believe their cops to be. The cause of the harms here was the shooter firing bullets at humans. It is not negligent to fail to stop those bullets from finding their targets.

  8. The job of a police officer, as opposed to a mere law enforcement official, is to stand between the people and the crime. If you’re not willing to put yourself between the bullet and the child, you have no business being in your profession. Your job is to protect and defend, not to carefully weigh the risks to yourself.

  9. OK, I was pretty sure it was criminal (in) action, but you folks have convinced me otherwise.
    Yep, a cowardly jerk, but not a criminal.

    1. Which utterly obliterates every single rationale for gun control.

      If a cop does not have to protect you…why in the hell would you be disarmed intentionally?

    2. See above. The proper headline should have been Victims can’t sue when police fail to protect you. All the suits concluding that “police have no duty to protect you” have been initiated by victims or their families. None of those precedents say that the State can’t prosecute for the same (mis)behavior.

      1. All the suits concluding that “police have no duty to protect you” have been initiated by victims or their families.

        None of those precedents say that the State can’t prosecute for the same (mis)behavior.

        If they have no duty to protect you, then they have no duty to protect you. It doesn’t matter that these rulings have been in response to civil suits. It has been clearly stated that the police have no duty to protect anyone not “in their custody”. If it is not their duty, then it is not criminal offense to not do it.

        Notice how the prosecutor has not charged this guy under the criminal code that makes it a crime for a cop to not intervene? ’cause there isn’t one.

        1. Which is why I think they are trying the caregiver angle. The kids were in their custody as a caregiver.

          Cops as legal caregivers? What could go wrong?

          1. Dogs shot?
            Small kids left in cars to die of heat deaths?
            Small kids strip searched?
            There’s more where this came from.

            1. To say there is a lot more would be an understatement.

  10. >>>Although that is what local prosecutors argue

    prosecutors gotta prosecute. retards.

    1. Any chance the DA in this case is up for reelection?

  11. Meanwhile back in Tennessee Sullivan Central SRO who confronted a gunman in 2010 was back in the spotlight after Parkland.

    “Carolyn Gudger was a School Resource Officer at Sullivan Central when a would-be school shooter tried to kill the very people she was in charge of keeping safe. …
    “”It’s just a situation you expect and you train for, you just hope it doesn’t happen. … It’s just part of our job as a school resource officer protect everybody we can,” she said.”

    1. Carolyn Gudger, true professional.

    2. Speaking of actual, honest to goodness, heroes, Jake Ryker, the student who stopped Kip Kinkle at Thurston HIgh back in 1998, went on to become a school resource officer.

      Sadly, I get 17 unique hits on Google for ‘Jake Ryker’ that relate to the hero if the Thurston High shooting and 8 of those are duplicates. That says something very telling about the state of journalism and the unwillingness of the media to get any kind perspective when a shooting occurs.

  12. Obviously the solution is robotic police officers, a la THX 1138 and RoboCop.

    *** bites lip ***

    1. ED-209 would be my choice.

  13. I think the prosecutors may be able to make the case that Peterson was a “care giver”. If I were them I’d focus on the idea that, because the teachers and students on the school grounds are “legally” disarmed, a special relationship exists between Peterson and the students. In essence: “No, Ms. Teacher or Mr. Student, you may not bear defensive arms here on school grounds. Instead, the school’s Resource Officer will protect you in the unlikely event of attack.”

    Of course, I think the prosecutors should have to demonstrate that Peterson was _aware_ of this special relationship.

  14. Assaulting a structure is pretty dangerous, and I doubt he had the training for it.

    1. Police training — which you have to pass to even BE a cop — routinely features exactly that scenario.

      If he was legally a police officer, yes, he was trained for that.

      1. And as you may recall in the days after the shooting, Sheriff Israel pointed out how great he was at his job because everyone’s training was up to date.

  15. So here is the scenario that seems to be preferred to what actually happened.
    Officer Peterson calls in the report, requests backup and medical support, unholsters his sidearm and charges into the school. He sees furtive movements in a room where gunshots still ring in the air, and fires 7 rounds, wounding 3 students and killing one. He reloads and continues through the building, finally confronting the suspect in a room full of kids. Both parties empty their weapons, and 18 people die, including the alleged suspect, and Officer Peterson.
    WHY does everyone assume this guy is some kind of crack shot, and has the wisdom of Solomon, and the situational awareness of Wyatt Earp? The best tactical officers on the force seldom are assigned to schools.
    What would have happened under any other scenario is pure speculation. And speculation is not testimony.

    1. “WHY does everyone assume this guy is some kind of crack shot, and has the wisdom of Solomon,”

      Did you drag that strawman all the way from home?

      1. If he had the wisdom of Solomon, he would have just divided the school in half…

      2. Peterson not only failed to intervene, he prevented other cops from intervening. Some of them may have been competent.

        More importantly, nearly every time an armed cop or civilian intervened in a mass shooting, the shooter immediately stopped. Most of them shot themselves as soon as someone fired at them – it didn’t matter whether the intervener was competent. The _single_ exception I can remember where the shooter fought the cops for more than a few seconds was the University of Texas clocktower shooter, over 50 years ago. And there has never been a case where intervening in a mass shooting caused more casualties, except the murderers and maybe some of those intervening.

        So Peterson was not responsible for the first deaths, but he was responsible for the last ones – by acts of commission, not merely of omission. If he’d only hid while other cops charged in, it would have ended much sooner with far fewer killed.

    2. “”So here is the scenario that seems to be preferred “”

      Bullshit.
      I get your point. It could have happened that way. But I don’t see anyone who is preferring that scenario.

    3. Oddly enough, your scenario has never actually occurred in an incident where an armed civilian or law officer confronted a mass shooter. I don’t think there is one case you can plausibly claim where the presence of armed opposition likely increased the death count.

    4. Your reality may be correct, but so what? The gun-grabbers support this prosecution because the RIGHT person with a gun failed to use its magical powers to stop the bad guy with a gun. The “normal people don’t need guns” argument requires Peterson to have taken decisive action.

      If Peterson was a decent human man, he’d give back every dime he was paid to protect that school and try to off himself with his duty piece in private.

  16. If he is found guilty and it is upheld upon appeal then we’re on a slippery slope with regard to duty-to-intervene.

    1. A slippery slope that ends in greater protection for the citizen, and greater accountability for agents of the state?

      Sign me up.

      1. Yeah, I’m not seeing a downside to that precedent either. We already hold doctors, nurses and other medical staff to duty-to-intervene standards that are relevant to their training and capabilities.

        1. They don’t have arresting authority and are actually involved with your care.

          The idea that cops can become a caregivers is probably not a good idea in freedom loving societies.

      2. Ignore Eric, he has proven to be a troll in the past and is apparently completely ignorant that ‘slippery slope’ is the literal definition of a particular class of logical error.

      3. More likely there simply won’t be any more on-site protection.

  17. If FL State law yes…seems to be a pretty open and shut inquiry.

    “Matthew Mayer, an expert on school violence at Rutgers University, notes that the charges against Peterson assume that if he had entered the school he would have been able to interrupt the attack. The case “rests on him being in the correct place at the right time and getting there and successfully firing shots,” he told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “That is 100 percent speculation.””

    Funny that the cops who DID enter the school didn’t seem to have a ton of trouble stopping the slaughter.

    “”It wasn’t his fault,” he told the Times. “Who am I to place blame on anyone besides the one person who should be held accountable?””

    Oh…and guns. You should blame guns ALSO.

    Nice Reason…such an even-handed defense of the police. Odd you seem so incapable of such even-handedness on issues you give a shit about.

  18. 50+ reports on Cruz, whom they knew to be a danger, and no action taken.
    A stand-down ordered by the Sheriff.

    And Peterson’s the one being charged with negligence? Yes, he should have ignored the order and gone in, but they probably don’t recruit SROs from retired delta operators.

    This looks like cover for politicians higher up than him.

    1. The sheriff should be standing trial for gross negligence.

  19. […] Click here to view original story: Was Scot Peterson’s Cowardice a Crime? […]

  20. The case “rests on him being in the correct place at the right time and getting there and successfully firing shots,”

    He was 100% at the right place and the right time because he was explicitly placed there to protect the occupants of the school. Was that not made clear to him?

    1. “He was 100% at the right place and the right time because he was explicitly placed there to protect the occupants of the school. Was that not made clear to him?”

      “Sure, you pay me to be there. Even let me LIVE there. Give me a gun and everything. NOBODY told me I had to protect anybody!”

  21. I think in the big picture this case is a win-win for freedom (except maybe for Peterson himself)

    1. If he wins, it is established, yet again, that police are under no obligation to protect people from mass shooters, in which case how dare people propose to disarm the innocent when nobody else is obligated to protect them.

    2. If he loses, then police, or at least “school resource officers” are legally obligated to risk themselves to protect the public. The police will find this an unacceptable outcome and work furiously against it, which will reveal the police for exactly what they are — our wardens, not our protectors.

  22. If the people are deprived of their right to self defense by the state with the assurance that the state will defend them, then negligent failure to defend the people by the state that results in deaths of the people should be punished.

    Since I think the biggest failure of Parkland came down to that, then absolutely punish him for cowardice.

    If that makes anyone uncomfortable, then support the right to bear arms universally.

  23. So I think they’ll get him on the perjury charge if nothing else. But I would argue that he IS guilty. Not for refusing to rush in (although that was his job, and we poor peasants are refused the right to self-defense in government education camps I would argue that he should be), but because he directed cops responding to the shooting to stay away. That goes from “refusal to act” to complicity in my opinion.

    1. If he was following department policy then he is off the hook there. It’s a major leap down a dark path to make inaction a criminal violation. It’s a similar rationale that justified being charged for not purchasing health insurance

  24. If he is criminally responsible so is the idiot that assigned him to the school. This is an absurd feel good public lynching. Being a coward is not criminal. Being incompetent is not criminal. Not in this scenario. What we have here is the equivalent of the meaningless gun control legislation that inevitably follows these crimes. Grow up America. We created this environment, not some incompetent coward in Florida.

    1. Being incompetent most definitely can be criminal. If your incompetence results in the death of others, then you can be found criminally liable in court. The question here is whether this officer’s incompetence reaches the levels necessary to find him guilty. I would argue yes, I think Jasonium made a compelling argument higher up the page. Is this the equivalent of a modern-day public lynching? Yeah, you’re right. Does it have no legal ground to stand on? I’d argue against that. And I’d say a lot of the reason the chickens are coming home to roost now is because the police have done as much as possible to try and separate themselves from responsibility for their actions to the point of ridiculousness.

  25. They should be prosecuting Sheriff Scott Israel who had a standing stand down order built into the Standard Operating Procedures and Rules Of Engagement of the department. The standing order was to be softer, gentler, kinder and more politically correct. No doubt his hiring policies were also heavily laced with the politically correct.

    He is also a gun control zealot. He has political ties to gun control organizations candidates and politicians. His lenient “SOPs” and his politically correct “ROE”S, based on the evidence, led to and or worsened the casualty count at both mass shootings which happened under his watch.

    He also has deep and close ties to Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration. He was trained well in the mantra of victimology, diversity, gun control and government can fix it mentality. His officers responded similarly during the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

    The left loves these mass shooting scenarios. They think it helps bolster their gun confiscation plan and the ultimate goal of repealing the constitution.

    1. Of course they love the shootings in order for them to boost their gun control agenda. Absolutely.

      They’re evil pricks.

  26. This guy certainly should be liable to pay back every penny he got while being the officer on duty to protect the children, as well a forfeit all retirement and additional damages from failure to do his job. He should be called a coward for the rest of his life. However, I think it sets a very bad precedent if he is convicted of not shooting the right people in a violent encounter. If you couple that with qualified immunity, officers have even more incentive to run into a chaotic situation and start blasting with no knowledge of the situation.

    1. Let him pay back every drop of blood lost.

  27. Cowardice isn’t a crime.

    Public shaming will be more than punishment for him.

  28. WTF happened to “no duty to protect” and Warren v. District of Columbia and all that?

  29. In Dante’s Inferno, the deepest layer of hell is reserved for the betrayers of a trust.

    Not an ounce of pity.

  30. The issue here is legal custody. For those saying he didn’t have a duty to intervene, he did. The children were in the legal custody of the State at the time. He was an employee charged with their protection in which failed to uphold. He had the means and opportunity to stop the crime. The same goes with prisoners. If a prisoner is attacking another prisoner, the guards have a legal duty to intervene. They can’t just let them kill each other because they’re afraid they might get shanked…

  31. I’d like to know why Cruz’s psychiatrists aren’t being prosecuted? You know, the ones who prescribed Cruz the psychotropic drugs he was on… the drugs which clearly state, “may cause suicidal and homicidal ideation” on the box. Yeah, why is no one looking at these quacks!

  32. I agree with Diane above – seems like at most a civil action, but not criminal.

    1. Civil law includes “no police duty to protect”, criminal law is not so clear, so this case is the better approach.

      And why on earth does this not “seem” criminal? Driving 56 on an empty road, on a clear day and in an entirely capable vehicle is criminal. Telling the tax man that you got a $12 tip instead of a $20 tip is criminal.

  33. This is a witch hunt by the rich parents of special Parkland who have to feel like they are doing something…even if it’s wrong. Furthermore, where I might have once had sympathy for these folks once they started the gun control crap…they lost me.

  34. Let’s face it, Bozo is being prosecuted for undermining the ‘We don’t need guns, the Police will protect us’ narrative in a gross and impolitic manner.

    1. You are probably right.

      We don’t need guns in school, but we are going to prosecute someone who didn’t bring his gun in the school.

  35. Criminal prosecution? No.

    $100,000 per year pension? Also no.

    Fire him for cause and cut off the fire hose of public money to a coward who refused to do his job.

  36. A lot more people need to be jacked up. School administrators who knew the shooter was trouble, county cops who responded to calls involving him, etc. Shooter should have been locked up long before the shooting.

  37. His crime was being the arresting officer and covering for Scott Israel’s pedo son who committed statutory rape.

  38. What is really needed here is a statute. A soldier is guilty of cowardice if he fails to march to the sound of the guns. There is no reason Florida could not pass a statute requiring its law enforcement officers to do the same.

  39. He should be fired (had he not resigned/retired first). It’s a big stretch to charge him criminally. That said, the parents of victims should sue him civilly for failing to do his job.

  40. […] Peterson’s behavior was clearly cowardly, but to call it criminal “seems like a stretch,” says Reason’s Jacob Sullum. Most of the charges “are novel applications of laws that are generally invoked in very different […]

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