Stunning. Rarely do cops get prosecuted for actions they do take. I’ve personally never heard of one being prosecuted for actions he *didn’t* take.
Police unions are going to have a collective aneurysm over the idea of officers being held criminally liable for excessive … “caution,” let’s call it.
Scot Peterson, 56, had been nationally heckled and vilified for failing to confront the former student who gunned down and killed 17 students and staff at the Parkland school on Feb. 14, 2018.
Peterson has been booked into the Broward Main Jail on 11 criminal charges, including child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury…
The investigation showed Peterson refused to investigate where the gunshots were coming from, retreated during the gunfire as victims were being shot, and directed other law enforcement who arrived on scene to remain 500 feet away from the building, FDLE spokeswoman Jessica Cary said in an emailed statement…
“The FDLE investigation shows former Deputy Peterson did absolutely nothing to mitigate the MSD shooting that killed 17 children, teachers ad staff and injured 17 others,” said FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”
In a different age, the public disgrace involved in being known for hanging back while a lunatic gunned down children all around you would be enough to motivate an officer to intervene during a mass shooting. Most cops today would intervene, of course, but some seem to require more of an incentive, per the judgment of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Either get in there and help or face prison.
Here (I think) is the crime Peterson’s been charged with — a subset of child abuse:
(e) “Neglect of a child” means:
1. A caregiver’s failure or omission to provide a child with the care, supervision, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health, including, but not limited to, food, nutrition, clothing, shelter, supervision, medicine, and medical services that a prudent person would consider essential for the well-being of the child; or
2. A caregiver’s failure to make a reasonable effort to protect a child from abuse, neglect, or exploitation by another person.
“A person who willfully or by culpable negligence neglects a child and in so doing causes great bodily harm … commits a felony of the second degree,” notes the statute. Essentially Peterson’s being treated like a parent who starved his child to death or stood by while his spouse administered a fatal beating.
The wrinkle may lie in the idea of being a “caregiver.” Courts typically find that the police owe no specific duty of care to individual members of the public that might give rise to liability if they breach that duty. But Peterson may be an exception. He wasn’t just a cop, remember; he was the school resource officer assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. Prosecutors may be gambling that that role created a “caregiver” duty for him towards the students that other officers didn’t share. That would reassure patrolmen’s unions, if so, as it would mean Peterson’s case would set a relatively narrow precedent. The phrase “complete inaction” used by the FDLE commissioner in the excerpt above might reassure them too. Maybe the “Peterson rule” will be that inaction by police can’t lead to criminal charges unless that inaction is “complete.”
First Scott Israel gets suspended, now this. Hats off to Florida for demanding real accountability from the cops in the aftermath of a nightmare that might have been mitigated, if not prevented.