News and Commentary

Members Of The Miramar SWAT Team Rushed In To Help Parkland Students. Now They’re Suspended.

Two Miramar Police Department SWAT team members were suspended Thursday for trying to help the Broward County Sheriff’s department end the mass shooting that took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but failing to tell their supervisors what was happening.

The two officers, Det. Jeffery Gilbert and Det. Carl Schlosser, are temporarily suspended from duty, the Miami Herald reports, but remain on active duty while the Miramar PD investigates the incident.

According to reports, Gilbert and Schlosser became aware of the Parkland incident while it was happening, abandoned a training exercise, and rushed to the scene, hoping to help neutralize the shooter. But Broward County says they didn’t ask for — and didn’t want — the SWAT officers’ help; they had their own SWAT team on the way, and other departments were sending their own backup.

“Effective immediately you have been suspended from the SWAT Team until further notice,” wrote the SWAT team’s captain in a February 22 letter, which the Herald obtained in a FOIA request, according to a story posted on their site late Wednesday. “Please make arrangements with the training department to turn in your SWAT-issued rifle.”

The failure is, however, technical, and stems from an urge to help that overcame instructions given during police training, a law enforcement consultant told the paper. With multiple agencies on the scene, municipal police officers weren’t allowed to override commands given by Broward Sheriffs, and neither officer should have taken it upon himself to enter the school without notifying his own commander.

Miami- and Broward-area law enforcement agencies also have a specific policy limiting the number of agencies allowed to be on scene in an emergency so that agencies in charge can handle incidents more efficiently.

The situation is made heartbreaking, though, by the fact that Broward Sheriffs were not willing to rush in the way the Miramar SWAT officers were. Reports indicate that while at least five Broward Sheriffs officers were on the scene, none entered Stoneman Douglas during the shooting. A police captain on the scene ordered her officers to remain in a perimeter around the school rather than engage or offer emergency assistance, apparently in violation of Broward’s own policies.

A third Miramar officer was also suspended for criticizing his own department which failed to follow up on claims made by the shooter’s caretakers that he was unstable and in possession of guns, and had threatened to commit a school shooting.