Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Four Deputies of Broward County

--- Speculation included within---

Medusa is a character from Greek mythology.  Looking at Medusa's face turned the viewer into stone.

I have no special knowledge of the four deputies from Broward County who failed to do their tasks. 

Other who are far more knowledgeable than I am chalked it up to personal failing:  Cowardice.

I want to throw an alternative hypothesis on the table before everybody's attention wanders off to "the next thing":  The decisions made by those four deputies were not wholly formed by defects in their personal character.

The evidence
The evidence is pretty skinny.

How many police are cowards?  My guess is that somewhere between 10% and 30% are extremely adverse toward "mixing it up."  Your estimates might be different.

If you choose the high end, then the odds of the first four officers on the scene being "cowards" is 0.30^4 or about one chance in a hundred.  If the actual base rate is 10% then the odds of are about one chance in ten-thousand.  That is, it would only happen ONCE in ten-thousand school shootings.  Pretty close to impossible, wouldn't you agree?

You might contend that the cowardice was contagious.  But the general effect of having a buddy is to make both people significantly braver. 

My gut feel is that some other dynamics are in play. 

Medusa was a control freak
I have seen several solid managers "lock up" when one of the bosses in the chain-of-command was a control freak.

Control freaks "break" initiative with classical conditioning.  They hand out draconian punishment for chicken-shit infractions.  That has the happy consequence of no-waves when the organization is coasting.

It has the unhappy consequence of completely destroying individuals' ability to operate faster than command-and-control can push instructions.  In other words, it guarantees failures during fast moving crises.

Any After-Action-Report should be on the lookout for control freaks within the department's chain of command.


"I am not going to be on the six o'clock news!!!"

You have to wonder if the withering spotlight that has been on law enforcement might have influenced the messages the rank-and-file received from their leaders.

As leaders, it is too easy to scrape the blame off on the individual officers, to call them "cowards".

As leaders, it is our responsibility to shape the culture so even "cowards" can turn in a credible job performance regardless of how it might play out on the evening news or get batted about on the blog-o-sphere.

There will be another school shooting
There will be another school shooting sometime in the future.

Failures are opportunities to learn.  It would be criminal if the Broward County Sheriff Department did not take a LONG, HARD look at itself and root out any mixed messages it has been sending about acting decisively during crises.

It would be criminal if the Department did not share those lessons-learned across the broader Law Enforcement community.

That would be brave:  To openly admit past failings with the goal of making everybody stronger.

Maybe the next shooting will end more quickly.


  1. I will simply point to this-

    1. Thanks for sharing Lawdog's post. It is very well written.

      In my mind, holding the four deputies AND the Sheriff's Department accountable is not mutually exclusive.

      Failure to hold the Department accountable guarantees that we will miss a large "leverage" and we will repeat the past.

  2. I think it was department policy to wait until reinforcements showed up. Compare the sheriff's deputies' actions to the Coral Springs Police Department officers' actions. One group stood and watched while the other immediately engaged.

  3. The military found that 10% of troops are shooters. The rest are more or less passive. Unlike cops, a soldiers duty is to complete the mission, not get home alive. So what percentage of cops are willing to risk their lives to protect strangers? Zero to none is my guess.
    Cops defending their own lives are not heroes, just forced to defend themselves. Most cops never fire a round in anger in their careers.
    Cops intimidating unarmed citizens are not heroes, just low life cops acting out their inner selves.
    Cops hiding behind cars while kids are being killed are cowards, policy be damned.
    Cops running away like in Columbine and now Florida is the norm.
    Never depend on a cop doing anything other than giving you a hassle.

    1. I've never heard that only 10% of troops are shooters. Did this apply back in the Vietnam days as well? I wonder if this is common for all countries/fighting forces.

  4. We all like to think that we would go rushing towards the gunfire but unless you have been in that situation, you don't know what you would do. I've never been in that situation and I'd hope that I would try to help but until it happens I won't know fur sure.
    I do know that those cops signed up, knowing that these situations will arise. There is an obligation to do your part at that point. If you don't want to fulfill it, get out or get reassigned to a desk.
    Just shows that you can't depend on the gov to protect and save your a**. Be prepared to do it on your own and maybe you will have some help when it comes time to clean it up.


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