One of the most heartbreakingly frustrating details to be reported about the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was how the Broward County Sheriff deputy Scot Peterson, the school resource officer assigned to that campus, remained outside the building during the entire shooting and never attempted to intervene. After the shooting, Peterson was suspended without pay by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and then resigned.
To add insult to injury — or, in this case, to add insult to seventeen murders — Peterson started collecting a monthly pension of $8,702.35 last month, according to the Sun Sentinel, which works out to a six-figure annual income.
The Sun Sentinel further reported that Peterson will be entitled to these payments for life. The pension was calculated based on the thirty-two years he spent with the Broward Sheriff’s Office and is based on an average of his five highest-paid years. On top of the pension payments, he is also entitled to continue to receive health insurance benefits from the BSO.
Public records show that Peterson earned $75,673.72 in base salary plus overtime and other compensation last year, for a total of $101,879.03.
Understandably, this has caused outrage, especially among some of the Parkland parents. Andrew Pollack and Fred Guttenberg, whose daughters Meadow Pollack and Jamie Guttenberg were among those killed, both tweeted their objections to Peterson receiving this generous of a pension.
The coward of broward, Scot Peterson is getting over $8k a month pension! He hid while my daughter and 16 others were slaughtered! How in the hell is he getting this?
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) May 16, 2018
This infuriates me in ways people cannot comprehend. My daughter would still be alive if this person did his job.https://t.co/MVYtMKjtGh
— Fred Guttenberg (@fred_guttenberg) May 16, 2018
State Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D), a Stoneman Douglas alumnus who represents the district in the Florida Legislature, also called on Gov. Rick Scott (R) to block Peterson’s pension.
I again call on @FLGovScott to block Peterson from getting his pension until the commission has completed its mission. Pensions are for people that do their job. The tax payers shouldn’t fund failure. @richardcorcoran @joenegronfl @MaryEllenKlas @MarcACaputo @fineout
— Jared Moskowitz (@JaredEMoskowitz) May 16, 2018
The trouble is that Florida law says that Peterson cannot be denied the pension unless he is convicted of a crime or some official wrongdoing. The Florida Department of Management Services confirmed this to reporters, and Scott’s office issued a statement as well:
Because no charges have been filed, the state is required to provide his pension under Florida law but our agency will be closely monitoring the FDLE investigation for any updates. If FDLE has found that anyone has broken any laws, they will be held fully accountable.
Peterson had been eligible to retire since July 2010, according to multiple media reports. Was the knowledge he could retire any time with a guaranteed six-figure paycheck for life in his mind as he waited outside the freshman building that fateful day, armed and protected and cowering in a staircase while shot after shot rang out, ending the lives of unarmed and unprotected students and teachers?
We can’t read minds and will probably never know for sure the answer to this question, but this story illustrates in the most horrifying and brutally tragic way why so many people are skeptical of government. Here is a government employee who we know for a fact failed to act to protect innocent lives — there’s no question what he did during the shooting; video surveillance confirms it — and there is no legal way to revoke or even reduce his six-figure pension until he is convicted of a crime?
There’s been a lot of dishonesty and propaganda from certain gun control advocates in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, including the outrageous suggestion that Republican lawmakers who support Second Amendment rights have “put a price” on the lives of schoolchildren. No decent person would ever wish for any innocent person to die because of gun violence, and it’s an abhorrent smear, but with Scot Peterson, we have someone whose actual job it was to take action to protect students from the criminal who was shooting at them, and who failed to even try.
So let’s do the math. Seventeen students and teachers killed that horrible day. Taxpayers are currently on the hook to send $8,702.35 to Peterson every month for the rest of his life.
That breaks down to $511.90 per innocent life lost. That’s what a Broward County deputy would rather have, a little more than five hundred dollars, than protect the life of your child.
Broward County voters need to do some deep soul-searching before they head to the polls this year, and in the next elections to come.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.