Policing is a tough job, without a doubt. Officers are often in a position where they get to help people in tough times. Sometimes officers make headlines for being heroes, but often they don’t get acknowledged. The hardest thing a law enforcement official will need to do in their career is taking a life, but the most satisfactory thing is being able to save one.
Scot Peterson, the Broward County deputy on duty the day of the Parkland massacre, did neither that day. Law enforcement can be unforgiving. An officer can have a distinguished career, and then lose all of his or her accomplishments in a matter of minutes.
This week, Peterson sat down with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie for a one-on-one interview for the first time. They talked about the fateful 2018 Valentine’s Day shooting.
Guthrie asked Peterson why he didn’t enter the school to confront the shooter, and Peterson said he was trained to contain the area.
He’s either wrong or not telling the truth.
His answer would have been correct if this was before Columbine. The officers at Columbine did the same thing Peterson did and waited for a SWAT team. During that time, a dozen people were killed and almost two dozen injured. Active shooter response changed for law enforcement after that. Now, officers are trained to make entry immediately to stop the threat. It doesn’t matter if they are alone.
So, Peterson can’t use training as an excuse. He claimed in his interview that he knew all of the policies because he was a police officer for 32 years in Broward County. If that were true, he would have entered the school. Either he didn’t know the procedure, or he was scared.
On top of that, there was no split-second decision for Peterson. Officers who have a weapon pulled on them must make quick choices. The shooting was in Building 12. Peterson was at Building 1. He had to go across campus to get to the shooting.
Peterson maintained that he didn’t know exactly where the shots were coming, yet he told responding officers to stay “500 feet” away from Buildings 12 and 13 because shots were coming from inside. You can see how it’s hard to believe him.
During the interview, Peterson stated that he received text messages that Sheriff Scott Israel was “ripping” him apart. Let’s be clear. Israel is a terrible sheriff. He was on CNN a week later to bash the National Rifle Association and attack Dana Loesch for the shooting. We learned later on that Israel’s liberal P.R.O.M.I.S.E. program was more of a factor in the violence than the NRA. However, the criticism of Peterson by Israel is warranted. The point of an S.R.O. is to keep the children safe from unfortunate events like a shooting, but he didn’t.
A clip was played in the interview where Israel said in a press conference that Peterson knew someone was inside. Peterson denied it, but his radio traffic says differently.
Peterson kept falling back on what he “believed” and “perceived” at the time. Shootings are indeed stressful incidents, but Peterson had time to think as he was moving across the campus. The murderer wasn’t shooting at him. He never got himself into a position to see the killer, so it’s difficult to use the “what I saw” reason. Peterson seems to try to explain questions away, instead of answering them.
While being questioned, Peterson commented on “what I went through.” This was after saying he “lost 17 kids.” It was as if Peterson was trying to sound like a victim himself.
Peterson was what law enforcement officers consider R.O.D., or retired on duty. Stoneman Douglas High School is located in an affluent area of Broward County. He had high-class students and a good schedule. It seems like Peterson never imagined a shooting would happen, so he decided to retire on duty and panicked when it did.
Peterson erased everything he ever accomplished with his inaction that fateful day. His law enforcement career is tarnished. It only takes one incident.