The instruction and training materials used by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office teach that, in the case of a school shooting, deputies arriving on the scene should immediately confront the shooter.
“History shows that when a suspect is confronted by any armed individual (police, security, concealed carry person) they either shoot it out with that person or kill themselves,” the materials state. “Either way, the shooting of innocent bystanders must stop.
“Now, the first officer or two officers on scene will immediately go to confront the shooter. Military tactics work well in this situation. The two man ‘bounding overwatch’ is our response.”
The materials have been uncovered by the Washington watchdog Judicial Watch.
The revelation comes in the ongoing controversy over the response of officers when a 19-year-old suspect went to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Feb. 14 and killed 17 students and adults.
The sheriff’s office has confirmed armed school resource officer Deputy Scot Peterson was first on the scene, but he did not enter the building or confront shooter Nikolas Cruz.
“Three other deputies also arrived on the scene but did not enter, the sheriff’s office said. The Broward County materials direct that if four officers are on the scene of an active shooter incident they are to form a ‘Quad’ formation and enter the building,” the watchdog organization reported.
Back in 1999, during one of the first major school shootings, at Columbine High School in Colorado, SWAT teams surrounded the school but did not enter, allowing the two shooters to continue firing and eventually kill themselves.
Those tactics are not longer used in most jurisdictions, focusing instead on immediately confronting the shooter.
Judicial Watch explained that Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said during a news conference: “What I saw was a deputy [Peterson] arrive … take up a position and he never went in.”
Israel said Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”
The training documents used by the local jurisdiction in Florida, Judicial Watch reported, state: “If you are on scene or in the area and hear gunshots, you should immediately access what you have and prepare to respond. Remember, every time you hear a gunshot in an active shooter incident; you have to believe that is another victim being killed.”
The materials also state that the first officers on the scene will “engage the suspect,” the report said.
“These Broward County Sheriff’s Office documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that the law enforcement agency failed the victims of the Parkland shooting,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Lives were lost in Parkland because the sheriff’s office personnel were either poorly trained or failed to follow training protocols.”
Among the other instructions:
- “There are now three teams during Active Shooter Incident [Contact, Extraction and Rescue Task Force]: Contact Team: Is first on scene, 1-4 deputies, they will be actively engaging/searching for suspect (HOT ZONE).”
- “If in doubt about going through the door after a suspect, think about the victims.”
- “Time is critical in each of these incidents. This is like no other crime. The motive is to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. Why? Because the bad guy knows ‘we’ are coming.”
WND reported a longtime officer and police-academy director says a critical element of stopping or limiting mass shootings is finding the right people to become police officers and training them well.
While Scot Peterson did not enter the building to confront the shooter, 21-year Illinois police officer Randy Petersen (no relation) said it’s a complicated situation.
“Maybe it’s not a cowardly person but someone who is unsure of themselves, unskilled, haven’t been trained up properly. Anytime you have something like that, we can have this situation where we shoot people that we don’t want shot or we don’t shoot people that need to be shot,” said Petersen, who also directed one of the largest police academies in Texas and is a senior researcher at Right on Crime.
“To go to the point where we have a police officer that is either incompetent in their physical skills, their defensive tactics skills, their shooting, they’re not going to have confidence and a lack of confidence can get you to a point where an officer either fails to act or overreacts,” said Petersen.
Petersen said a special type of demeanor is needed to be an effective police officer.
“We want a blend of these two qualities where a person is not overly excitable, not easily offended, but at the same time very competent and very capable,” said Petersen.
He said finding those qualities ought to be a high priority in the hiring process.
“We can train people to fight. We can train them to be good at sports. We can train them for an event, but we don’t know how they’re going to perform before they actually do it. What we can do is, during hiring and testing, we can have an idea of what we’re looking for an officer to be able to do,” said Petersen.
However, Petersen admitted the vast majority of police officers never fire their weapons during their careers, so how can there be any certainty how they will perform under pressure?
He said training drills can be very effective.
“You’d be surprised at how realistic your role players [are], if you have good ones. Some of the technologies we have can really re-create the situations you can get in the training academy or in inservice training. You can get a real picture for how someone’s going to respond,” said Petersen.
He says the key question is what police departments are willing to do about the officers who can’t do the job well.