Let’s put aside for a moment all the political angles surrounding the story of Scot Peterson, the former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who was recently charged with 11 crimes because of his response, or lack thereof, to the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Among other allegations, Peterson is charged with
child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury for his role in the massacre that shocked the United States, galvanized gun-control activism and led to changes in Florida’s law.
Peterson, who has long insisted he acted properly and was not sure Nikolas Cruz was inside the 1200 building, faces nearly 100 years in prison if convicted. As a school resource officer trained to engage an active shooter immediately, Peterson “was responsible for the welfare and safety” of the students and “failed to make a reasonable effort” to protect them, according to an arrest warrant.
[emphasis added to quotes]
This is a novel approach, to say the least. One doesn’t have to be a lawyer to recognize that. Whatever anyone’s politics and whatever anyone believes or personally feels about this man, this is the slipperiest of slippery slopes ever.
But for the perjury allegation, the charges are based not upon what the man did but upon what he did not do.
(The perjury charge involves subjective perception–the number of gunshots Peterson says he heard at a particular time versus what other witnesses say they heard. Again–subjective. Try proving beyond a reasonable doubt that someone heard what he says he did not hear.)
All over social media, Peterson is derided as a “coward” because he did not go into the school to confront the shooter. Even government officials have publicly called him a coward. Was it cowardice?
Doesn’t it all depend upon the circumstances as he saw them, what really happened, what was happening at the time, what he knew, what he couldn’t possibly know, and what the rules of engagement were? Indications are that the rules did not require him to engage the shooter:
[A]t the time of the shooting, Broward County Sheriff’s office’s policy stated that deputies “may enter the area” to confront an active shooter — not that they are required to.
Real or only alleged, apparently cowardice is now a criminal offense, not only for members of the military during combat, but also for school resource officers!
Also apparently, the officer is guilty of cowardice until proven innocent. Those on social media second guess the officer, politicians jump on board to virtue signal, and prosecutors go looking for a scalp. Someone, anyone, must be blamed, other than the person who committed the atrocity because he, you see, is also a victim.
A victim of the system. A victim of white supremacy. A victim of poverty. A victim of the lack of funding for mental illness. A victim of the NRA or FL laws. Or bullies. Or shunning. Whatever.
When a scapegoat is needed, in a classic case of redirected aggression, blame a white man. (Sorry. But when the left constantly plays the race card, why shouldn’t we be on the lookout for it? Why does this man remind me of Richard Jewell, another scapegoat?)
Is there to be charactercrime, as well? A person will be prosecuted for not being a hero?
Who among us can positively affirm that he or she would not be “guilty” of charactercrime, no matter the circumstances? We’re not all Oskar Schindler. Or Audie Murphy. Or the troops who so bravely stormed the Normandy beaches 75 years ago. Or Navy SEALS. Or the many heroes of 9/11.
We rightfully honor and applaud heroes who risked or even gave their lives to save others. But now it’s to be a crime to not do so? This attitude diminishes the sacrifices of storied heroes.
Nobility, honor, courage are now simply required elements of a job description? Who will qualify?
Certainly, one might consider Peterson’s alleged cowardice as a civil offense, but criminal? Arguably, he did not do his job as his bosses (now say they) expected him to.
What usually happens to someone who doesn’t do his job? He gets fired or resigns in disgrace. Maybe loses benefits, like a pension. But criminally prosecuted? Up to 100 years in jail?
All across this country, criminals, some violent, are being released from prison, or not prosecuted in the first place, because of various progressive theories such as disparate impact, implicit bias, the supposed “white supremacist” system of government, “equal justice” (aka social justice), immature brains, “mass incarceration,” lack of job training, among other excuses. Look beneath the surface and you will find the usual suspect: George Soros.
Murderers, drug dealers, child abusers, rapists are not being prosecuted, much less sentenced to 100 years in prison. Yet Peterson may potentially go to prison for that long.
When Peterson signed up for the job as “school resource officer,” do you think he signed up for the possibility of a century in prison if he got a bad performance review?
There are indeed many political factors involved here, such as whether the powers-that-be needed to offer up a scapegoat to grieving parents, whether in today’s political climate somebody (other than the actual perpetrator) must be to blame for “gun violence,” whether there’s a cover up with regard to any potential “stand down” orders or even a false flag, or whether this is to cover up a complete failure of the school system, as well as law enforcement, with regard to recognizing and dealing with Cruz or similarly disturbed students, as a policy, based upon political correctness. (Their progressive “diversionary program” seems more worthy of indictment than Peterson.)
All that aside, though, and taken to its logical conclusion, what may happen next, if these charges stand against Peterson?
Will school administrators likewise be charged? Individual teachers? They have also been trained to secure students during “active shooter” incidents. Teachers are more intimately responsible for the welfare of their immediate charges–the children in their classes; teachers are their caregivers.
Are there ongoing investigations into the actions or inaction of every teacher on scene the day of the shooting? If any failed to follow the active shooter protocols upon which they also were trained, will they be held similarly responsible?
If not, then why not? One activist has already proposed holding school administrators responsible:
Brian Claypool, a lawyer and mass shooting survivor who lobbies for stricter gun laws, says he is sensitive to the mental health issues associated with such attacks.
But Claypool rejects claims that Florida school resource officer Scot Peterson was made a scapegoat this week when he was criminally charged with child neglect and culpable negligence …
Claypool said he would support charges against school administrators for providing security officers that allowed a dangerous former student access to the school – “they failed, too.”
“This is one of the components,” Claypool said. “But Peterson isn’t a scapegoat, he should be a starting point.”
“A starting point.”
So who’s next? Firefighters?
We all remember the stories of heroic firefighters who entered the World Trade Center to save lives on 9/11. They were true heroes, risking their lives, with too many giving their lives, to save the lives of others. What they did that day was truly “above and beyond the call of duty.”
Did you know there are rules of engagement for firefighters? One rule is
DO NOT Risk Your Life for Lives or Property That Cannot Be Saved.
You Are Required to Abandon Your Position and Retreat Before Deteriorating Conditions Can Harm You.
If someday a firefighter does not enter a burning building to save children who may perhaps already be deceased or whom it may be impossible to save, in order to avoid throwing away his or her own life needlessly, should that firefighter nevertheless be criminally charged for being a “coward?”
Who else is potentially next?
Social workers? Or anyone in Broward County or Florida government who ever encountered Nikolas Cruz in the course of doing their jobs but did not take proactive steps, much less risk their lives, to protect other children from potential harm?
The FBI employee(s) who
blew an extremely detailed tip that Cruz was a potential school shooter?
Is there an investigation into their inaction with regard to Cruz? If not, why not?
Who else is potentially next? Day care workers? Where do you draw the line as to who is required to surrender his or her constitutional right to life in order to avoid being prosecuted for being a “coward?”
Make no mistake, though, this issue is political, being all tied up with controversies over gun control, arming teachers, placing armed officers in schools, diversionary programs versus more discipline and zero tolerance, government corruption and finger-pointing, social justice and political correctness, hatred of police in general (iow, the war on police), blaming life circumstances or societal factors instead of the perpetrators of such atrocities. Is the prosecution a shot across the bow of teachers who may believe they wish to be armed?
People on the left, in the middle, and on the right are supporting Peterson’s prosecution, for varying reasons. But in making this one man a scapegoat, what harm is being done to our system of justice? Keep this in mind:
SUPREME COURT RULING: Police Have No Duty To Protect The General Public …
People who don’t understand taking responsibility for your own safety often ask me [the writer] why I wouldn’t just call the police to stop a crime instead of drawing a gun. Well for one, a great police response time would be 1-2 minutes, but most crimes take place in a matter of seconds. Two, police have no duty to protect me, or you.
Based on the headline of this article you might think this is an important new ruling, but it’s not. The court has kept this stance for over 30 years.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that police officers at all levels of the government have no duty to protect the citizens of this country.
It is the job of police officers to investigate crimes and arrest criminals.
We are on our own for protection.
Which may explain why those on the left might be on board with the prosecution of Peterson. They don’t want citizens to rely on their own selves, using their Second Amendment rights under the Constitution.
Did Peterson have a duty to rescue?
In the common law of most English-speaking countries, there is no general duty to come to the rescue of another. Generally, a person cannot be held liable for doing nothing while another person is in peril …
Where a duty to rescue arises, the rescuer must generally act with reasonable care, and can be held liable for injuries caused by a reckless rescue attempt. However, many states have limited or removed liability from rescuers in such circumstances, particularly where the rescuer is an emergency worker. Furthermore, the rescuers need not endanger themselves in conducting the rescue.
What if Peterson had engaged Cruz in a firefight and students in crowded halls or classrooms were hit by “friendly fire?”
Peterson was employed as the school resource officer. Did his contract require him to risk his own life, to in essence be a hero instead of a coward? Is he guilty of a crime of “omission?”
An omission is a failure to act, which generally attracts different legal consequences from positive conduct. In the criminal law, an omission will constitute an actus reus and give rise to liability only when the law imposes a duty to act and the defendant is in breach of that duty. …
In the criminal law, at common law, there was no general duty of care owed to fellow citizens. …
Nevertheless, such failures might be morally indefensible and so both legislatures and the courts have imposed liability when the failure to act is sufficiently blameworthy to justify criminalisation. Some statutes therefore explicitly state that the actus reus consists of any relevant “act or omission”, or use a word that may include both. Hence, the word “cause” may be both positive in the sense that the accused proactively injured the victim and negative in that the accused intentionally failed to act knowing that this failure would cause the relevant injury. In the courts, the trend has been to use objective tests to determine whether, in circumstances where there would have been no risk to the accused’s health or well-being, the accused should have taken action to prevent a foreseeable injury being sustained by a particular victim or one from a class of potential victims.
Would there have been “no risk to the accused’s (Peterson’s) health or well-being,” had he confronted Cruz that day?
A parent has a legal duty to take every step reasonably possible under the then existing circumstances to protect [his] [or] [her] child from harm including physical attack. The parent however need not risk death or great bodily harm in doing so …
What made Scot Peterson the person most responsible as caregiver for those children on that particular day? Even their own parents would not have been held similarly responsible! Why does the buck stop with him? Why not his boss? Why not with those persons more directly and intimately responsible for each child’s well being (i.e., their teachers)?
A 2005 ruling by the Supreme Court held that
police did not have a constitutional duty to protect a person from harm, even a woman who had obtained a court-issued protective order against a violent husband making an arrest mandatory for a violation.
In this horrific case, the “violent husband” subsequently kidnapped his children and murdered them after his wife had begged police to locate and arrest him.
Ms. Gonzales conveyed the information to the police, but they failed to act before Mr. Gonzales arrived at the police station hours later, firing a gun, with the bodies of the girls in the back of his truck. The police killed him at the scene.
As noted, the SCOTUS ruled that police had no duty to act in this case. Had they acted, the individual officers may or may not have placed their own lives at risk. In Peterson’s case, without a doubt his life would have been at risk had he entered the school and confronted Cruz.
The court of public opinion, many news articles state, has decided that Peterson is a coward who should be prosecuted for that charactercrime. Do not discount the role of social media in this mob mentality. This has become a virtue signaling world. “Do as I think you should, not as I myself do, although I pretend to do as I think you should.”
Consider also how progressives support a woman’s “right” to an abortion, which is nothing less than a supposed right to destroy the life of another human being, one’s own child.
This, they believe, is her constitutional right because the child exists within her body. She has a right to do with her body as she pleases, according to the argument. This is her body, her choice, even if it means destroying another’s body and life–a life that she chose, in most cases, by her own actions, to bring into existence.
Women, progressives firmly believe, have a constitutional right to kill their children, if those children are pre-born. Some actually believe that the right to kill extends to post-birth children, if they are unwanted and were supposed to die during an abortion but miraculously did not.
How is it, then, that Scot Peterson has no similar right to preserve and protect his own body, to do with it whatever he deems necessary for his own well being? Why doesn’t he have the right to not rush blindly into a fire fight, outgunned, risking his life, perhaps losing his life, in an attempt to save other lives?
Peterson had no role whatsoever in the choice Cruz made that day to slaughter his fellow students in cold blood. Yet somehow Peterson is being held responsible for their lives.
This is in stark contrast to women who choose to abort the lives of their own children, children who exist, in most cases, because the direct actions of their mothers brought them into existence.
Yet women, in the illogic of progressives, are not responsible in any way for those lives. Their better angels are not to be appealed to. They’re not to be held responsible in any way for preserving the lives of their unwanted children. Don’t you dare ask them, much less expect them, to make a heroic sacrifice and bring those lives into this world, by continuing an unwanted pregnancy.
How DARE you judge them? How DARE you presume?
But Scot Peterson is somehow responsible for the lives of the children that Nikolas Cruz chose to take. He was expected to make a heroic sacrifice in, perhaps, a vain attempt to save them.
He’s already been judged a coward in the “court of public opinion.”
Are women who abort their own children cowards? Selfish? Which is it? Or are we not even supposed to ask or wonder?
Excuse me, but this makes no sense.
After Peterson is eventually acquitted (or the charges are thrown out), don’t be surprised to see him sue for malicious prosecution. He’ll win a large settlement, courtesy of the taxpayers.
What then will be the judgment from the court of public opinion?