Training Manual Clearly Tells Florida Deputies to ‘Confront the Shooter‘

Nonprofit government group Judicial Watch notes that guidebook indicates first one or two officers must take the initiative without delay

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office training manual instructs its officers to “confront the shooter,” contradicting earlier explanations for why multiple deputies last month remained outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as a gunman was mowing down 17 people.

The nonprofit, Washington, D.C.-based Judicial Watch said the manual, a copy of which the government watchdog obtained under Florida’s Sunshine Act, adds to mounting evidence that deputies failed the victims of the February 14 massacre by 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz.

The manual mandates that the first one or two officers to arrive at the scene of an active shooter “will immediately go to confront the shooter.” There are no qualifiers attached to the instruction for the first officer or officers on the scene.

“These Broward County Sheriff’s Office documents obtained by Judicial Watch show that the law enforcement agency failed the victims of the Parkland shooting,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “Lives were lost in Parkland because the Sheriff’s Office personnel were either poorly trained or failed to follow training protocols.”

A school resource officer, Scot Peterson, who was a deputy at the time, remained outside the school even as Cruz used an AR-15 rifle to murder 17 people. Cruz stands charged with 17 counts of murder and may face the death penalty.

Other deputies arriving at the school also stayed outside. Records released by the Sheriff’s Office show that after four Coral Springs police officers entered through the west door, Capt. Jan Jordan told her deputies that the SWAT team was en route.

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“I want to make sure that we have a perimeter set up and the school (unintelligible), all the kids are getting out, but we need to shut down around this school,” she said, according to transcript of the conversation. “Does the Delta unit have an area for all the units coming into the area?”

A lesson plan in the training manual notes that the International Chiefs of Police, after a 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, devised a strategy of having four officers form a “quad” or diamond formation and then enter the building during an active shooting. Previously, officers were trained to wait for the SWAT team.

The Broward lesson plan notes that the quad formation would be difficult for rank-and-file officers to remember and moves too slowly.

“The majority of incidents were over in minutes. There is a need to get there fast,” the lesson plan states.

The document adds: “Now, the first officer or two officers on scene will immediately go to confront the shooter. Military tactics work well in this situation. The two-man ‘bounding overwatch’ is our response.”

In another passage, the lesson plan stresses the importance of responding to the sound of gunfire.

“If you are on scene or in the area and hear gunshots, you should immediately access what you have and prepare to respond,” the document states. “Remember, every time you hear a gunshot in an active-shooter incident; you have to believe that is another victim being killed.”

The document instructs the first officers on scene to “engage the suspect,” prioritizing people’s safety in the following order — 1.) hostages or victims; 2.) innocent bystanders; 3.) law enforcement officers; and lastly, the suspects.

“If in doubt about going through the door after a suspect, think about the victims and where they stand on the list,” the document states.

The document indicates that time is critical.

“This is like no other crime,” it states. “The motive is to kill as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. Why? Because the bad guy knows ‘we’ are coming.”

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A training exercise designed for a single deputy instructs the officer not to expose himself to unknown threats if the shooting has stopped. But the lesson plan states, “You need to ask yourself, ‘Has the shooting stopped? Is this the same suspect I was chasing? Am I in a good position? Do you feel comfortable to secure the suspect?'”

The manual also states the deputies on scene may enter a building to preserve life.

“A supervisor’s approval or on-site observation is not required for this decision,” it states.

PoliZette senior writer Brendan Kirby can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter.

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