The Atlantic

The Kind of Courage America Demands of Its Police

The president is calling a sheriff’s deputy who failed to confront an active shooter a coward—a word seldom applied to officers who choose to protect themselves by shooting.
Source: Jonathan Drake / Reuters

In Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting, a sheriff’s deputy faced widespread criticism last week amid reports that he heard AR-15 fire yet failed to rush into the high school he was assigned to protect. Critics say he should’ve risked his life to confront the gunman with his service weapon. “When it came time to get in there and do something, he didn’t have the courage, or something happened,” President Donald Trump said. “He certainly did a poor job. That’s the case where somebody was outside, they are trained, they didn’t react properly under pressure or they were a coward.”

It was the first time I can recall a policeman being labeled a coward by any federal official, let alone a law-and-order type who bristles at most criticism of cops.

And even though the facts of the case are hardly clear and the deputy maintains that he thought the shooter was outside the school, Trump was hardly alone.

The hashtag #CowardofBroward began trending on Twitter.

A high school student who survived the attack told a TV interviewer that he has this message for the deputy: “You’re despicable. You didn’t do your job. You were trained for this. You were armed. You had a bullet-proof vest.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Seven Questions That Need Answers Before Any Attack on Iran
President Trump’s threats of retaliation for strikes on Saudi oil facilities seem premature.
The Atlantic6 min readSociety
We Need a More Targeted Approach to Combatting Global Inequality
A new trove of data may allow us to replace a trickle-down approach with more precise efforts.
The Atlantic6 min readPolitics
Let Them Fight
Democratic primary voters should have a chance to evaluate how their potential standard-bearers fare against hostile criticism.