Law Enforcement: What Is Their Level of Responsibility in a Mass Shooting?

Recently, a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit that was filed against Orlando Police Department (OPD) officers by survivors and family members of the Pulse nightclub shooting, which took place in 2016. The plaintiffs claim that their civil liberties were violated when the armed OPD officer working security failed to enter the nightclub once the gunman opened fire, leaving 49 people dead and 68 injured.

The plaintiffs also claimed that OPD did not provide adequate active shooter training for their officers, leading to a lack of action that might ultimately have contributed to the high number of casualties. While the case was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Paul Byron—who stated that certain aspects of the incident did not qualify as a violation of individual rights—the bigger question is what level of protection should we expect from our law enforcement members in the case of a mass shooting?

The Pulse shooting in Orlando is not the only occasion in recent memory where a similar failure to act potentially cost lives, either. Recently—not even two years after the Pulse shooting—the state of Florida was left reeling once again when an 18-year old man shot and killed 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Parkland High School. After the attack, reports exposed that Broward County deputies had previously received at least 18 calls warning them about the shooter’s dangerous behavior, but did not act on the information.

Additionally, video surveillance cameras showed that a now-former police deputy, Scot Peterson, stayed outside and hid instead of attempting to intervene when the shooting began. The subsequent national outcry and condemnation of his lack of action then led to his resignation.

It is not that we as a society want the ills of a mass shooting national epidemic to rest solely on the shoulders of law enforcement, but we do expect a certain level of protection from these peace keepers when in public. With advanced training, equipment and weaponry, it should be expected of these persons of authority to make the safety of innocent civilians paramount in such situations.

If you or someone you know has been injured as a result of lack of security at a public venue or private premises (restaurant, bar, apartment building), please contact one of the experienced attorneys at Baron, Herskowitz, and Cohen to understand your legal rights. To contact us for a free and confidential legal consultation, call (305) 670-0101 or email

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