Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
A 16-member commission on Tuesday will begin reviewing the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a Broward County high school, looking into the circumstances of the crime, the background of the alleged shooter and recommendations to prevent future tragedies.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which was created as part of a sweeping school-safety law (SB 7026) signed by Gov. Rick Scott last month, will hold its initial meeting at the Broward College campus in Coconut Creek.
Andrew Pollack, a member of the commission whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow Jade was one of the 17 students and staff killed at the high school in Parkland, said he wants to see a thorough review of the record of Nikolas Cruz, the former student who has been charged with the mass killing.
Pollack also said the commission should hold officials “accountable for their incompetence” that may have led to the tragedy.
“My daughter was murdered. So there is no bringing her back,” Pollack said in an interview with The News Service of Florida Monday. “But if I can feel some satisfaction that it won’t happen in another school….if we can use this and make it a preventative measure, it would make me feel like my daughter’s death wasn’t in vain.”
The law directs the commission, which will be headed by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, to “investigate system failures” in the Broward shooting and prior mass shootings in Florida and to “develop recommendations for the system improvements.”
The commission will develop a timeline of the Stoneman Douglas shooting and the incident response “and all relevant events preceding the incident, with particular attention to all perpetrator contacts with local, state and national government agencies and entities and any contract providers of such agencies and entities.”
Cruz had a lengthy history of mental health problems, documented by dozens of interactions with educators, law enforcement, mental-health professionals and others. The FBI had received at least two alerts warning that Cruz posed a danger.
Pollack said he believes Cruz’s prior contact with law enforcement and school officials should have led to consequences or charges prior to the shooting.
“I really want to look into this kid’s record. And I think we’re going to find a lot of incompetency and a lot of covering up of records in this whole process,” Pollack said.
The commission, which is under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, has the ability to subpoena records and witnesses.
“That’s all going to come out. No one is going to be able to hide from us,” Pollack said.
Other items on the commission’s agenda are a review of Florida’s policies for dealing with “active assailants” on school campuses, with a comparison to “best practices” policies around the nation.
The commission will also review the use of school resource officers on the campuses, with the goal of making a recommendation on the appropriate ratio of law enforcement officers to the student population and school facility.
After their regular meeting, the commission is scheduled to visit the Stoneman Douglas campus late Tuesday afternoon, although members will not be allowed inside the classroom building where the shootings occurred because it is still an active crime scene.
The commission, which is authorized to meet through 2023, will file its initial report and recommendations to Gov. Scott and the Legislature by Jan. 1.
A tentative schedule that will be reviewed by the commission on Tuesday includes the recommendation that its staff report key investigative findings and witness statements to the panel by June 1.
Commission members were appointed by Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
The commission includes three parents of Stoneman Douglas victims; seven members with law enforcement ties, including FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen; three serving in school systems; a prosecutor; a mental health expert; and Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation.
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