Don’t Kid Yourself, Tough Guy: You Wouldn’t Have Rushed Heroically Into Stoneman Douglas High School

Travis Yates | Police commander and director of training for SAFETAC

A lot of people are throwing around the term “coward” to describe Broward County Deputy Scot Peterson because he failed to enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last week as Nikolas Cruz gunned down 17 students.

I am going to say some things that no one will say and will likely upset many people. But anyone in law enforcement knows these things to be true.

Let me start by saying that there is still much that we don’t know. I trust that Sheriff Scott Israel knows a lot more about this incident than his many critics know. You’ll have to excuse me if I’m a little cynical because law enforcement has been known to throw cops to the wolves in the middle of a national crisis.

I will make no excuses for Peterson. But everyone who wears — or doesn’t wear — a badge is saying that they would have acted differently. You have to ask yourself: Is it really that easy?

Law enforcement failing to act in a timely manner is nothing new. Training changed after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, when it was basic protocol to wait on SWAT. To this day, active shooter training utilizes teams of four or more because that number is tactically sound. But, in recent years, there has been an option to go in alone. There certainly was in Broward County:

“If real-time intelligence exists the sole deputy or a team of deputies may enter the area and/or structure to preserve life.”

We can all sit in our recliner with a cool heartbeat of 65 and say we would take the option to go in.

But we aren’t out of breath, with a heightened level of blood pressure and a heart pounding so hard that tunnel vision, slow motion and sound cognitive thinking has stunted our ability to reason. Adrenaline and Cortisol has not dumped into our bodies at such a rapid rate that the blood flow to our major muscle groups are shunted and our autonomic nervous functions are altered. There is not a drug on the planet that can do to a body what acute stress can do in an immediate fashion.

There is a reason why Navy SEALs train for months for just one mission. There is a reason why we would not permit our military personnel to go into combat without the proper equipment and resources to win the fight including rifles. We properly prepare men and women for war in other countries and mistakes and even perceived cowardice still happens.

What happened outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was not about a coward. If Deputy Scot Peterson was a coward, he would have run. Running away from gunfire is a natural instinct. I have seen some of the toughest men freeze up in the midst of a battle and I’ve seen some of the most seasoned veterans do even worse in training.

No, what happened at that high school had to do with placing a human being in a combat zone unexpectedly and expecting a superhero result.

American law enforcement has been battered and bruised in recent years because — and only because — politicians, a corrupt media establishment and a bunch of protesters decided to seize on the deaths of criminals at the hands of cops.

“Hands Up…Don’t Shoot” was a lie. But a city burned and all of law enforcement continues to suffer from leadership that has often failed to stand up for the cops on the street. (RELATED: Total Police Failure Brings Absolute Mayhem To Ferguson After Grand Jury Announcement)

Police leaders have openly discussed how they have stopped recruiting “warriors” and former members of the military because they want a “guardian” mindset.

We have bought into the notion that we can’t have “warriors” in uniform and the idea that our equipment including our uniforms cannot appear “militaristic.”

The idea of a school resource officer with anything more than a handgun would trigger anyone with a protest sign to march in the streets. Deputy Peterson was no exception. He was not issued a rifle.

Our police training has focused on every “feel-good” idea that a politician or think tank can come up with, largely because of the searing images in our mind of criminals tearing up cities.

There is a false notion — spread by a false narrative — that law enforcement is somehow a racist, murderous institution.

I will be the first to say that law enforcement should have a balance between a guardian mindset and a warrior mindset. But the response from many in our leadership ranks is to “soften” our image to a point that our basic mission is compromised.

Society can’t have it both ways. You can’t scream about cops carrying rifles and then get all high and mighty when one doesn’t take a handgun into a battle that requires much more. You can’t demand to stop hiring warriors and expect a warrior outcome. You can’t complain about survival training and expect anyone to survive in a war.

When the devil comes, law enforcement must be ready and readiness resides in training and equipment. Our best tactically trained and prepared officers should be placed where evil has proven to enter and that is currently in the hallways of our schools. The truth is that is often not the case in our schools. While I know many tactically sound and excellent school resource officers, some schools and even police departments want nothing to do with placing a police officer in a school who is actually capable of stopping evil.

It’s easy for everyone to say what “they” would have done here because there is no life or death consequences when one says it.

“War Is Hell” and that isn’t just a cool title from a movie. It’s reality and until you have been in war, shut your mouth.

Travis Yates is a commander with a large municipal police department. He is the founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute and director of training for SAFETAC, which provides Officer Survival and Risk Management Training to law enforcement. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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