by Donna M. Brown | February 22, 2018

A Sergeant on Arms

A former law enforcement officer shoots straight on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy


I am a retired police sergeant who served my Tallahassee community for twenty-six years. For 10 of those years, I supervised our department’s homicide unit. Like all first responders, I have seen up close and personal what we humans can do to each other. Perhaps that’s why I have a different outlook than most on the tragic events that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the mass shootings that preceded this one.

Think for a moment about what an incident like this means, whom it directly affects: the thousands of students who attend Douglas High School, their parents, their siblings, and their extended families; the administrators, the faculty, the staff and their families; the law enforcement officers, the fire rescue personnel and the emergency medical services personnel. And then there’s the forensic/crime scene technicians who responded to the school and were tasked with collecting evidence and documenting the gruesome, heartbreaking scene; the dispatchers who received countless panicked calls for help; the doctors and nurses who received and treated the victims; and the medical examiners who conducted the autopsies. Thousands of people will forever have unimaginable images etched into their minds and hearts.

Friends of mine live in Parkland. Their eldest child attends Douglas High School. This child was at school that day. Her mother, my friend, has said two things that I cannot banish from my thoughts.

“The texts I got from my daughter who was in the building with the shooter are something no parent should ever have to exchange with their child,” she said.

And a few days after the shooting: “There is nothing better right now than watching our sweet daughter sleep…”

With all that this family has been through, it is bittersweet to think of them as fortunate. It’s tragic that any parent would have to say such things.

Like everyone else, I have read social media posts and news articles espousing that mental health, guns and gun control are the problem. Some of the ideas for solving these problems are mind-boggling to me, while others seem plausible. The sad part is that, as usual, most of what I read and saw resulted in name-calling and personal attacks on anyone whose beliefs were different from those of the original writer, finger-pointing at its finest. One thing is very clear; people are passionate about their viewpoints on this topic and seem unwilling to budge.

Perhaps we are looking to treat the symptom and not the cause. Why and how did we get to the point of discussing heavily fortifying our schools, hiring retired law enforcement officers and military personnel to roam our campuses, and arming our teachers? Most who know my background are dumbfounded at my thought; for me, more guns is not the answer.

Maybe, just maybe, the powers that be can finally sit down and create common sense change—not just concerning mental health and guns, but concerning the plethora of issues facing us all. We are where we are today because of the choices we made yesterday.