"Officer Scott Peterson Trial: Damned if You Do and Damned if You Don't"

Disclaimer: I am not a legal professional, and the information presented is solely based on my training and experience as a law enforcement practitioner. It should not be considered as legal advice. With twenty years of expertise in law enforcement, I can offer comprehensive insights and perspectives on the subject matter. However, it's essential to understand that laws and regulations vary significantly depending on your jurisdiction. Therefore, please recognize that the provided information may not be applicable or accurate within your legal framework. The above statement is for informational purposes only. 

In an in-service training session, I received instruction on a case that focused on the duty to act. The cases of DeShaney vs. Winnebago and Town of Castle, Rock vs. Gonzales were specifically discussed, as they involved the Supreme Court's ruling stating that police agencies are not legally obligated to guarantee citizen protection. As a result, law enforcement officials have discretionary power when deciding whether to intervene and safeguard lives and property, even if an obvious threat is present (307 F.3d 1258 [2002]).

The Parkland shooting on February 14, 2018, left the nation devastated and searching for answers. As the community mourned the loss of seventeen innocent lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, questions arose about how such a tragedy could have happened. Among those under scrutiny was Officer Scott Peterson, who faced criticism for his response during the shooting. This blog post explores his trial's complexities, examining why he may be caught in a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation.

When the shooting occurred, Officer Scott Peterson was assigned as the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. As an armed law enforcement official responsible for students' safety, many expected him to intervene immediately upon hearing gunshots. However, video surveillance footage revealed that Peterson stayed outside the building while the shooting unfolded inside.

Inevitably, Officer Peterson faced severe public backlash following the incident. Many argued that his inaction directly contributed to the death toll. People wondered how someone tasked with protecting students could seemingly abandon them in their time of need—the outrage surrounding his perceived failure to act fueled demands for accountability.

While public opinion holds strong emotions regarding Officer Peterson's actions – or lack thereof – it is crucial to examine the legal aspects associated with his trial. To establish criminal liability against him, prosecutors must prove he willfully neglected his duty by not entering the building during the shooting.

The case against Officer Peterson highlights a dilemma commonly faced by first responders during active shooter situations - a concept known as "the duty to retreat." This principle stems from concerns over potential harm caused by engaging an assailant without adequate knowledge or backup. While it may be instinctual to expect immediate intervention, officers must also consider the potential risks of entering a chaotic scene.

Active shooter situations are inherently complex and unpredictable, with evolving circumstances that require quick decision-making. Officer Peterson faced an overwhelming scenario with limited information about the shooter's location, armament, or intentions. These factors contribute to the difficulty of making split-second decisions during high-pressure incidents.

While holding individuals accountable for their actions is essential, we should also seek an understanding of the broader context within which these decisions were made. Expecting perfection from law enforcement in such unprecedented scenarios may only sometimes align with reality. As society grapples with this trial, it is crucial to balance seeking justice and acknowledging the complexity of policing during active shooter events.

The Parkland shooting case involving Officer Scott Peterson highlights the morally challenging predicament first responders face under extreme circumstances. While public opinion remains divided on his actions, it is imperative to remember that evaluating these situations retrospectively often fails to capture the immense pressure and uncertainty experienced in real-time emergencies. Moving forward, we should focus on collectively learning from these tragedies to better equip our emergency response personnel without demonizing them for difficult choices amidst the chaos.


The Warrior Cop Vs. Guardian Cop Debate Is About to be Settled by a Jury Deliberating a Child Neglect Case.
Former Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson is on trial for taking cover instead of taking action. While hearing shots ring out from Building 1200 on the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, he stood still with his gun drawn for thirty-seven minutes. Cops from other jurisdictions, stopped, asked him directions, he gave them directions, and they charged into danger.

Peterson is charged criminally in a case that can’t be explained in a simple sentence. When recruits asked me to explain the difference between civil and criminal, I always offered that a crime can be described in a single sentence. This case challenges that. It demands an obligation by the deputy that can be contorted into the criminal offense of child neglect.

I’m not on Peterson’s side. I think six parents have a very strong civil case where they hopefully would win on the preponderance of evidence. He is and was ill-fitted for this career. You will not go to an agency of one hundred officers and not find a percentage that shouldn’t be on the job. That percentage will increase during this hiring crisis.

There are three officers on patrol: the instinctual, the trainable, and the ones kept alive by their grandmother’s prayers.

During a major mass shooting, three friends of mine responded, planned their response for 15 seconds and charged the threat. These were the right guys. They saved many lives. Nobody there knew how lucky they were to have these officers there that quickly. All equally valiant, one received the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) award of officer of the year.

For my friends, this was not in their contract. This was not in their oath. To be completely frank, this was not a part of either Peterson’s policy or his oath. No one told him that he was obligated to run towards fire. Prior to Columbine, prior to widespread field force training, there was no implication that officers were obligated to run toward fire. That’s why his charges are so convoluted.

The complicated relationship between school boards and police agencies regarding school resource officers results in a 50/50 arrangement where both semi-competent officers and passionate overachievers are the staffing. The rare middle ground candidates are the exceptions that prove the rule.

But the truth of why Peterson is being charged, tried, and likely convicted only to do with him limiting himself as a guardian instead of a warrior. Scot Peterson failed to fill the warrior role during a crisis. Everyone is furious at him for that. Especially people who hate the police as warriors.

Nikolas Cruz should have had his problems properly addressed during his 50 plus justice involvements prior to committing mass murder. Had his referrals been taken seriously, he would have been legally ineligible to purchase a firearm, he would have received the interventions to control his substance abuse and episodes and 17 people may not have been injured, 17 may not have been murdered and one school resource deputy may not have his character exposed.

Would Peterson’s potential intervention have culminated in a deadly force encounter with Cruz? Smart money suggests a hard no. Cruz walked by about a hundred cops on his way to Wal-Mart and their Subway concession before he was identified by a Coconut Creek officer about three miles from the scene.

I can almost hear Tucker Carlson pointing out the obvious: “Does anyone with a sound mind believe that Scot Peterson was going to save the day?” Clearly not. So why are they putting this guy on trial?

There is an explicit recognition on both sides of the issues. Some feel satisfaction at seeing the cops fail at a human level. On the other side, there is anger at the lack of courage behind the badge in his case. What both sides realize but don’t acknowledge, is that when you need a warrior, nothing else will do.