The massacre at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, has angered many people in this country. Just as we were putting this issue to bed much of that anger was turned toward a 59-year-old Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who served as the school’s resource officer.

Sheriff Scott Israel announced that Deputy Scot Peterson resigned/retired from the sheriff’s office after an investigation of his actions during the active shooter’s rampage showed that he remained outside the school while students and staff were being killed inside.

It is one of the most sacred precepts of law enforcement that officers run toward the sound of gunfire to save lives when others run away. So I’m not going to defend this deputy.

What I am going to say is having this deputy as the SRO at Douglas High was a perfect storm of having the wrong person, perhaps with the wrong training, and definitely with the wrong equipment in place for this horrific event.

The day before Sheriff Israel revealed to the world what some people are calling an act of “cowardice” by one of his deputies, he announced that he was issuing rifles to his county’s sworn SROs. Which begs the question why didn’t Broward County SROs have rifles before the Parkland gunman blew away 17 innocent lives.

One of the primary reasons officers don’t have the equipment they need when hell comes to town is that the agency doesn’t have the money to buy it. That might be part of the reason here.

However, it’s more likely that the reason Broward County’s SROs don’t have rifles is the rampant anti-gun feelings of some educators and school boards. This is the same philosophy that often leads schools to mandate that uniformed law enforcement officers can’t carry their sidearms onto school property when they come to pick up their kids. Which is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard, except one.

That one thing is this story a teacher told me. "The SWAT team came into my class today,” he said. What he called the "SWAT team" was actually unarmed school security. They came into his classroom to check students for weapons. That’s the mindset in many school systems in this country. They send, emphasis here—unarmed—security teams into classrooms to search for armed students without any thought to what these folks might do if they find a weapon on a student who is willing to use it. It’s the same mindset that keeps rifles out of the hands of sworn SROs.

We don’t yet have details on whether the Broward deputy had actually received any practical training on how to engage an active shooter. But I’ll bet he didn’t. Training is expensive and the only time any municipality or county ever seems to find the money to pay for any training beyond the basics is right after a major incident. To paraphrase the very eloquent Dave Grossman, people are sheep and they “only have two speeds: graze and stampede.”

After Parkland the stampede is on. Everyone is trying to find ways to prevent the next school massacre. They want to ban AR-15s, or train teachers to carry and shoot back, or find ways to commit more people to mental hospitals.

Here’s my solution. We need deterrence. And the Broward County and South Florida schools especially need deterrence. Experts say school shootings and threats of school shootings have a tendency to reoccur in the same county. The theory is that the publicity surrounding the initial shooting puts the idea of shooting up a school into the minds of people with such leanings either from innate evil, personal grudge, or mental health issues.

Deterrence is not just a matter of having armed personnel or even sworn officers in the schools; it’s having the right officer, with the right equipment, and the right training.

So my proposal is to either modify the school officer program or augment it with a more effective school shooting response/deterrent. Immediately after 9/11 soldiers with M4 carbines patrolled the nation’s airports. So let’s do the same thing in our schools, except with cops.

Let's put well-armed, well-trained cops with warrior-guardian mindsets in the schools at least in the high schools. And let's have them carry rifles as they patrol the campus. I know, I know…people will scream militarism. Tough. If we really want our schools to be safe, then we need a little militarism.

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David Griffith

David Griffith has been editor of POLICE Magazine since December 2001. He brings more than 25 years of experience on magazines and newspapers to POLICE. A Maggie award-winning journalist, his byline has appeared on hundreds of articles in POLICE and other national magazines.

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David Griffith has been editor of POLICE Magazine since December 2001. He brings more than 25 years of experience on magazines and newspapers to POLICE. A Maggie award-winning journalist, his byline has appeared on hundreds of articles in POLICE and other national magazines.

View Bio
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