Ms. Danson-Miller wrote:
We already expect so much of our teachers and law enforcement officers, and now we demand, as part of their job requirement, that they willingly and without hesitation sacrifice their lives and their family’s wellbeing for our own? We’d rather put those who serve us on a potential suicide mission to confront a disturbed person who likely has multiple assault-style weapons and enough clips to ensure everyone gets a bullet, than acknowledge that regular citizens can enjoy their Second Amendment rights without amassing a personal arsenal capable of annihilating a school, theatre, or club. How selfish can we be?
I hope this reply can reach you in whichever alternative reality you exist.
What is it about law enforcement that you don’t understand? Do you have any concept of the rationale behind requiring law enforcement officers to be armed? Do you understand why society gives law enforcement officers more leeway in the appropriate use of force? How about the reasoning behind the use of ballistic armor as part of the daily uniform and the millions spent annually on training law enforcement officers to handle situations exactly like Parkland?
Let me explain a simply truth: Law enforcement officers are required to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the people. It’s part of the job. When you pin on the badge and take the oath you are voluntarily swearing to put your life on the line.
You don’t get to pick the time and place; you don’t get to decide what weapons the criminal may have. This is just as true of a traffic stop as it is for a school shooting. That’s why you got the training. That’s why you can have weapons not available to the general public, such as real assault rifles, not the semi-automatic versions like the one used at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Nevertheless, you are expected to make the traffic stop or to engage the mass shooter, wherever they might be. Ever since Columbine in 1999, it has been the policy of law enforcement agencies across America that the first officers on the scene engage the shooter.
In the wake of the Parkland shooting, the state of Florida created the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission. On January 2, 2019, the commission issued its initial report. In its opening statements, the commission said “the one true ‘cause’ that resulted in 34 people being shot and/or killed, is Nikolas Cruz.”
Not the rifle, not Smith & Wesson, Not Sunrise Tactical, not the NRA: Nikolas Cruz.
On pages three and four, the commission report summarizes the factors that not only enabled Cruz to commit his crimes, but to commit them without outside interference from law enforcement.
“This Initial Report establishes the facts and timeline of “what” occurred on February 14, 2018. The more complicated question of “how” it happened and how it became one of the largest school mass killing events in United States’ history is more difficult because of many varied contributing causes. The causes include Cruz’s mental and behavioral health issues, people not reporting warning signs or reporting signs that were not acted on by those to whom actionable information was reported, and how Cruz’s behavioral and discipline issues were addressed (or not addressed) by Broward County Public Schools. Also contributing, was the overall lack of adequate or effective physical site security and unenforced or non-existent security measures and policies at MSDHS, as well as the ineffective behavioral threat assessment process at MSDHS.
“Further contributing was the unsatisfactory law enforcement response, which includes the flawed City of Parkland 911 system and the flawed and failed Broward County law enforcement radio system. The Broward Sheriff’s Office’s inadequate active assailant response policy, the abysmal response by the school’s SRO, a failed response by some law enforcement officers and supervisors and BSO’s flawed unified command and control of the scene were also identified as areas that need to be addressed.”
The commission is chaired by the current sheriff of Pinellas County and co-chaired by the chief of the Miami Shores Police Department. Members include four other veteran law enforcement officers, a chief state’s attorney, child advocates, educators, a state senator and parents of two of the students slain in the Parkland shootings. The commission unanimously approved the initial report.
Does anything in what they said indicate that they are willing to accept any excuses for the failures of Broward County sheriff’s deputies?
Contrast the responses of the Deputy Scot Peterson to those of Officer John Barnes of the Santa Fe Independent School District’s police department. When Dimitrios Pagourtzis opened fire in the art room at Santa Fe High School, Officer Barnes and Assistant Chief Glen Forward were on campus. They immediately responded to the report of shots being heard and arrived on the scene within four minutes.
The officers immediately entered the classroom and confronted Pagourtzis, who was armed with a 12-gauge shotgun. Barnes attempted to seize Pagourtzis, who shot him in the chest. While Barnes was wearing his ballistic vest, pellets tore into both arms. Chief Forward returned fire, wounded Pagourtzis and took the killer into custody.
You carried on about “multiple assault-style weapons and enough clips to ensure everyone gets a bullet.” I am sure many people have read about the horrific wounds created by a close-range rifle shot. They have been described in lurid detail. But they pale in comparison to a close range hit from a buckshot round from a 12-gauge shotgun.
Officer Barnes flatlined multiple times while he was being transported to a hospital. Over a month later, he was released; both arms held together by metal joiners and braces. Barnes faced months of therapy and rehabilitation and it is unlikely he will be able to return to duty, ending a career stretching back more than 30 years.
Officer Barnes had been a street cop with the Houston Police Department. He joined the Santa Fe ISD force after honorably retiring from the HPD. He knew the job. More importantly, he did the job.
Broward County Deputy Danny Polo, who was quoted in the Miami Herald, did enter the building though he was too late to intervene. He also did the job he took an oath to perform. Deputy Polo was sworn in just three years ago, in June 2015.
Any cop going into a bad situation is on edge and it can be scary. But nobody ever said that law enforcement was a safe occupation.
When it comes to teachers, no one has more admiration than a cop (or even an ex-cop) has for the courageous teachers and school staff members who have put themselves in harm’s way. We have no right to demand such a sacrifice but we should be eternally grateful for those who have made it; especially those who gave their lives in the effort.
We should also be grateful to the men and women who volunteer to become armed school guardians. In truth, we should be ashamed that our miserliness has made them necessary as a low-cost alternative to the presence of a certified law enforcement officer. It is also to our shame that these people are not only not compensated for the extra burden they shoulder, but that we expect them to cover the expenses out of their own pocket.
One last note: The Dickey Amendment did not prohibit federal funding for gun violence research. In fact, the CDC did a study of gun violence and gun laws in 2013 under the direction of President Obama. The Dickey Amendment prohibited taxpayer money being used for advocacy studies, i.e., studies that were designed to support a pre-determined conclusion.
The dearth of funding is due to Congress cutting research funding: not just for gun violence research but research into diseases and strategies for dealing with epidemics and drug-resistant maladies. The CDC has had to allocate what funding it gets to more pressing needs.
It’s important to remember that, according to the CDC’s own data, firearms are involved in only about 6% of all violence-related deaths and injuries requiring medical treatment. So perhaps the “movement” needs to get a little real education before it marches on.