The Broward County Sheriff's Office (BSO) has updated some of its active-shooting policies following an intense backlash to how officers responded to shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Some officers within the Coral Springs Police Department allegedly expressed frustration after BSO deputies remained outside while Coral Springs cops rushed into the school. Sheriff Scott Israel later confirmed that Scot Peterson, the resource officer assigned to the school, remained outside. Peterson resigned as a result of the controversy, but not before locking down an $8,702.35-a-month lifetime pension.
In December, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom dismissed a lawsuit filed by some of the survivors claiming that their 14th Amendment rights were violated when the deputies did not enter the school. Bloom wrote in her opinion that neither the school nor the sheriff's department had a constitutional duty to protect children. While Florida has criminal penalties for nonattendance, Bloom ruled that custodial protections extended only to groups like prisoners.
The BSO changed its active shooter policy despite the decision. An internal memo states that deputies "shall attempt to protect the life of innocent persons through immediate tactical intervention to eliminate the threat." According to the Miami Herald, a previous version stated that deputies "may" enter a scene.
"The use of the word 'may' in the BSO policy is ambiguous and does not unequivocally convey the expectation that deputies are expected to immediately enter an active assailant scene where gunfire is active and neutralize the threat," wrote a state public safety commission in a report. They also found that several deputies could not remember the last time they attended an active shooter training, and many instead referenced the old policy.
The BSO's decision to remain outside the school spurred months of criticism, speculation, and lawsuits. Local newspapers and free speech groups sued to obtain footage from the outside of the school, arguing that the public had a right to know how law enforcement responded. The school board and the state attorney refused to release the footage until an appeals court ordered them to release the footage in July.
Interview transcripts released by prosecutors revealed that school officials monitoring a video feed from the scene rewound the feed by more than 20 minutes, which confused efforts to assess the shooter's location. Despite this, interviews show that the Coral Springs officers still attempted to act on the information they had. One officer, Richard Best, recalled making his way into a building with his rifle and a medical bag. Best also recalled encountering Peterson, who told him where he believed the shooter to be located. When Best headed to another part of the school, he said, "Deputy Peterson just stayed where he was."
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