Marjory Stoneman Douglas resource officer, Scot Peterson, has been charged with several counts of child neglect, one count of culpable neglect, and perjury. These charges largely stem not from something he did do, but something he didn’t. As a civil servant on the state’s payroll, the Supreme Court has largely ruled in favor of police officers giving them broad discretion to either act or not in similar situations. The question then becomes: Can Peterson be held criminally negligent for failing to protect the Parkland students given that the case law is on his side?
Maybe not. But the man is still going to be run through the wringer by authorities who believe he acted in a cowardly fashion. By making the attempt to hold the man liable, even when they can’t, it shows that local authorities care enough about the matter to try.
Is this more about PR and less about justice? Of course it is.
The Case Against Peterson
According to the indictment, Peterson had an opportunity to stop shootings that occurred on the third floor. Six of the seventeen who were killed that day died there. However, Peterson made no attempt to intervene and, as a result, six lives were taken and numerous more were injured.
However, the case, as a matter of law, boils down to whether or not Peterson has a duty to act. In similar cases, the courts have ruled that law officers do not have a duty to act even to protect helpless children who are being shot like fish in a barrel.
If this angers you, it’s important to understand the term law enforcement literally. Police enforce the law. They do not rush in and save the day. That means that they have literally no duty to protect you or your children. After several SCOTUS decisions, this doctrine is written in stone and, unless legislators decide to pass laws requiring that police intervene in active shooter situations, then the prosecution of Scot Peterson is dead in the water.
Why Charge Peterson in a Losing Effort?
Peterson has been charged to make him the face of America’s inability to protect its children from gun violence. Regardless of where you stand on the gun debate, it’s enough to know that someone has to take the fall for this. Who better than the resource officer who was paid to provide security to the children and failed in that duty? Nevermind the fact that, even had Peterson intervened, there would still be 11 students dead.
The parents need someone to focus their anger on. The community wants to vent at somebody. Peterson, the coward, is that guy. So it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s convictable based on the law. Law enforcement is going to hold him up as the fall guy. But don’t forget that the same doctrine that exonerates Peterson will exonerate them in future situations as well.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a crime, talk to the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm, P.A. before you say a word to the police. We will analyze the situation and present you with your best options.