Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Take off Badge If You Can't Save Kids, Cops Say; by Dan Scanlan

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Take off Badge If You Can't Save Kids, Cops Say; by Dan Scanlan

Article excerpt

Byline: dscanlan@jacksonville.com

Atlantic Beach Police Chief Michelle Cook didn't mince words on Twitter last week after learning that the school resource deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School did not confront or even go near the AR-15-wielding shooter who killed 17 people on Valentine's Day.

"If you are a police officer and you think to yourself for even one second that you will not be able to run towards the gunfire ... please quit now. We won't be mad. Innocent lives depend on us to act," tweeted Cook, the former Jacksonville Sheriff's Office administrator and active shooter incident management trainer.

First Coast and additional law enforcement leaders expressed similar sentiments Monday.

As Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel faces calls for his own resignation, he told The Washington Post that Deputy Scot Peterson "clearly" knew there was a shooter inside but did not act, which made him "sick to my stomach." Peterson has resigned, and Cook's suggestion that other cops who feel they could not engage an active shooter do the same unleashed its own social media support.

Walton County Sheriff Mike Adkinson, Florida Sheriffs

Association president, said it was often standard practice of law enforcement to "wait outside and negotiate" before the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. But now, Cook is 100 percent correct: An officer has "a moral obligation to run to the sound of gunfire and save the life of a child," he said.

"That was before we realized people were so evil that they would continue killing. There was no negotiating with those people," Adkinson said. "Now in a school, the practice is to engage the shooter. ... Make them stop shooting children. That is the risk you accept when you pin on that badge. If you are not willing to do this, that is not your profession."

Find the shooter, engage the shooter and stop the shooter to protect the students and teachers, Nassau County Sheriff Bill Leeper said.

That's what deputies are trained for when an active shooter has "breached" a school, said Sgt. Keith Smith, Clay County Sheriff's Office spokesman.

"Our officers are taught and trained to engage the shooter/threat immediately," Smith said. "We have put our officers through many hours of active shooter training and use the various schools we have in our county when conducting this training."

"That deputy's job is to protect, hide and help those students and do everything they can to direct oncoming help and neutralize the threat if possible," added St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar.

The deaths of 17 students and teachers at the North Broward County high school, killed by an expelled student with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, occurred almost two weeks ago. In the days following, hundreds have protested in Tallahassee about the need for tighter gun control and more security on campuses, some meeting Wednesday with Gov. …

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