BCSO’s policies change following Valentine’s Day Massacre

February 14 marked the one-year anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting, also known as the Valentine’s Day massacre. What started out as a normal day resulted in a devastating loss for family and friends. After an hour the shooting occurred police arrested Cruz and since then he has been charged with slaying 17 lives and is waiting for a conviction. This tragic event shocked the community of Parkland, Florida.

Two weeks after the shooting, Stoneman Douglas high school students took a seven-hour bus ride to Tallahassee where they were met by many FAMU and Florida State students who marched them to the Capitol protesting gun control.

After the hysteria of the shooting subsided, many parents and governmental officials scrutinized Scott Israel, who was the Sheriff officer in charge. Isreal said the Sheriff’s department worked to the best of their ability to rescue students, however, people in the community felt he showed a lack of initiative to infiltrate the school and engage Cruz to end his violent killing spree.

Megan Schimansky a pre-medical major at the University of Pittsburgh, lost her best friend Nicholas Dworet on that fateful day.

“We were best friends in middle school and teammates on a swim team. Not a day goes by that I do not think of him” Schimansky said. Schimansky said students have become more involved in politics and verbally campaigning stricter laws pertaining to gun control.

According to the Sun-Sentinel, three days after Gov. Ron DeSantis was sworn into office, Isreal was suspended from his position and replaced by police Sgt. Gregory Tony. Tony has a background in active shooter training and is now the first black sheriff in Broward County history.

The Broward County Sheriff’s office supplied formal records of their active shooter policy prior to the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglass. A few of the protocols for deputies are as follows:

  1. BSO uses a combination of classroom, scenario-based training with simulated firearms, virtual firearms simulations and live-fire range exercises which provide a range of tactical training to deputies.

  2. BSO provided mandatory Active Shooter and Rescue Task Force (RTF) Training to all deputies prior to February 14th, 2018. The training also included a solo deputy response to an active killer and coordination of medical treatment for gunshot victims. (the report states, this was not a required course mandated by the state.

  3. Deputies take part in an annual training, given instruction in a variety of tactical areas which include building clearing and simulated force on force scenario based simulated firearms training. (the training was not a state requirement).

  4. Deputies attended mandatory regular Use of Force and Defensive Tactics training. (Regular Use of Force Training was a requirement by the state).

On Dec. 26, 2018, the Broward County Sheriff’s department wrote an email to Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the Chair of Marjory Stoneman Douglass Public Safety Commission, acknowledging the changes needed to execute a better proactive active shooter emergency plan. The email states new additions to the active shooter policy, are as follows:

  1. 1,378 BSO deputies completed 8 more hours of additional scenario-based active shooter and rescue tasks force training since Feb. 14, 2018, and all BSO School Resource officers attended a full week of active shooter, tactics, and concealed carbine carry/qualification training.

  2. Negotiated tentative understanding with the Broward County School Board granting BSO real-time access during emergencies to the live camera feeds from the public schools.

  3. Created a Threat Assessment Unit to evaluate violent threats for potential Risk Protection Orders.

The Broward County Sheriff’s Office also stated in the email, “Be assured the reforms adopted to date are not the end of this process. Rather they are the midway point as we continue working towards addressing all of the findings related to our agency and implementing all of the Commission’s recommendations.”

In a phone interview with Jeremiah Carter, a Journalism and Broadcast student alum was a former student at Stoneman Douglass. Carter made aware of the events as he was sitting home and received a news alert on his phone about the tragedy.

“I was shocked, and I was saddened by it because there were 17 innocent lives, we are talking about 17 students and some of those students were getting ready to graduate from high school in a few months.”

Carter has a fond love of his hometown (Broward County) and was devastated by the news, he expressed even though he did not know the victims personally, but it does affect the community.

Carter said it is difficult to “point the finger” but said the deputies should have proper training when engaging an active shooter. Carter’s future plans are to return back to Broward to play a key role in changing the school system and being a voice for students and faculty who are not being heard.