FORT LAUDERDALE — Nearly five years after the Parkland school massacre, some police departments still don’t have policies in place for stopping mass shooters. But a state panel on Friday moved closer to making it a requirement to have such policies in place across Florida.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Safety Commission has drafted a policy to guide police departments on how to respond during and immediately after an active-shooter emergency.
The state panel was created to come up with safety reforms after 17 people were killed at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018.
Within weeks, it will have a draft of the bill that will be presented to the Florida Legislature that will require agencies throughout the state to have some sort of a plan in place. To assist police departments, the MSD panel on Friday approved the guidelines that could be used as a template.
“This is the first time that I know of that any entity has adopted a model active assailant response policy for police agencies in Florida,” said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission’s chairman.
Among the highlights:
—It’s the policy for law enforcement to “take immediate action to stop the violence, or threat of violence and preserve life.” The policy reads that “officers should move toward the sound of gunfire, screams, or any other indicators of an active threat.” And another section reads: “Failure to wear body armor does not affect any law enforcement officer’s duty to act and shall not delay any immediate response.”
—All officers “are expected to engage and neutralize an active assailant without delay and without regard for the presence of other officers.” That guideline comes from criticism that a Broward sheriff’s deputy who was already at the Parkland high school took up a position 69 feet from the door to the freshman building, where the shooter was killing people. Other law enforcement officers hid behind their cars.
—The police agency “shall establish and conduct initial, refresher, and advanced response to AAE (Active Assailant Event) training for all applicable sworn and non-sworn personnel” and there should be response training at least annually. That guideline comes after the panel found that the Broward Sheriff’s Office was unprepared for the high school shooting, in part because training occurred only every three years. In contrast, Coral Springs Police, whose officers were lauded for their swift response even though it wasn’t their jurisdiction, had regular training.