Pembroke Park, FL – The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) has officially altered its policy to require deputies to take action to stop attackers and protect potential victims during active shooter incidents.
Seventeen students and faculty were fatally shot, and another 17 were wounded, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on Feb. 14, when a former student went on a killing spree on the high school’s campus.
Local law enforcement’s handling of the shooting has been widely criticized after the incompetent response by BSO.
The only armed person on the campus at the time of the shooting, BSO School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, retired shortly after the Valentine’s Day shootings, after it was revealed that he hid outside the building where the shooting was taking place rather than attempting to engage the gunman.
For the past several months, a state task force has been investigating the failure of local law enforcement to proactively engage the shooter and follow most-current active-shooter protocols.
Amid the multitude of failures identified by the state’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission was the department’s policy at the time of the shooting, which said that deputies “may” attempt to enter the scene save people’s lives and to stop the attacker, the Miami Herald reported.
“I’ve been involved in writing policy probably 35 years, and we agree that Scot Peterson’s response was egregious, outrageous, unacceptable,” commission member Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told the Miami Herald. “But words matter, and according to [the] policy, he didn’t have to go in.”
In November, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel told the commission that he previously altered the policy to include the word “may” in order to shield deputies from being forced to enter scenes that would undoubtedly result in their deaths.
“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,” the commission wrote in a draft report of its conclusions regarding law enforcement’s response to the school massacre.
According to a Dec. 21 memo written by BCO Colonel James Polan, effective January 4, 2019, the word “may” will be replaced with the word “shall” in the department’s policy, the Miami Herald reported.
“[Deputies responding to an active shooter situation] shall attempt to protect the life of innocent persons through immediate tactical intervention to eliminate the threat,” the updated policy is expected to read.
The new policy also recognizes that immediate engagement may not be appropriate in all situations.
“While deputies are expected to tactically intervene, there may be very limited extenuating circumstances when entry by a solo deputy must be delayed until the situation changes, or additional deputies or resources are present,” the update policy read.
Once on scene, deputies will be expected to “stop the assailant(s). Rescue the victims. Provide medical assistance. Arrest suspects and preserve the crime scene,” according to Col. Polan’s memo.
While the changes may appear simple, the eradicating the ambiguity created by the prior wording has “significantly improved” the policy, said commission member Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alaina, was murdered during the attack.
“Make no mistake, this is a 180-degree change in policy for BSO,” Petty told the Miami Herald. “It is clear and concise with few exceptions, so effective training can be developed to address future active assailants.”
“This is the policy that should have been in place long before Feb. 14, 2018,” he added.