Scott Peterson Had No Duty to Protect Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting Victims

Opinion

#NeverAgain Movement
Scott Peterson Had No Duty to Protect Marjory Stoneman Douglas Shooting Victims

USA – -(AmmoLand.com)- A few days ago, cowardly Broward Co Sheriffs Deputy Scott Peterson, thru his attorney, filed a motion to have the wrongful death suit against him filed by Andrew Pollack ( father of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High Mass Shooting Victim Meadow Pollack) dismissed. Peterson's attorney argued he had no specific legal obligation to provide protection and therefore the suit must be rejected.

The judge hearing the motion denied it, and Pollack and his attorney had very strong ( and well deserved in my opinion) criticisms of Peterson's willful refusal to act, openly calling him a coward, and rightly so.

Unfortunately, the Judge is wrong, and Peterson's attorney is correct from a legal standpoint.

There is long-standing and well established legal precedent from both the Fed Courts as well as the Supreme Court that makes it crystal clear that the Police/Govt has NO specific duty to protect individual citizens or groups of Citizens and CANNOT be sued or held liable for failing to have done so.

See Supreme Court decisions in Castle Rock v Gonzales as well as DeShaney v Winnebago County and DC Court of Appeals in Warren v DC.

Warren v DC is probably one of the most well known to those that pay attention to this stuff. The following is the relevant excerpt from that ruling.

“the duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists”

The language used in the other cases is somewhat different, but the blurb from Warren best encompasses the overall tenor of these long-standing decisions.

Earlier I mentioned, “for those that pay attention to this stuff” meaning its almost exclusively those that are attorneys and or Pro 2A advocates, which have used these rulings to add significant weight to their arguments for the right to be armed inside or outside the home for self-defense.

Sadly, based on a review of the overwhelming majority of comments from the general public on various social media and internet news sites, far too many people have found this to be a truly shocking revelation that they were completely unaware of.

Almost all of the comments expressing outrage and horror. Horror at Peterson's attorney's argument for dismissal of the suit, as well as the responses to those like myself that point out the aforementioned cases invariably respond with reference to the popular “To Protect and Serve” motto (or variations of it) that is or used to be nearly ubiquitous on the side of Police vehicles.

People are genuinely shocked to learn that this motto or slogan, while certainly a respectable and honorable ideal to live up to, is NOT expressing a legal obligation.

Peterson's actions( or profound lack thereof) are without a doubt cowardly, detestable and morally reprehensible. Let me be clear, the cowardly dereliction of his moral duty is not and should not be inferred to apply to 99 percent of cops, including those from Coral Springs, who immediately rushed into the building as soon as they arrived.

But there is a distinct difference between a moral obligation and a legal one. And unfortunately, legally speaking, Pollack's lawsuit against Peterson is highly unlikely to prevail.

If there is any measure of “good” that could be derived some such an unspeakable horror is that more and more people are waking up to the reality.  Not only can the Police NOT be everywhere at once and in fact very rarely actually stop a crime in progress, but that they have no actual duty to protect or defend individual citizens from predators or the mentally ill. Reawakening people to the idea that they are their own first responders and ultimately the ones responsible for their and their loved ones safety and self defense.

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    Andre FianoMikegrizzman1Patricio Vigilcircle8 Recent comment authors
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    Patricio Vigil
    Guest
    Patricio Vigil

    I am a retired Police Officer and was involved in three shootings during my career. I believe that as a first responder we shall run towards a danger and not away from it. I believe that when a member of the military and believed it as a LEO. During my service we viewed someone who failed to run to the problem or cover our six a coward or traitor. That person became a persona non grata and dealt with accordingly. Having said that I don’t recall anything in the oath taken when I was sworn in that required me to… Read more »

    Andre Fiano
    Guest
    Andre Fiano

    Patricio I couldn’t have pictured it to be said any better. When I was sworn into the US Army and took the oath to protect this country from all enemies foreign and domestic I didn’t interrupt as; well I’ll do it as long as I don’t have to give my life. As much as we have fun competition between all branches of service I wouldn’t hesitate to help a brother or sister in arms regardless of branch. I would have treated these students no different. Yes running into that school I could have been shot or killed. However I would… Read more »

    circle8
    Guest
    circle8

    Back in the 1960’s two women called the Washington DC police and requested assistance. The were being held captive by two suspects in an apartment. The police arrived, knocked on the door and did not get a response. The two officers left and later that night did a roll by but did not see any lights at the apartment and terminated the call. The women were held captive for a couple of days during which time the were sexually abused and raped numerous times. After they escaped the women sued claiming the officers did not do their proper duty and… Read more »

    ChiptheBarber
    Guest
    ChiptheBarber

    Boy, this pretty much precludes anyone surnamed Peterson from EVER naming their brand new, bouncing baby boy (or girl or not yet self-gender-aware life form—trying to not offend anybody here) “Scott” for the rest of recorded history. What with the wife-murderer from a few years back and now this guy. Perhaps we can even encourage a multi-million dollar government study to find out if there is something inherently evil and cowardly in the specific moniker, Scott Peterson thereby relieving these guys of all personal responsibility. It could explain it all away and we could be left with warm, fuzzy feelings… Read more »

    Country Boy
    Guest
    Country Boy

    Hmmm, so the judge is saying if someone ran up and shot Peterson, and there was LEOs in the immediate area, the LEOs would not shoot the guy who shot peterson ?

    Yeah…right.

    Mr. Peterson, not only are you a coward, but you’re also the lowest POS on the planet.
    May karma come your way, and soon.

    ChiptheBarber
    Guest
    ChiptheBarber

    I agree with your assessment of Peterson. The boy that did the killing is sick—this guy’s just a d§¤n coward.

    Country Boy
    Guest
    Country Boy

    And that, folks, is why I carry a firearm every damn where I go.

    This article is proof positive , that citizens cannot rely on LEOs to protect them. They need to remove “protect and Serve” from the police cars that display it.

    Clark Kent
    Guest
    Clark Kent

    Then why don’t YOU become a police officer and show us all how it SHOULD be done? Put up or shut up.

    Old Law Prof
    Guest
    Old Law Prof

    I believe this case is in a Florida STATE court so Castle Rock v. Gonzales is not precedent. The governing law is Florida’s. The state Supreme Court is free to carve out an exemption for officers with special responsibilities, such as a School Resource Officer. It just may use this case to do so.

    Oldshooter
    Guest
    Oldshooter

    First question-Given that we know cops have no specific duty to protect any individual, why do we EVER hire cops in positions for which we consider the primary duty to be protection rather than enforcement of laws?
    Second question-isn’t it dereliction of his duty for a police officer to fail even to make any attempt to enforce the law prohibiting bringing guns on campus, particularly after another (equally cowardly and culpable) SRO at the school had advised him by radio that he believed this crime was in progress at the time?

    Hubcap
    Guest
    Hubcap

    If you are not willing to die to save a life you should not be even considering being a peace officer. Selflessness should be the number one thing to consider.

    Sid Pits
    Guest
    Sid Pits

    Florida Statute 33-208.003 section 35 Policy and Procedures
    Cowardice exhibited by Law Enforcement
    Never heard of anyone prosecuted for it,but it’s the law.

    Chuck
    Guest
    Chuck

    I cannot and will not attempt to justify Peterson’s actions. I personally disagree with Peterson’s behavior and would have handled the situation differently, however this story is bigger than one man and his position in a legal vs. moral argument. I smell scapegoating and CYA everywhere, with all of the higher-ups in the sheriff’s department, the school district, the county itself, just absolutely anyone and everyone else, anywhere in anyway controlling his working situation, hiding behind the obviously easy focus on one man’s failure to engage. Peterson had a lot of “help” from many along the way in order to… Read more »

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    This is a repeated article! When did it first appear in this forum and why is it repeated?

    David
    Guest
    David

    Should be repeated often!

    Mike
    Guest
    Mike

    David, I’m not disagreeing that the story needs to stay alive, but since this is old news, I would like to see updated information on a story of this much importance. Just my take!

    YOOPER
    Guest
    YOOPER

    POLICE CARRY TO PROTECT THEMSELVES.

    WIlliam
    Guest
    WIlliam

    This sounds like the perfect rational for conceal carry reciprocity nationwide. If the LEO are not responsible for an individual then the individual is. Hence national reciprocity is mandated for the safety of the individual.

    Jimmy
    Guest
    Jimmy

    This lawsuit will fail. You can’t legislate for a cop to go into situations like this, if they carve out a “special exception” for this then it will escalate to sending in officers in suicide missions otherwise they will get fired. That said every officer should be compelled by sense of duty to eliminate the active shooter.

    Brett Lloyd Rowe
    Guest
    Brett Lloyd Rowe

    The protect and serve motto has been nothing but a fund raiser/feel good saying. Your personal protection is yours alone. Not the Gov. And who does the law enforcement fall under?

    Ross
    Guest
    Ross

    So,if I pissed on his leg,and got arrested,he would now have a duty yo protect me.

    Vincent Brady
    Guest
    Vincent Brady

    Sad truth is that the police have more of an obligation to protect your dead body than live body.

    Hoplite
    Guest
    Hoplite

    As a retired LEO for 27 years it never crossed my mind that I would NOT respond to a run such as this. I don’t understand his thinking to run away. Unless it was because he thought SRO was a safe place to be. Many who go into such a position do it to get off the street. Not all, but many. As you know or should know, policing in an urban area is dangerous. It is part of the job and many want the badge and gun but not the hazards that go with them. Legally I am guessing… Read more »

    BILL
    Guest
    BILL

    Yes, the police are bound by mortalities to keep people alive and the citizens are bound by legalities. Seems it should be the other way around since LE are PAID to do that job.
    Sorry but I both respect and loath law enforcement.

    Clark Kent
    Guest
    Clark Kent

    How old are you, twelve?

    Dumbfounded
    Guest
    Dumbfounded

    So, If I have this straight…….if the police are in no way legally obligated to protect me or any individual, why do they have guns? They can honestly just turn around and walk away in the face of danger. Or are the guns there to protect themselves? That’s sorta fucked up……….I guess Blue lives are the only lives that matter? On second thought, if the police are obligated to uphold the law, aren’t they now obligated to stop the commission of a crime since that is breaking the law? Regardless of what law is being broken, ie. murder….Have your cake… Read more »

    Jeff Kirchner
    Guest
    Jeff Kirchner

    The Police are there to protect the “Masses not the One”
    That’s how those federal cases came out.

    Frank
    Guest
    Frank

    Think it it this way.
    The police do not have a responsibility to act as your home security or as your body guard.
    They do have a responsibility to stop the commission of a crime or investigate a crime after the fact. So, if an officer saw what appeared to be a break in or if they found a body, they would then have an obligation to act.

    So the coward here would likely be found in dereliction of duty rather than being responsible for the deaths of any individual.

    Sisu
    Guest
    Sisu

    The facts need to be confirmed including (but not limited to) whether the school was a gun-free zone, Peterson was the assigned and in-charge school resource officer there to protect the students at-large, students were instructed and obligated to follow the predetermined crisis plans established by school administrators in coordination with and reliance on the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, and Peterson observed the assailant (known to Peterson and known by him to be prohibited access to the school and its campus) walk into the school building carrying a rifle carrying case. Excerpts from PoliceChiefsMagazine.org, The Police Chief, vol. 74, no.… Read more »

    Ferj
    Guest
    Ferj

    Well thought out and a compelling argument. I also think somewhere in there is an obligation that if an person or entity (Sheriff) identify a risk (active shooter) and take steps abate or prevent the risk (placing an armed “resource officer” at the location) that person or entity must act with ordinary care. Our Jury instruction states: When I use the words “ordinary care,” I mean the care a reasonably careful person would use under circumstances similar to those shown by the evidence. The law does not say how a reasonably careful person would act under those circumstances. That is… Read more »

    grizzman1
    Guest
    grizzman1

    This COWARD would not have lasted 1 minute in Viet Nam, or any war!
    If you wear a gun, you should be willing to lay your life on the line to protect the innocent anywhere! For Family, Friend, or for a Stranger that needs help!
    No GUNS = NO FREEDOMS!

    grizzman1
    Guest
    grizzman1

    I’ve told people the police are not responsible for their safety for years, and the SHEEPLE still believe they are!
    Owning your own gun is the best possible defense against the BAD GUY/GIRL! Well placed shot in head = 1!
    Even if they were, call 911 and see how long it takes law enforcement to show up! Average time, 10 to 30 minutes!

    Just1Saddletramp
    Guest
    Just1Saddletramp

    According to precedent the police ARE responsible for the protection of the people AT LARGE and NOT for any one individual. Accordingly, Scott Peterson was reponsible for the safety of all the students at the high school including those who were slain. Therefore the slain students father’s lawsuit should, by precedent, be considered valid

    grizzman1
    Guest
    grizzman1

    Take a look at the SUPREME COURTS decision!
    The only obligation that law enforcement officers have is to enforce the laws!
    It’s not to protect you! That’s your OBLIGATION! PERIOD!!!!

    Raconteur
    Guest
    Raconteur

    Should he be required to enforce the law against attempted murder?

    Clark Kent
    Guest
    Clark Kent

    Then PAY MORE TAXES if you want a faster police response time, grizzdolt! Put up or shut up.

    grizzman1
    Guest
    grizzman1

    Hey Clarky boy!
    I pay plenty in taxes!
    Do you pay any, at all? I mean, living under your mommies skirt at 40+ years old is beyond PATHETIC!
    My belief is that you are a milk-sop! If your Commie EdumaKation taught you how to use a dictionary, look it up!

    Green Mtn. Boy
    Guest
    Green Mtn. Boy

    Correct,however the Leftists of both parties are actively working to disarm the American People,UnConstitutionally,to deprive the People of their right to self defense.

    Dan Roberts
    Guest
    Dan Roberts

    Castle Rock v Gonzales case involved a PFA, with the victim advising local Police the person was in the area. Read that case for the answer to your question

    Jim
    Guest
    Jim

    This subject has been the topic of several conversations the past year or so. To a person, everyone who argues the point is utterly shocked when I point out the SCOTUS decision. To my knowledge, not one of those persons has taken up arms to defend themselves, still rely upon the police. Sad, that. But, an ostrich is gonna do what ostriches do.

    jay baer
    Guest
    jay baer

    read the part about “absent a special relationship between police and an individual”. if one is hired to protect the school body, then observes a threat to said body, I would think that creates the “special relationship” to that body.
    the example I always heard of is knowledge of a PFA, then getting a report the subject of the PFA is near or threatening the victim of the PFA creates the special relationship, then failing to take action is a problem. mind you, i’m 12 years removed from these topics, the specifics are a little fuzzy…..

    mark baird
    Guest
    mark baird

    The only time a special relationship is formed with the police is when a person has forcibly be deprived of his Liberty by being placed under arrest. After the arrest the police are required to protect the individual from harm, read ( lynching), because the arrestee has been deprived of his ability to protect himself. Although Peterson may have violated his code of ethics, and he may have let this crime go on longer than had he stepped in, he did not violate the law. You keyboard commandos are pretty quick to rush to judgement but how many of you… Read more »

    Dr. Strangelove
    Guest
    Dr. Strangelove

    @Mark Baird: You may accuse others of being “keyboard commandos” for their opinions, but Peterson was hired to protect the student body. While he may not be liable in the strictest legal sense, he utterly failed in his responsibility to the school and the children in attendance.

    Chris
    Guest
    Chris

    So using your reasoning, Peterson’s defense is that he stayed outside to protect those students who were able to exit. He could not protect all the students so he made a decision to protect those leaving. I don’t think it was right, I believe he violated his oath of office and his department’s policy. Neither are criminal and neither are enforceable in a civil court. People with no understanding of what laws actually require a police officers do, versus policy and ethics allowing officers to do the right thing, are the same ones screaming about excessive use of force and… Read more »

    Ansel Hazen
    Guest
    Ansel Hazen

    Dan, I suspect you are right. But what is also right is that in this country Andrew Pollack has every right to drag this guy through the court system and ruin his life forever. THAT would be true justice.

    Harrison
    Guest
    Harrison

    I totally agree with you. If I hire an off duty police officer to defend and protect my children, he better damn well do it! Just because you are a police officer, that doesn’t mean that you can “chicken out” just because some judges who don’t know better say you can. I am a former police officer, and being a coward was never part of the job!

    James Brigham (Bigg) Bunyon
    Guest
    James Brigham (Bigg) Bunyon

    @ Harrison Regardless, cowardice is not a criminal act in the American civilian world. In the military, under the Uniform Code of Military justice, one who exhibits cowardice in the face of the enemy can be punished up to and including execution. It’s just not that way in the civilian world. If you believe otherwise, please cite your legitimate sources, specifically court cases where someone was punished for cowardice.

    James Myers
    Guest
    James Myers

    Hey Bigg, look in the mirror!