Sunday, February 25, 2018

Politics and Policing at Parkland

Several BeeLine readers have asked me if I was going to write anything in the aftermath of the horrific Parkland school shootings in Florida.

I told them I did not plan writing on the subject as I have written extensively on the subject over the last several years. One of my most popular posts of all time was written shortly after the mass killings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut, "Are We Looking At The Right Target?'

There is not anything in that blog post that I wrote over five years ago that is not true today. However, I decided to write something after I discovered some troubling information in the aftermath of the shootings.

Yes, a rifle was used to commit mass murder at another school.

However, once again the act was perpetrated by a mentally unbalanced, disaffected young person who many people had expressed serious concerns about before the incident.

The fact also remains that deaths by any type of rifle (homicide or suicide) is exceedingly rare in a nation of 320 million people with over 110 million rifles (there are also an estimated 86 million shotguns and 114 million handguns).

In 2016 (the most recent year of data) only 374 homicides were carried out with rifles.

That is less than the murders committed by knives (1,604), hands, fists and feet (656) or blunt objects such as hammers, clubs etc (472).

It is true that rifles (especially assault-type weapons) have the potential to create much more mayhem than knives, hands and hammers. I have no problem in considering stricter background checks or increasing the age to purchase a weapon. These seem reasonable policy solutions without encroaching too much on the 2nd Amendment.

However, I am not optimistic that merely passing some gun control measures will dramatically reduce the risk of a future school shooting.

The United States has always had rifles and other guns. Why didn't we have school shootings when I was growing up? Or even when my own children were going to school? What we are seeing is a relatively recent development.

What has changed? Is it the guns or something else?

As I asked over five years ago, "Are we looking at the right target?"

Could it have something to do with culture?

Broken families? Fatherless homes? Violence in television and movies? Video games? The internet? Poor mental health screening and services? Less school discipline? Less religious teaching? Too much political correctness?

You might ask what role could political correctness have anything to do with these shootings?

As the facts are coming out in the Parkland case I have found several items that indicate that politics seems to have been more important than policing. It is extremely troubling.

We have all seen the reports of how a sheriff's deputy who was stationed at the school did nothing to try to engage the shooter even though he was on the school campus and had a gun and a bullet proof vest on.

School Resource Officer Scot Peterson was subsequently suspended ( and resigned) and was called a "coward' by many. However, a police union official stated that Peterson believed that he did his duty.

“He believed he did a good job calling in the location, setting up the perimeter and calling in the description (of Cruz),” said the union official, Jim Bell.

What do you notice about this that we would not have seen 25 years ago?

How about a police officer being called a "School Resource Officer"?

Is it possible that when your title is "School Resource Officer" you don't think it is in your job description to engage a killer? Perhaps you believe that your job is to marshall the right resources but you do not have any responsibility to respond yourself?

Why is it that what we used to refer to as a police officer is now called a "School Resource Officer"?

It is political correctness.

Broward County seemed to be more concerned with using law enforcement resources for counseling and collaboration rather than policing crime and maintaining a safe environment for teachers, students and staff.

What really makes you scratch your head on this one is that Peterson had a base annual salary of $75,673.72 as of 2016 but that did not include longevity (he had been with the Sheriff's department for 23 years) and first- responder bonuses (emphasis added) according to the union official.

Don't you think someone should be at least asking this guy to pay back the first-responder bonuses he was paid over the years?  It doesn't seem that he earned them.

Even more troubling is the information that has come out about the so-called "Promise Program" in the county that was instituted back in the 2011/2102 period that I have learned about due to excellent research work by The Last Refuge.

A great outline of what the "Promise Program" was about can be found in this unrolled Twitter thread. It is more than troubling. It shows the truly tragic dimensions that politics and political correctness have in all of this.

The Broward County School Board and District Superintendent, entered into an agreement ("The Promise Program") with Broward County Law enforcement officials to stop arresting students for crimes. Perhaps the motive was high-minded at the beginning not wanting to see students saddled with a criminal record for petty crimes. However, bigger political issues soon took over as attractive state and federal grant money is given to school districts that are doing the best job in curbing juvenile delinquency.

It did not take long for school administrators and law enforcement to want to keep improving their statistics. Over time more and more crimes were overlooked so their statistics would look better and better and more and more money would roll in for the fabulous job they were doing at reducing juvenile delinquency.

Of course, it did not take long for students (and others) to figure out that they could do a lot of illegal things and never be held accountable. Criminal gangs even started to recruit students to do their dirty work knowing this.

This entire situation also forced the police to cover-up a lot of what was going on. For example, when they did not solve a burglary or robbery they could not return the goods to the lawful owner because this was "evidence" of a crime that they never wrote up in a report. It ended up being stored at the police department as lost goods found on the side of the road.

A lot has been made of the fact that in the aftermath of the shooting that the Broward County Sheriff's office had been notified 23 times about concerns people had about the accused Parkland killer. Everyone is asking how come nothing was done?

The Last Refuge puts all of this in perspective.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BSO) didn’t “miss warning signs” or make “mistakes” in not writing up reports. The Sheriff’s office did exactly what their internal policies, procedures and official training required them to do, they intentionally ignored the signs, and intentionally didn’t generate documents.
It is important to understand the policy here. Broward County law enforcement (Sheriff Israel), in conjunction with Broward County School Officials (Superintendent Runcie and School Board), have a standing policy to ignore any criminal engagement with High School students.
When the police are hiding current, actual and ongoing unlawful conduct as a matter of standard procedure on a regular basis, what do we expect the police would do with reports of potential unlawful conduct? Of course they would ignore them.

So many are making so much of guns. Why do we hear so little about everything else that I mentioned above?

And why do we continue to put political correctness ahead of common sense and public safety?

The tragedy of Parkland provides a powerful reminder of those dangers.

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