Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told a group of suburban Boynton Beach residents Wednesday the steps his agency has taken to prepare for an active shooter and compared that to what was “missing” in the Parkland high school massacre.
He also spoke about the importance of mental health care and the agency’s interaction with Zachary Cruz, the brother of confessed school-shooter Nikolas Cruz.
But before Bradshaw went into detail, he made this very clear: “I am not critiquing what happened in Broward.”
He said no matter the policies, the procedures, the training, “Unless you have the proper command structure in place, it will not work.”
Bradshaw said he does.
“Can I guarantee we’ll never have an active shooter? No,” he said. “But we’re trying like heck to stop it ahead of time.”
Bradshaw, who is running for reelection in 2020, spoke at the Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations meeting Wednesday held at Bellaggio on Hypoulxo Road. COBWRA invited Bradshaw and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Chief Michael Mackey to speak for First Responder Appreciation Day. Bradshaw chose to speak mainly on active shooters.
“In Broward, it was a school. It can happen anywhere: A government building; Walmart; On an airplane; A bus; A cruise ship. It doesn’t matter where it’s at. It can happen,” he said.
Bradshaw spoke about his tactical street commanders, who are tasked with organizing the response to critical incidents.
“You can not leave it to the deputy on scene,” Bradshaw said. “We saw that.”
When Nikolas Cruz shot and killed 17 students and adults at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Valentine’s Day, a school resource deputy was at the scene but did not go inside, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said. Israel denounced deputy Scot Peterson’s actions and suspended him without pay a few days after the shooting. Peterson chose to retire.
Bradshaw also spoke about transmittal of information.
“Nobody put it all together and did something about it. I saw that immediately. Too many pieces, too many places,” he said, likely referring to the several agencies who received complaints regarding Nikolas Cruz prior to the shooting.
Bradshaw mentioned the Connect & Protect app and Student Protect, a new app for students, parents and staff to connect with law enforcement.
“Another piece of the puzzle that was missing,” Bradshaw said, was the mental health component.
Bradshaw said he started the behavioral sciences unit a few years ago which is a mental health unit. The unit has seven teams, each with a deputy who has a master’s or Ph.D. in psychology or social sciences paired with a mental health professional. The teams evaluate information the sheriff’s office receives regarding someone who might have mental health issues.
He said the unit was called to evaluate Zachary Cruz, Nikolas’ brother, after the school shooting.
“The day after it happened down there, we dealt with (Zachary),” Bradshaw said. “We got information he was acting out.”
Bradshaw wants to expand the unit to 21 teams and plans to ask legislators for the money to do so.
“If they had done that in Broward, we may not have had 17 people dead today because the person would have been off the street getting the help they need,” he said.