General Question

gorillapaws's avatar

Is it reasonable to expect a police officer, armed with a handgun to take on a shooter armed with an assault rifle?

Asked by gorillapaws (22207points) February 22nd, 2018

“Scot Peterson was an armed resource officer at Stoneman Douglas the time of the shooting. Apparently he didn’t enter the building during the shooting. According to Sheriff Scott Israel, Scot Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”

Is that a reasonable expectation when the killer is armed with superior firepower? A shooter has so many advantages in this situation because he has a very powerful and accurate weapon. He knows where the threats are, and he doesn’t have to worry about accidentally shooting someone. The resource officer has no idea if there are 1 or more shooters, who that person is or where they are. If he does happen to get in a situation where its 1 v 1 and he has a clear line of sight to the target without risk of anyone else getting in the line of fire, he’s still at a huge firepower disadvantage. That said, he’s being paid to keep the peace.

What do you think? Also bear in mind that it’s one thing to say I would do x, and a very different thing to say someone else is obligated to do x. Should this guy be crucified as a coward? or is he being scapegoated by the right-wing to protect assault weapons? Do we need to arm our resource officers with even more powerful weapons? How about fully automatic weapons?

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38 Answers

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

The officer has better training than a 19 year old.

funkdaddy's avatar

I think you’ve summarized the different sides really well. The big difference I see is that I don’t think the “firepower” really enters into it here. To me, information would be a lot more important and I have no idea what he knew, those first few minutes were probably really limited. He probably had no idea what he’d be walking in to.

Personally, I leave it up to him whether he’s able to make the situation better or worse by running around the school with his gun drawn, but would mention this is exactly the situation he’s armed for. He doesn’t need a gun in a school to deal with students or to call for more police, so to me, he’s the best prepared to deal with an “active shooter”.

I think if you’re armed on a campus, you’ve already decided what you’re going to do in this situation, and if that’s the case here, I wish he would have opted for some other duty. That’s as far as I’d be willing to go in laying blame. Is it his fault? No. Did people die because of him? No. Was there an obligation to act in some way? Yes. Maybe he did what he thought was best.

A friend’s husband is a police officer. Their department just had their first officer killed a few weeks ago. The guy was 37, has a wife and two daughters. To my friend, that could have been her husband killed instead if it was just another day of the week, it’s hard to separate the two.

This deputy’s obligation is to act in the way he thinks will protect those kids the best he can. If he thought a confrontation was the best course of action and didn’t do it, then I think that’s a problem, but I don’t think anyone else can make that decision for you. I think there’s an obligation to make it for yourself in advance, but I’ve luckily never had to face anything on that scale.

Maybe some folks with more relevant experience than contemplating possibilities can share their thoughts as well.

Patty_Melt's avatar

A coach protected students with his own flesh. I’d say the deputy was far better equipped than him.
It is still my belief that veterans looking for work would be an ideal fit for school protection.
Those who have served in combat already know what it is like to face an armed enemy.
I am a vet, peacetime, and I know many vets who would not hesitate to do what is necessary to protect the kids.

By the way, did anyone notice one of the kids killed was holding the door open for others to get out. Makes me cry again now, thinking about it.
If I were able bodied now, I would gladly take the job, and if ever need be, take action without hesitation.

kritiper's avatar

Most definitely! The suspect with the rifle can be assumed to have little or no combat type training, and can be assumed to not be all that adept at confrontational threats, like the policeman/policewoman. The policeman/policewoman has been trained with a handgun and should be assumed to be proficient and deliberate. And pistols are excellent weapons for close quarters combat.

Patty_Melt's avatar

This shooter did have a higher kill ratio than others though. More than half of those hit, died.
Good points, @kritiper

kritiper's avatar

@Patty_Melt An additional point to ponder: FMJ combat type rounds are made to fully penetrate the body and inflict injury to others behind the initial shooting victim. I have to wonder how many deaths were secondary strikes.

zenvelo's avatar

Cruz was a commended top shooter in the school’s NRA shooting course. Given trained forces such as NYPD have about an 18% accuracy rate at target practice, I don’t think a “resource” officer is the one to go in after an active shooter. That is what SWAT teams are for.

What the hell is a “resource”officer? Is he a cop? Then call him a cop.

Zaku's avatar

It would depend on the specifics of the situation.

I haven’t looked at any accounts of the specifics, but from what you wrote, no, he shouldn’t be criticized. It’s an extremely difficult situation to be in, and criticizing what someone did or didn’t do, especially if it’s just being overly cautious when you’re the only officer on such a scene, seems very unfair and unwise.

MrGrimm888's avatar

Yes. That’s the job. The officer should have entered, unless ordered otherwise by a superior. I may have even entered against orders. Kids were dying.

That being said, it’s easy for others to pass judgement on this officer. Being there. Thinking about your life/family. Hearing the weapon discharging. Knowing that he may have to shoot/kill a child. Those thoughts, and more were surely going through his head.

I’m surprised that he didn’t have a shotgun, in his cruiser. That would have put the shooter at a disadvantage, in tight quarters…

gorillapaws's avatar

Did this school have tight halls (multiple posts mentioned “tight quarters)? My high school had long, straight halls that would certainly favor a rifle over a pistol.

Also, aren’t Police generally trained to take up a defensive position and wait for backup when they’re outgunned, possibly outnumbered with a high chance of kids in the line of fire, and no intel about the current situation other than the presence of an active shooter?

Patty_Melt's avatar

Firefighters enter buildings where there is fire, smoke, and possibly explosions. It is their job.
If someone’s job is to protect children, they had better stop a killer, or die trying. If you are not up to the task, why are we paying you?

gorillapaws's avatar

@Patty_Melt, Because you could potentially make the situation worse? Firefighters aren’t expected to go into situations that are very likely suicidal. They take calculated risks, and have the support of their team. I don’t think it’s a very reasonable analogy.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I would think that the first person to respond, would have an advantage. You could probably sneek up on the shooter. It’s not a good situation. But you have to turn the shooter’s attention, at least. Slow them down. Give others a chance to flee the scene. A LEO takes a calculated risk, every time they go to work.

The firefighter analogy seems good to me Patty…

Patty_Melt's avatar

Fine. It still comes down to doing what you are paid for, what is expected of you.
There is the saying, “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime. ”

Well, if you can’t handle the job, don’t expect to get paid, or appreciated.
I would have gone in.
Waiting for backup, that is television. You call for back up, but you don’t wait unless the situation is stable, and waiting won’t make the situation worse.
I have no tolerance for a man trusted with the safety of children leaving them stranded when they need him.
I have put myself at risk for the safety of others. I would again if any situation called for it.
Nobody with a heart that pumps chicken blood has any business taking a job where people need to depend on him for their safety.

MrGrimm888's avatar

In the US. You could be outgunned, on a routine traffic stop. ALL cops know this. You never know who you are approaching, or what they might do.

That’s what makes it a hard job.

gorillapaws's avatar

@Patty_Melt “Waiting for backup, that is television.”

And here I was thinking that the lone hero cop charging into a complex, chaotic situation with very little information can single-handedly save the day with his handgun seemed too much like a John McClane plot to be realistic: “Yippie-ki-yay-motherfucker!”

MrGrimm888's avatar

If he were off duty, like McClain, it would be different.

ragingloli's avatar

I would say that Paul Blart Mall Cop made the right decision.
Also illustrates how armed teachers would likely react to such situations.

gorillapaws's avatar

@ragingloli Either that or the police will have no idea who is a shooter and who is supposed to have a gun…

As Caleb Keeter a guitarist for the Josh Abbott Band who was one of the people being shot at in Las Vegas said:

“We actually have members of our crew with CHL licenses, and legal firearms on the bus. They were useless. We couldn’t touch them for fear police might think that we were part of the massacre and shoot us.”

ragingloli's avatar

He would also have had a hard time hitting someone perched high up, hiding behind a window.

chyna's avatar

I totally agree with those saying he could have been mistaken for the killer. No one knew what was happening and it was a big school with 3,000 students. We don’t know what his orders were. He may have been told not to enter without backup in the case of an active shooter. I don’t know enough about the situation to have an opinion on how he should have responded. I’m sure he will spend the rest of his life haunted by this.

Darth_Algar's avatar

@Patty_Melt _“It is still my belief that veterans looking for work would be an ideal fit for school protection.
Those who have served in combat already know what it is like to face an armed enemy. “_

Combat pretty much relies on a sharpened “shoot anything that moves” instinct. Not sure that’s the best experience to fall back on when dealing with a school building full of kids.

Soubresaut's avatar

I think, if we look at this a certain way, it can be a place where typical “liberal” and “conservative” viewpoints come together.

Let me explain:

I don’t have an issue with criticizing the officer’s conduct. If he could have gone in, if he should have gone in, fine.

Based on a report I went partway through, solo-entries into “still hot” situations are dangerous for the officer, but also an accepted (and recommended) course of action. And as others have pointed out, being a police officer does come with accepting a certain level of risk. So, okay.

The officer made a bad judgment in a critical situation. Whether this reveals that he’s not cut out to be a police officer, or whether this reveals his training was inadequate, or perhaps a combination of both, there’s an issue there.

Here’s the “come together” part:

“Liberals” are no strangers to critiquing police conduct, and for good reason. We have too many instances where a police officer shoots and kills an unarmed civilian. These officers are also making bad judgments in critical situations.

Take, for example, the footage of Philandro Castille’s death. It’s about as cut and dry as you can get of an officer overreacting to an objectively non-threatening situation, resulting in the death of a civilian. This same dynamic can also be seen in footage of other civilian deaths by police officers released in recent years. If you’re going to overreact to a situation, you have no business being a police officer. You work with civilians. Much of your job is to read situations quickly, with deadly accuracy, and then find ways to de-escalate them (roughly what was described to me by a relative who was on the police force for years)… not singlehandedly escalate them.

Escalating a situation is making a bad judgment. Whether that reveals that these officers aren’t cut out to be police officers, or whether this reveals their training was inadequate, or perhaps a combination of both, there’s an issue there.

My police officer relative would talk about the negative effects of politicians deciding they were going to suddenly increase a police force by large numbers—effectively, it lowered the standard of entry, because for the department(s) to hit the requisite numbers, they had to hire on people they would have otherwise rejected. And then the police department would have various issues with the execution of its duties.

I’m not saying that was the case in either of these situations (Parkland or Castille). But that story did carry with it the idea that not everyone is cut out to be a police officer, and that adequate training matters (rushed hiring often means less thorough training, too). These are two points that I think everyone can get behind. We need stellar individuals as our police force, and we need them to have stellar, versatile training.

And I think, if we look at these issues that would otherwise be considered partisan (Black Lives Matter, and Gun Rights), we can see there’s a piece in each where we’re in agreement. We want only the best on our police force, and we want them to have excellent, versatile training. We want people who can go into highly stressful situations, read those situations correctly, quickly, and respond appropriately.

(I would also like to point out, though, that a police officer responding to a shooting on campus isn’t a solution to mass shootings. If an officer’s responding to shots fired, there are good chances at least one person’s already dead, if not more, especially if the shooter has the kind of weaponry these most recent shooters have had. We can debate over how many lives Peterson may or may not have been able to save—but there still would have been deaths.)

Patty_Melt's avatar

@Darth_Algar, wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Military are not taught to shoot everything “that direction.”
They are taught that kids CAN be a threat, but by no means do they kill indiscriminately. Have you forgotten how the SEALS took Bin Ladin’s home?

By the way, did anyone see the interview with the Colorado science teacher who carries?

Darth_Algar's avatar


I did not say “taught”. And yes, active combat situations often rely on that instinct. Especially in situations where the enemy is entrenched among innocents and isn’t wearing a nice, neatly identifiable uniform. I mean, I’m just going by what I’ve been told by people I know who have been at war in places like Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Patty_Melt's avatar

No, you didn’t say taught, you said instinct, which is way off base. Training, training, training.
I went through a certain amount of combat training, even though back then women were exempted from combatant billets. I am a very good shot, by the way, well with an M-14, or 9mm handgun. My wrist isn’t strong enough for a six shooter, or large caliber semi handgun.
I have my doubts about your so called acquaintances with combat vets. It skews a great deal from my own personal experience, and acquaintances.
Anyway, you have gone far off track with that one.
Putting armed vets to guarding schools would in no way resemble sitting in a trench. They certainly would be clearly identifiable.
Their training and experience would be an asset.
Their presence would be a much greater deterant than some pea brain who decided to be a cop and got stuck with school duty.
It is a viable consideration, and I would submit you take issue with it only because you like to argue, so, if you want that, argue alone. I have presented my case, I am done.

ragingloli's avatar

Vets would be perfect for a “puppy-off-cliff-throwing” facility.
It is the definition of insanity to put someone, who killed people for a living, in charge of “protecting” children.

gorillapaws's avatar


You’re not going to deter suicidal shooters by threats of force… because logic.

Darth_Algar's avatar


If you’re going to hinge your argument upon the insinuation that I am lying, then yeah, there really is no point in further debate with you.

Patty_Melt's avatar

Shooters are not always suicidal. The Florida shooter certainly was not. He executed an escape plan.
Also, they can still deter on the basis that if the shooter feels they have little chance of taking anyone down with them…
Because logic, schools are soft targets. If they are better guarded, yes, it is a deterrent, in that the shooters, whether suicidal or not, strike out with the intent of taking other lives first.
Thanks for the spelling correction. My stupid phone corrects to the point of changing words to something else entirely.

MrGrimm888's avatar

I am torn on the armed guards in schools thing. I definitely don’t think teachers should be armed.

My thinking is that 1 person shooting in a school, is already too many. A shootout, with kids running everywhere, could end up with more casualties than just the shooter. Plus, there would be guns in the schools. If 5 teachers per school carry, that’s 5 guns that we’re hoping all teachers will be responsible with. Hoping that they never leave it somewhere, or improperly discharge the gun is asking for a lot. Would they even be capable/willing to shoot a child with a gun, if needed?

Would students try to get the gun from a teacher, by force? A gun that wouldn’t have been there otherwise.

Then the there’s the armed guard. Would they have to carry a rifle, or shotgun, in case a shooter has an AR again?
I just don’t care for militarization of our schools. But could they deter a shooting? Maybe…

I don’t agree with Trump saying that we could have armed teachers, and they could be paid more to carry. But at least we’re finally putting some real thought into this issue. It seems like something will probably change. Whether or not we like that change, we’ll see…

Patty_Melt's avatar

@MrGrimm888, I wish I could provide a clip for this Q.
I don’t recall the teacher’s name, or what network I saw it on, but they interviewed a teacher in Colorado who carries. The school sanctions it because their location is so remote, help could never arrive I time to be help.
He had a 9mm in his boot. He said the clip was loaded, but the school requires the chamber always be empty.
He took a training course to make him better prepared. I believe they also said that was required.
I agree that arming teachers is a scary way to go, but in this case, they seem to have little else to consider.

Darth, I never called you a liar. I do doubt your claims, but other things could be the reason for that. After all, we are talking second hand information.

Darth_Algar's avatar


No, You didn’t call me a liar, but your use of “so called acquaintances” very much implies it.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@gorillapaws . I’ve seen that before. Still a good link. Some may have seen the study on knife vs gun. Most gun carriers, can’t draw and aim, as fast as a knife wielder can close a short distance.

A poorly trained concealed weapons carrier could be more harm than good, in most mass shootings. But there are some, where that person could be an asset. It’s case by case. And most criticism is done after the incident.

I still think less guns in school, is good though.

This is what I always come back to, in regards to civilians carrying ”be aware of your target, and what’s beyond it.

Proper angles must be taken, to reduce accidental casualties, when firing a weapon in a soft target area. I would sadly opine, that most carriers aren’t trained well, in this area.

Then there’s execution, under severe pressure. That cannot be tested. We only know how a person will do under extreme duress, when in the heat of the moment…

SimpatichnayaZhopa's avatar

The officer’s duty is to stop crimes. A well-trained adult officer should be able to overcome an adolescent who has much to learn about guns and everything else. He should not be a coward. He is shirking his duty. If he is too cowardly to face shooters, he needs to find other employment.

SimpatichnayaZhopa's avatar

Policemen should have some backup weapons in their cars, at least shotguns. In any case, true assault rifles are strictly regulated, so a policeman is not likely to confront one. Few people know what an assault rifle actually is. The AR-15 is not a genuine assault rifle, but the military M-16 is, an it is the civilian version of it.

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