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The Parkland shooting and The Red Badge of Courage

The Parkland shooting and The Red Badge of Courage

Some run towards danger and some run away

The news that Scot Peterson, the school resource officer assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, stood by and never entered the building while the murders were being committed, has been added to a host of earlier opportunities to deter Cruz that many agencies missed or ignored.

We don’t know why Peterson failed to confront the shooter or even enter the fray. And now, later reports indicate that Peterson may not have been alone in standing back and waiting in safety while students and teachers were being shot inside the school:

CNN reported that when the nearby Coral Springs police department officers arrived on the scene, three sheriff’s deputies from the school county were standing behind their vehicles with their pistols drawn, but had not yet gone into the school.

If confirmed, that raises the number of Broward County police officers on the scene who did not enter the active shooting situation to four…

The Coral Springs police department said it does not have an official comment on the report at this time, calling it “still an open and active investigation.”

So it’s not clear whether the report about the other police officers is correct, or what might have been the cause of any delay. If there was a reluctance to confront the active shooter, was it a systemic problem with the Broward County police, or an individual failure of courage?

With time, let’s hope that more information and clarity will emerge. But in general, people can believe they will respond in a certain way to danger and yet not know for sure what they will do until they’ve actually experienced a live situation in which they either run away, freeze, or go towards danger to neutralize it. Careful training can increase the number of people who will be able to confront the danger or the dangerous person. But it guarantees nothing.

What’s more, untrained people often surprise themselves. Time and again civilians (non-police, non-military) who have acted heroically in an impromptu situation can be heard to say, when they are interviewed afterwards, that they acted without thinking in a way that they believe “anyone” would have done.

Maybe that’s their secret, thinking that anyone would have done what they did. But it’s not the case that all people act this way; not by a longshot.

People in fields such as the military and police tend to be self-selected for the characteristic of running towards danger, and then they are trained to react in a particular way to protect both themselves and others. They are trained to kill when faced with certain situations. That is surprisingly hard, or maybe not so surprising. Some general reluctance has to be overcome, for most people. The military has spent a great deal of time studying this, because it’s important to them.

Over ten years ago I wrote this post on the subject. I’m assuming more has been learned since then, but the gist of it is that the military discovered that a great many men in WWII did not fire their weapons, and so the military developed techniques to enhance soldiers’ reflexes and reduce their stress, making them more effective at killing and also at deciding in a split-second when it is necessary to do so.

This topic conjures up thoughts of Stephen Crane’s Civil War classic The Red Badge of Courage. I’ve never read the book itself, but I had the Classic Comic as a child, and read it when I was about seven or eight years old.

Even when I was at that extremely early age it made a deep impression on me. I had no way to understand its complexities, but I got the gist of it. It was about a young soldier’s moment (or really, moments, plural) of truth in battle, when he discovers what he is made of and has to live with the consequences. I recognized the questions it raised as timeless ones, even at that young age. I was drawn to it because even as a child I’d had my own very small moments of truth in regard to courage, and I didn’t think I measured up to my idea of the person I wanted to be.

A more recent creative work that deals with the same general topic is “The 15:17 to Paris“, the movie Clint Eastwood recently made about the heroes who stopped the armed terrorist on the French train. The film deals with the same issues of courage and reaction to danger, approached from another angle: what was it in the background of these three particular young men that made them run towards danger rather than away? Here’s a trailer:

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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“Apparently you people don’t quite understand how thing are supposa work. As government employees we do as little as possible, put in our years, then get a generous pension. All this at your expense. Life on the line sorta of stuff? Are you kiddin’?”

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to pfg. | February 24, 2018 at 1:07 pm

    Tru Dat!!!!!!

    YellowSnakeInChief in reply to pfg. | February 24, 2018 at 4:48 pm

    Isn’t it ironic that the public employees that do their jobs diligently are often the ones you hate even more. I won’t bother to name the agencies because you would name your favorite gripes – justified or not. But you know whom I am referring to and they aren’t sitting on their duffs.

    Do they do it because they are commies? Nope. They do it because they do believe in the public service and yes, they do want to earn a living.

    I have a first cousin who manages a team in NIST. Thy develop measurement tools including some used for Climate Science Research. He is way past retirement age (77) and wealthy. He figures he makes less than minimum wage after accounting for his pension and SS. But he loves what he does and thinks he is providing a beneficial service.

    You, on the other hand, are just a cynical Vana, give me a vowel.

There is a video of the Broward sheriff, Scott Israel, right after the Vegas shooting, saying that in case of a mass shooting there is nothing you can do.
That makes me think that the 4 deputies may have been simply following protocol/policy established by the sheriff. That of course would not change the fact that they acted like cowards.
One way or the other, if the sheriff does not resign he should be fired.

    Bucky Barkingham in reply to Exiliado. | February 24, 2018 at 11:52 am

    I agree that the Sheriff should go but as an elected official I don’t know if he can be fired unless there is provable unlawful actions by him.

      Aiding a murderer killing 17 children should be a “provable unlawful action”.

      Most elected officials are subject to impeachment and removal from office and/or recall by the voters. Votes of “no confidence” by county officials and/or deputies can also often result in resignation. If it turns out the deputies were doing what the sheriff had established as SOP, they are a likely source of discontent because that SOP made them look bad.

Humphrey's Executor | February 24, 2018 at 9:57 am

In basic training we were taught that, if caught in an ambush, you immediately charge the attacker. Since you can’t hide and you’re probably doomed if you try to run, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking the offensive.

    I guess that training is outdated in modern culture. Private citizens are advised to shelter in place while police set up defensive positions.

    Charge a gun, avoid a blade

    It’s called an “immediate action drill.” It doesn’t apply to police because 1.) they have too much time to think about what their actions will be while responding/traveling to an incident; and 2.) because they can remain safe by staying outside of a danger area. An immediate action drill is used in situations in which if time is taken to think it could get you killed, and in which there is no option – you must take action or die.

“No matter if the enemy has thousands of men, there is fulfillment in simply standing them off and being determined to cut them all down, starting from one end.”
― Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Civilians are government employees not in the military. Cops ARE civilians. Also the first responders on any scene are the people actually there. Cops are usually 2nd or 3rd responders who write reports and string tape.

    DaveGinOly in reply to ChrisMallory. | February 24, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    Police are actually officers commissioned by the state, analogous to the way military officers are commissioned by Congress. That’s why in a cop shop, the workers are divided between “civilian” and “commissioned.” So there is every bit of difference between the two in the police forces as there is a difference between civilians and military – that is, nothing. They’re all civilians in uniform who operate with special authority imbued in them by the state.

    “Police, firefighters, and EMTs are not ‘first responders.’ First responders are those at the scene of an incident when it occurs. They are responsible for their own safety and the safety of those in their charge. Everyone else arrives late.”

Condoleezza Rice cannot see the need for civilians to have “weapons of war” . I guess that she would question why we need anyone in law enforcement to display courage and commitment under fire. One is more than just asked these days to relinquish essentially security (both of self and communiy) to “professionals” who Constitutionally can choose to fight crime or visit Krispy Kreme when danger arises. As noted above about Sheriff’s video….I guess “nothing can be done” really applied to law enforcement under his leadership.

    Bucky Barkingham in reply to alaskabob. | February 24, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Wouldn’t “weapons of war” also cover bolt action rifles? I mean the Mauser ’98 was a German combat arm and it is the basis for most modern bolt rifles. I am disappointed but not surprised that Condolezza would say such a thing since she was in RINO Bush’s cabinet.

    dunce1239 in reply to alaskabob. | February 24, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Rices total experience in government was done surrounded by armed men and women. She never handled a weapon herself. She might well be surprised at the necessity for weapons of war as though she was actually familiar with them.

Hey PFG, my son is a Gov’t employee. He will be deploying to Afghanistan latter this year. Leaving his wife and newborn child behind. And you?

1. Well the war on toxic masculinity seems to be working.
2. After the Obama political war on police, it is a little difficult for me to criticize police for increasingly wanting to sit it out.
3. Happily the war on square root symbols, pop tarts, sticks and other horrifying weapons of war is going well.

When I was in 8th grade I was required, in English class, to read Stephen Crane’s “The Red Badge of Courage.” Seeing neo-neocon’s title today brought back the memories of that book. I wonder how many young people even know what the phrase means, let alone have read the book?

Neocon-A quick suggestion:
If you haven’t had time to read “The Red Badge of Courage”, rent the movie version with MoH winner Audie Murphy and directed by John Huston (

I believe when all is told without the histrionics, without the politically-driven toxic rhetoric, that the Sheriff’s office trained under that protocol….which is sadly what I would expect from a leftist bastion which, apparently, Broward County is.

And these leftists wonder why their non-sequiturs and overly-dramatic lunacy is not working….. Just like the Broward County sheriff and deputies, they don’t confront danger or evil; they sit on the sidelines and let others do the hard work, then bloviate and use ad-hominem while taking all the credit after for anything good that happened.

What is with the generalizations, people?

In this situation, 4 deputies did not enter the building to locate and confront the shooter. However, several Coral Springs PD officers and several other deputies DID enter the building and attempt to locate and engage the shooter. Every single day, thousands of LEOs enter unknown, potentially dangerous situations; sweeping burglarized buildings, entering hostage situations, robberies in progress, domestic disturbances, even traffic stops. But, to hear you folks tell it, ALL LEOs sit around in coffee shops doing nothing.

In high stress situations, people will usually do what they have been trained to do and what they feel they are expected to do by either their superiors or their peers. In the case of these four deputies, either the training was lacking or their perception of the expectations of their department and their peers was such that they did not actively attempt to locate and engage the shooter. Cowardice may or may not have been involved. But, the behavior displayed by the four deputies should have been totally unacceptable. But, not every LEO behaved that way on that scene.

Be careful about generalizing things. All cops are not cowards or incompetent. All 2nd Amendment supporters are not right-wing militia nuts.

    alaskabob in reply to Mac45. | February 24, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    Agreed. Considering the way the sheriff is handling this to choreograph actions politically, his leadership is in question.

    Countless times police go into harm’s way because they firmly believe it is the right thing to do. It is when things go haywire that the questions arise. Human reactions.. mistakes …yes and most forgivable if lessons learned. But Florida was not a new learning experience for professionals as Columbine was or 9/11.

    RedEchos in reply to Mac45. | February 24, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Read my comment above. Agree 100% with you. It’s twits like the BCSO that malign the rest of the LEO’s out there. Much like the FBI today.

    One thing people have posted lately is how being a police officer isn’t the most dangerous job there is. Statistically, that’s true.

    LEO’s not on this list:

    And 14 on this list:

    Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics.

    Of all the jobs listed, LEO is the ONLY job where the majority of deaths were not an accident but actual murder.

    It’s sleight of hand, apples to bananas comparisons like that that make me despise some people.

    DaveGinOly in reply to Mac45. | February 24, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    What is curious about this situation is that all of the Broward county officers failed to enter the building (initially), while all of the Coral Springs officers failed to hesitate to enter the building.

    This seems to reflect a training problem, or, if not a training problem, at least a failure to cultivate the proper mindset (or to hire people who already have the proper mindset) among Broward’s officers. (Maybe Broward County rejects candidates for deputy positions if it considers them to have a mindset that’s “too aggressive.”)

    bw222 in reply to Mac45. | February 24, 2018 at 4:32 pm

    Much of it hs to do with the culture of the organization. From what I have read, Scott Israel created a highly po;iticized department.

    AmandaFitz in reply to Mac45. | February 24, 2018 at 7:12 pm

    One Coral Springs LEO was on hand at Douglas, volunteering to water the football field, since his wife is Assistant A.D. and his son’s on the football team. In his shorts and t-shirt he ran around to the front of the school, got a vest and pistol from another Coral Springs officer and entered the school with them, not knowing where his wife and son were. Thankfully, neither was hurt. He showed courage, he ran TOWARDS the danger, while the Broward County deputies waited behind their police cars!

    “What is with the generalizations, people?”

    A standard gun-grabber trope is that we should rely on the police to protect us. This example illustrates even MORE clearly why that’s nonsense.

notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital | February 24, 2018 at 1:16 pm

Cue the Uni-Party (Dems and Ever-Rumpers) re-newed screeches for more illegal aliens let in.

“Human rights activist admits: ….. refugees have no intention of adopting our values”


There needs to be accountability. If 4 Cops hid behind their cars, while another Police department went right in to confront the shooter, shows poor training. The Sheriff has to resign. If he was a Republican and an NRA supporter the media would be screaming for his head.

    DINORightMarie in reply to Jackie. | February 24, 2018 at 1:41 pm

    But what if that WAS their training? We don’t know yet.

    Point is – it is the left’s idea to “run, hide, fight” – and that could even include LEOs in leftist bastions, like it or not.

    Time and good information gathering/sharing (like what Legal Insurrection has) will reveal the truth.

    They may have been cowards, or may have been following poor procedure, policy to-the-letter that is flat-out WRONG…. Call them OUT, but don’t impugn their character – unless you were a witness, like the young man Huff was….

Seems like the Broward County LEOs and Coral Springs LEOs received different training and/or operated under different standard operating procedures for responding to active shooting situations. A thorough investigation is needed.

Is it unreasonable to expect that a policeman who carries a gun should be trained in how and when to use it, and have clear policies?

YellowSnakeInChief | February 24, 2018 at 4:29 pm

What are you guys so excited about? The only thing this proves is that the bad guy with a gun has the advantage because his AR-15 style weapon worked and worked and worked.

Fine. If you think this proves that the only practical solution is for every ‘good guy’ to go around armed all the time; if you think this justifies hardening every school, and training and arming every teacher, go ahead. There is nothing to stop you. When that fails, you will still find a reason to duck any blame.

Who is going to pay for it? Did Trump put or Ryan put any money in their budgets? This is a national problem – isn’t it?

You are suicidal. You are nihilistic. You are celebrating the dissolution of this country. You are using the death of 17 for political ends.

BTW, there are 3 banks in my town. Not a one has an armed guard or even a bullet proof partition. NYS has had a law called the ‘Sullivan Law’ since before I was born. I makes it extremely difficult to get a carry permit. So much for Trump’s claim about banks.

I have no idea of the security precautions at the local High School. But I pass by it every once in awhile when the kids are being dismissed. You wouldn’t need to get inside. You could mow them down in bunches as they come out.

You are not going to fix this with your guns or your ideology. Make America Great? Not with your ideas or Trump’s leadership.

Blame Obama, the local sheriff, the FBI(?), the Pope, liberals, the culture, your stars.

    You should probably go away. You have literally no chance of changing anyone’s mind as you deliberately misconstrue every argument, misrepresent every position, on everyone here. You KNOW why we are upset, yet you pretend we shouldn’t be. In no other profession would you except dereliction of duty but here you do.

    It is not accidental. You lie on purpose.

    I will not respond to you anymore. I suggest others also stop responding.

      YellowSnakeInChief in reply to RedEchos. | February 24, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      I deliberately misconstrue and deliberately misrepresent? You know my motives?

      Do you think I am lying when I tell you that no bank in my town has a guard.

      You are upset? Fooken A!!! Your leader is the troll. Whatever you think of Obama, he never told an audience to beat up a protestor!

      I don’t pretend you shouldn’t be upset. you are upset by facts and logical arguments because you believe rather than think.

      I do not accept dereliction of duty. I ridicule the idea that if you are in a hole, you should dig deeper. I am appalled at the smug use of 17 dead to push an agenda.

      You guys are the Olympic class second-guessers. This school had an armed guard – that is what was claimed would have averted Sandy Hook. It turns out not to be a great solution even if the cop wasn’t a coward. He might have been in the wrong place or the gunman might have shot him first. The cop certainly wasn’t the deterrent it was claimed he/she would be. Cruz knew he was there and came a shootin’ anyway. So now it is dig a deeper hole – arm all the teachers!

      I lie on purpose? You know that? How? That I am not lying is what disturbs you.

      You will not respond anymore? Good. Then the truth will stand. You don’t offer anything but ad hominem attacks, anyway.

      You sicken me. Your mind is made up so don’t want to get confused with facts or logic. You know things, but you can’t defend what you think you know.

      Be skeptical of arguments based on FAITH, REVELATION & AUTHORITY.

Please, y’all. Don’t club me like a baby seal, but seriously. Is a 25 year “school resource officer” really a cop?

Our county sheriff (Wake County, NC) says the protocol and training for active shooter situations was changed here about five years ago. It used to be that officers were told to wait for reinforcements and a plan before going in, i.e. a swat team. Now, they are trained to move towards the shooter, even if only one officer is on the scene.

After the horrifying Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, one would think Broward County, FL, would have seen the light and prepared better. They could have saved lives.

    In this case the shooter was, as usual, a coward. Had the deputy even gotten to a corner and yelled at the coward he very well may have stopped the shooting right then.
    Don’t forget, the coward dropped his rifle and ran out using the other kids as cover to escape.
    I’m hoping the coward gets intimate with Sparky.