By PoliceOne Staff
School resource officer Scot Peterson resigned from the Broward County Sheriff’s Department and is currently under investigation after it was revealed he did not engage the gunman responsible for the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on. Feb. 14. During a news conference on Thursday, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he was “devastated, sick to my stomach” over the revelation, adding that the armed SRO should have “went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer.”
President Donald Trump also weighed in on the controversy, telling reporters Friday that Peterson was either a “coward” or “didn’t react properly under pressure.” But who is the ex-officer at the center of mounting questions over law enforcement’s response prior to and during the Valentine’s Day massacre? Here are five things to know about Scot Peterson.
1. Peterson once championed the importance of school officers for security.
Peterson, 54, was a 30-year veteran of the BCSD who had been assigned to the campus since 2009. In 2015, Peterson defended the Resident on Campus Security Program to school officials who questioned its importance, according to the Sun Sentinel.
“We are crime prevention, an audit report will never show how much we prevent,” Peterson said at the time.
He also described an incident he had responded to at Atlantic Technical College as an example of the importance of school security; after an alarm went off in the school’s cafeteria, Peterson reportedly chased down four suspects and arrested them.
2. Peterson had a mostly stellar record.
Peterson was named school resource officer of the year in 2014 and was nominated twice for the award. A supervisor wrote that the officer was “dependable and reliable and handles issues that arise with tact and solid judgment.” Performance reports dating back decades contained similar sentiments, calling Peterson a “team player,” “model employee,” and “dedicated.”
But Peterson was also the subject of at least two complaints, one of which was related to the Resident on Campus Security Program. In 1994, he was accused of conduct unbecoming an employee in a charge that was ultimately dropped.
In 2015, he sent an email to school board members that called out the leadership of now-former Broward District School Police Chief Anthony Williams, who oversaw the Resident on Campus Security Program. The BCSD questioned Peterson’s discretion in sending the email and ultimately recommended he undergo counseling.
3. Peterson’s home is currently under guard.
Amid the controversy, Peterson’s home is now under guard by Florida law enforcement. At least six officers have turned away reporters who attempted to visit the ex-SRO’s residence.
4. Peterson believes he did his job.
The president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association said Thursday that Peterson believes he “did a good job” by calling in the location of the mass shooting and giving a description of the shooter, according to the NY Post.
“He believed he did a good job calling in the location, setting up the perimeter and calling in the description,” union official Jim Bell said.
Peterson is reportedly “distraught” over the massacre.
5. Peterson is not the only officer coming under fire over LE’s response to the attack.
CNN reported Friday that some Coral Springs officers are allegedly upset that three Broward County Sheriff’s deputies – in addition to Peterson – had not yet entered the building when they arrived on scene.
The Coral Springs PD issued a statement later Friday that said the PD has not yet given an official statement to the media and that “any actions or inactions that negatively affected the response will be investigated thoroughly.” The PD added that “there were countless deputies and officers … whose actions were nothing short of heroic.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Peterson’s inaction, the numerous missed signs of trouble in the gunman’s past, and a reported delay in security camera footage scanned by responding LEOs were an “abject breakdown at all levels.”
While it’s too early for an after-action report on the law enforcement response to last week’s shooting and the potential missteps that occurred, PoliceOne has a wealth of expert training content on active shooter response. Be prepared:
How police can prevent the next Parkland
4 key takeaways from the Fla. high school shooting
Will you take the active shooter pledge?
Active shooters in schools: The enemy is denial
Active shooters in schools: An options-based active-shooter policy for schools
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Never doubt yourself: A SWAT cop’s lesson learned from Columbine
Arming teachers in schools: Why police should be involved in vetting, training
3 simple questions that a police department’s after-action report must answer