SWAT Response to Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Message from Chief Dexter Williams:
On February 14, 2018, this country experienced another senseless shooting this time within our school system. The most precious individuals in our lives were exposed to the worst of humanity. Although we try our best to protect the defenseless, they have become easy prey for individuals who want to inflict harm and instill fear in the hearts and minds of us all. The students, faculty, and families of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School lived and continue to live with this atrocity. As we all know, it will take time, love and support to heal their hearts and minds, while also trying to rebuild their lives. I can relate to such tragedy over my two decades in law enforcement and know that our police team will do anything to save lives, assist the injured, protect the vulnerable, and without thought will risk their very own lives for the good of humanity. This is what we ascribed to when we took the oath to “Protect and Defend.” That has become our way of life.
The Miramar Police Department has more than 300 professionals and volunteers dedicated to providing service to our community. Every employee is responsible for embodying professionalism to the public, our city officials, and our organization, but more importantly, the responsibility to each other as a team. Recently, the media published a story regarding the admonishment of two of the 23 members of our SWAT team. It was discovered, through a post assessment of the event, that those two employees took it upon themselves to respond without notification to the SWAT commander, team leaders, supervisors, or any other employee, which created an extreme hazard by way of accountability, responsibility, and liability. When this information was discovered, the two members who worked independently of their team were admonished. The two members were advised they cannot participate in “SWAT operations only” until clearance has been given by the SWAT commander for failing to advise the team supervisors or executive command of their whereabouts.
It is imperative for me as the Chief to have accountability of all my employees, particularly during critical incident events. The SWAT team along with the Chaplaincy Core, victim advocates and patrol operations were all prepared and awaiting a request from the Incident Command center controlling the Parkland event, for additional necessary resources. It is my responsibility to have my officers ready to respond in totality and I am accountable for the welfare of all. As the Chief, I am proud that these officers showed the heart, courage, and care to help in any way they could at this event. I expect that level of commitment of all my officers, but they must advise their leaders of their actions. Miramar employees who stand on the shield of righteousness must maintain the integrity of that shield, and must abide by the rules & regulations governing us when we pledge the oath to serve our community and each other. - Chief Dexter M. Williams
Two SWAT team members (team consists of 23 members) received temporary suspensions from the SWAT team for NOT advising of their self-response to incidents outside of our jurisdiction, creating a lack of accountability. Let us be clear, the issue was not that they responded, but that they DID NOT advise. These officers responded to the February 14, 2018 shooting in Parkland, AFTER the shooting was over. They did NOT advise prior to self-dispatching, during the incident, nor immediately following. They did not advise dispatch, their SWAT leaders or even check-in with the Incident Command in Parkland. This type of response creates numerous safety issues since no one knew the location or activity of these two officers. Their temporary suspensions do not impact the SWAT team members’ active duty status, only their participation in a privileged program.
Based on the need of the situation, and communication with the Incident Command, Miramar PD dispatched several uniformed officers and our victim advocate to assist. The Incident Command did not make a request for Miramar’s SWAT team based on their need at the time.
The lessons learned from the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting – where the overwhelming response from law enforcement hindered fire-rescue personnel and vehicles from assisting victims in need of medical treatment; and in the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting – where a final review also noted issues with the overwhelming response, Incident Command Systems training clearly demonstrates that a controlled, organized response is what is most effective.
The safety of our children is the upmost priority. However, we cannot have officers respond to an incident almost 30 miles outside of our jurisdiction, when they were not needed, and not let anyone know they are there.