One month later, Parkland is still a driving force



Matt Bruder

A little over a month later, the events of the Parkland shooting seem to be in the past, but the aftershocks are far from over.

Florida has become a catalyst for many crucial events and raised a lot of questions for moving forward.

How has student activism grown because of school shootings?

The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the scene of the shooting on Feb. 14, have been active on social media and even mainstream news outlets encouraging other youth and adult supporters to take action.

Following these events, communities across the country staged schoolwide walkouts for youths’ voices to be heard. They have even gone as far as organizing a national March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. to protest gun violence, set to take place on March 24.

How has the shooting prompted legislation?

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into legislation a bill tightening gun control in the state of Florida, as well as setting provisions for arming school teachers. This is seen by many as a first step, but supporters of the movement view it as not enough of a change.

Are they enough?

So far, new laws and debates have done little to improve the situation. In fact, violence in schools has spiked since Parkland, and the daily average at the time of writing is around 70 total threats and incidents since Feb. 14, as reported by the Educator’s School Safety Network.

It does not seem to stop there either. Just on Tuesday, March 20 a student shot two students at Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, Maryland.

Only time will tell if new efforts will prove to be effective or if even further change is required to stop such catastrophes.

What actions were taken during and after the Parkland shooting?

The timeline released by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office details the radio traffic, including communications between officers responding to the scene and dispatch, providing some detail over the events that transpired. That being said, there were still details that were missing or unclear.

Alleged equipment malfunctions contributed to the confusion as communications became backed up and unclear with regards to information being relayed from dispatch to the officers on scene.

Deputies set up around the school, but because they had not received any clear further instruction, they did not advance into the school immediately, a move that has attracted controversy.

How was the fallout addressed?

Sheriff Scott Israel has faced countless questions regarding the response of the deputies responding on scene, including Scot Peterson, the officer assigned to the high school.

Much of the controversy stems from these reports, supported by surveillance footage, of Peterson waiting beside a stairwell outside the building and directing other deputies and law enforcement officers to “stay at least 500 feet away at this point.”

This decision to keep officers from entering the building may well have ended his career.

Directly following the incident, an internal affairs investigation was launched into the conduct of Peterson, who resigned almost immediately.

What does it all mean?

Where this became a problem is when communication breakdown and the potential to have strayed from procedure prohibited effective coordination between different agencies, thus prolonging the situation and putting more people in danger of becoming victims.

This risk has led many to believe Parkland was a disastrous series of mistakes, but as with every different situation, there is a different point of view.

How should a situation like this have been handled?

Deputy Chief Carrie Jacobs of ISU Police Department’s Investigative Services division stated “as a best practice, ISU Police does not comment on actions … by other law enforcement agencies during an incident such as Parkland, Florida.”

She explained this is most often attributed to the fact that while the general premise of procedures may be similar, every department has its own unique protocols.

It would be near impossible to objectively judge whether or not a response is appropriate. The idea then is to look from an objective standpoint at what happened and try to learn from it.

How would ISU Police deal with a similar threat?

The university’s response to an active shooter is a multi-level approach, and an earlier Iowa State Daily story from October 2017 goes into further detail on the procedure.

In brief, patrol officers from ISU Police are the first to report on scene and are trained to stop the threat.

After the initial response, further assistance in the form of officers and teams from around Story County arrives so other issues can be addressed, such as medical assistance, ensuing investigations and planning for a return to daily activity.

How does ISU Police’s training prepare them for joint-agency scenarios?

Jacobs stated past trainings have been specifically focused on interagency, active-shooter responses.

“In the fall of 2017,” she explained, “ISU Police hosted a multi-agency training on active killer events.”

The purpose of these ventures is to spread familiarity of with how the system works and to provide a standard way of implementing it.

“Having local agencies such as the Ames Police and Story County Sheriff’s Office responding and having knowledge of the layout of our campus,” she said, “helps tremendously when responding to such an incident.”

Having quarterly training also makes a big impact. This past quarter, Jacobs stated, “officers were exposed to a variety of scenarios, including how to navigate the Incident Command System during such events.”

The Incident Command System, or ICS, is a broadly used setup to standardize procedures when combining different agencies to ensure proper coordination.

Jacobs also said regarding ISU Police’s quarterly training that “such training keeps skill sets sharp as the officers are engaged in training four times a year as opposed to once a year.”

Moving forward

Always having a plan and always being able to handle a situation are crucial to learning from and preventing such events from happening again, so even though Florida seems worlds away, it still carries its weight across the country.