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Insights Insights
| 1 minute read

Lawsuit Against Parkland LEO Can Proceed

Fallout continues from the tragic incident at Parkland High School in Florida.  A judge recently ruled that a lawsuit by parents against a sheriff’s deputy who failed to intervene can continue to a jury trial. While officers generally do not have a legal obligation to intervene in crimes, there are circumstances when they may have an additional responsibility to act affirmatively.

The judge determined that there is a "genuine dispute" regarding whether the officer in question had a "special relationship with students, teachers, and administration" that went beyond what is typically expected of law enforcement officers. The judge also held, “A reasonable trier of fact could find that the deputy’s failure to confront the shooter, and failure to take any action to fulfill his alleged duty of protecting the students and teachers, while choosing to remain outside in a protected location to ensure his own safety constituted a conscious and indifference to consequences to those inside.”

The officer was acquitted last year of criminal charges, but the civil suit has a much lower burden of proof. Like many cases in this area, this litigation must fit highly emotional facts into an existing legal framework. The tragedy at Parkland has prompted numerous investigations and analyses of what the adults in charge could have done differently. This lawsuit, however it plays out, may be the final review of those actions.

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But Phillips, in her ruling, said the extent of this officer’s duty is also something for the jury to decide, saying there is a “genuine dispute” over whether Peterson had a “special relationship with students, teachers and administration” that went beyond what law enforcement officers typically have with the public.


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