When word that a gunman had opened fire inside of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School spread, two SWAT officers were compelled to help. They, separately, were already near the vicinity of the mass shooting but did not obtain permission before heading to the school to offer assistance, leading them to be suspended for their actions.
According to a report by the Sun Sentinel, Detectives Jeffrey Gilbert and Carl Schlosser were near the scene. One of the detectives had informed their supervisor that they were in Coral Springs, while the other SWAT officer’s precise whereabouts prior to responding to the school was not clear, said Tania Rues, a police spokeswoman.
“They were both close by,” said Rues.
While they were not under orders to go to the high school, they decided to head that direction anyway. According to their police department, this created an officer safety issue as well as left them unaccountable for the officers’ actions.
Gilbert and Schlosser were subsequently suspended and indefinitely removed from a “privileged program,” requiring them to surrender their SWAT-issued rifles, though leaving them on active duty.
The officers’ police union viewed the matter surrounding the detectives’ suspensions differently. On Wednesday, Jeff Marano, the president of Broward County PBA, stated, “While it may have been in violation of policy to not notify their supervisors that they were going there, their intentions were brave and heroic, I think.”
Police response plans have largely been updated in recent years to avoid having officers swarm scenes simply because they are in the vicinity, an issue that occurred after the shootings at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater and Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
When law enforcement arrives en masse, roads can become jammed, preventing ambulances from easily entering or exiting the area, and radio communications systems can become overwhelmed, amplifying the sense of confusion.
Miramar police had notified the SWAT team to be on standby as the mass shooting unfolded, though they were never called in to assist the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
The Miramar police department did send a victim’s advocate to the scene to assist in consoling families as well as officers to aid in directing traffic.