I am a full-time law enforcement instructor teaching basic students as well as experienced officers in advanced training programs. Before this position, I was a sworn law enforcement officer. I have been in the law enforcement field for 10 years. In my career, I have responded to shots-fired calls and have been involved in shots-fired incidents. I have walked alone at night in pursuit of drug smugglers. I have responded and assisted county and state police officers on emergency calls ranging from high-speed pursuits with violent felons, to burglaries and assaults in progress, to violent domestic assaults. On some of these calls, I was by myself and the first on scene. I have attended multiple active shooter training programs. Luckily, I have never needed to fire my pistol or long arm at another human being. There is my career disclaimer.
I write this amid reports that the school resource officer in Parkland, Fla., failed to immediately enter Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and engage the shooter or shooters. He reportedly stayed outside for four minutes and never went inside the school while the shooting was going on. And now there are reports that up to four deputies were there and did not enter the school immediately.
A famous verse comes to mind, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
For all of the knowledgeable news commentators and politicians whom I have heard speaking about this, do you have similar past experiences? For all of my law enforcement colleagues and the politicians openly criticizing this deputy and calling him a “coward,” have you personally entered an active shooter situation during your career and made the split second decision, alone, to enter a school with only a pistol to confront an active shooter or shooters with rifles? Did you learn like I did, and teach trainees like I do, that you never go into a rifle fight with a pistol, only with equal or superior weaponry when possible?
This, of course, is the opposite of what we teach cops for an active shooter situation. According to current training curriculum, we go in immediately to neutralize the threat and minimize the loss of innocent life. Please fill me in so I make sure that I am not missing anything. Because, unlike all of you, I’d prefer not to disparage your words or your actions before I have the facts and before I’ve experienced a similar situation.
For all of the commentators and politicians to so easily refer to this man as a coward is sickening and should be condemned in the strongest terms. Maybe we should change the famous verse to, “Let him who has never been shot at criticize those making $40,000 a year who also choose not to be shot at.”
I ask all of these “courageous” commentators and politicians to place themselves in this officer’s shoes. Do you know how you would react when the rounds start flying near you? Have all of you been in a building while real shots are being fired at you? I have not, so please fill me in. Do you know how that incredible sound affects your brain and your body? Have you been trained in any way to understand the physiological effects on the human body during and after a shooting incident? Have you felt your heart pound out of your chest while someone is killing people around you, with a weapon that you can’t possibly match in fire power?
Of course, the answer to all of these questions is no. And to all of those officers who speak as if they wouldn’t hesitate in a similar situation, and so flippantly dismiss this man’s actions, you better have the applicable warrior credentials.
This man is going to have to live with the decision he made. A lot of people, mostly children, died a terrible death, and this deputy will probably be deemed responsible for some of the tragic results of that day.
I’d like to think that I would have radioed for assistance, unholstered my pistol, and charged in like the gladiator I think I am. I know how I responded in my previous calls, and I’m proud of my actions. I’ve seen other colleagues freeze up under extreme stress and not be able to perform. You don’t know until you are in that position, and the job isn’t for everyone. And once you find that out, and hopefully you do before a mass shooting at a school, you should resign. But there is no reset on my life or re-spawning like a video game.
I have family and friends to go home to. Cops are like you; they are just people. We make mistakes every day, but we also take more risks than most of you choose to on a daily basis, in defense of your safety. How dare the critics assume we are mindless robots, automatically willing to recklessly sacrifice our own lives because we "signed up for it”? Often, we still end up charging in like the post-Columbine training teaches us. Effective and ongoing training teaches your mind and body to react more and think less.
Just like all of these children and teachers had families, so did this man. Let him live with his decision without hearing about it from the unqualified and spineless peanut gallery. If you’ve got such a problem with his actions and know that you would do better, we are actively looking for recruits to risk their lives on behalf of others each day, all for a lower middle-class wage.
Tim Vogt, a former Border Patrol agent, is a full-time instructor at a law enforcement training academy. The views expressed here are his own and not those of any government agency.