Jordan Candler / Mar. 9, 2018

A Florida Deputy Failed; Responding SWAT Members Punished

While the on-campus deputy waited and waved off help, two officers were suspended for acting without permission.

When it comes to the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, it’s increasingly clear that apprehension played a huge role while bravery is facing rebuke. Two new reports are sickening.

We’ve chronicled the deplorable actions of the initial responding officers whose inclination was to wait outside the school. Well, it got worse. News last night was that Broward Deputy Scot Peterson, the on-campus security guard, knew and informed other officers over the radio that gunfire was happening “inside” the building — despite his later insistence that he wasn’t sure whether shots were fired outside. “Do not approach the 12 or 1300 building, stay at least 500 feet away,” Peterson said over the radio. So he remained outside and instructed others to do likewise.

But then there was Sgt. Jeff Heinrich, an officer with the Coral Springs Police Department. He and his family are deeply involved with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But even though the fate of his wife and son was unknown during the rampage, Sgt. Heinrich — who at the time of the shooting was off duty but happened to be on school property — nevertheless did what the other officers refused to do: He entered the school in an effort to engage the shooter.

This week we learned that Sgt. Heinrich’s impulse to selflessly and independently enter the danger zone was shared by Detectives Jeffrey Gilbert and Carl Schlosser. Both of them are Miramar Police Department SWAT members. Upon hearing news of an active shooter, the on-duty detectives reflexively made their way toward the high school. Unfortunately, their valor is being met with reprisal.

According to The Hill, Gilbert and Schlosser “have been suspended from duty over their decision to respond without permission to the shooting at a high school that killed 17 students and faculty last month. … Following their suspension, the two were ordered to turn in their SWAT-issued rifles, but they remain on active duty for other assignments, according to the newspaper.”

Police Benevolent Association President Jeff Marano responded: “While it may have been a violation of policy to not notify their supervisors that they were going there, their intentions were brave and heroic, I think.” Indeed.

Admittedly, the policy isn’t without merit. The Sun Sentinel recalls last year’s ordeal at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in which “over 2,000 cops responded to the original report of gunfire and false reports of additional shots fired.” The Sentinel explains that a “crowd of arriving law enforcement can jam roads that ambulances need to use, overwhelm radios and in general, add to the confusion of the police response.”

Fair enough. But the Parkland ordeal is very upsetting for numerous reasons. Not only did authorities fail to heed dozens of warning signs well before the attack, but the response by Broward County sheriff’s deputies — rather, the nonresponse — created a dilemma. Yet the brave souls who were willing to engage the shooter are being punished for it.

At the very least, their supervisors could exercise some discretion — and some decency.

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