Parkland School Shooting – What could have the police done better to help Cruz and possibly prevent the tragedy?

The tragedy in Parkland, Florida is first and foremost one of the saddest days in Florida’s history and something that should never happen again, but sadly, it will. The solutions are multi-faceted and all of them need to be addressed. 

People ask me almost daily, what could have prevented the Parkland School Shooting tragedy? Well, as a man who deals with troubled kids and families all the time, I will stick to the prevention side and not address the ongoing investigation being done on the response to the shooting itself.

The Sheriff and most police agencies have a saying, “See something, say something”, in theory, a great practice and idea. The problem is, there is a segment of society who WILL NOT say ANYTHING to the police, because quite frankly, they don’t trust the police and with Sacramento and other police incidents around the country, we need to address breaking down the “Us Against Them” mentality going around the country at this time.  Police trust is paramount and we will address that later in this article. 

As a man who speaks with all segment of society on a regular basis, I see the mistakes police agencies make. In the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the mistakes were made before the shooting even occurred.

In this case the “see something, say something” worked according to what it was meant to do. The police were notified and had numerous interactions and opportunities to try and help this kid and family BEFORE the shooting occurred.  

What could the Sheriff’s department done differently to possibly prevent the Parkland shooting? According to all accounts reported, the Sheriff’s department responded, but frankly, did nothing when they got there. That is where the problem started.  

First, when the Sheriff’s deputies went to the Cruz home, they could have tried to help the Cruz kid and family. Take the time to start a relationship and get to know the people they serve, yes, even when they are doing something wrong, helping the community is suppose to be the #1 thing a police agency does.

I remember when we were growing up in the Bronx, New York, the cops knew who we were. In Parkland, Florida, that should have been a given with a kid like Cruz.  

My mentor, Chief Mike Force (Mike Force Bio 2017) educated me on a lot of things and with regards to policing, told me the most important question he asked when hiring new police officers was, why do you want to be a police officers in this city? During the answer, if they didn’t express that they wanted to HELP the community, he wouldn’t hire them. All other aspects of policing can be taught, but they have to be in policing for the right reasons. 

Second, when the Sheriff’s deputies, school officials, family and friends recognized that the Cruz kid had some serious mental issues, and with the number of police calls to the home, issues at the school, etc. it was pretty easy to recognize that this kid had some serious issues, a number of steps could have been taken. 1. Did anyone recommend a mental evaluation? What about a Baker Act? (The difference between the Marchman Act and the Baker Act? The crucial difference between the two is: The Marchman Act is specifically for people suffering from substance abuse disorders. The Baker Act is for people who pose a threat to themselves and or others and who are mentally ill, the definition of which excludes addiction and alcoholism. Mental health and policing is a topic in of itself, but it is one that the police confront on a daily basis and one that has to be addressed at all levels.

Third, if the Broward Sheriff’s department had the Reality Check Police Video Cards, like Miami-Dade Schools Police, Fort Lauderdale Police, Lake Saint Louis Police and various other police agencies and businesses do, and gave the family a police video card, maybe, just maybe the kid would have had his eyes opened and changed.

The statistics on the Reality Check Program video are well documented. 70% of the kids have better attitudes, 43% have better school grades, 31% have better school attendance and 90% don’t get re-arrested. In short, it works.

The Sheriff’s office would have tried to help the family, have written confirmation that they did, used a program that was recognized on the Floor of the United States Congress for helping teens and police agencies and the police officers that interacted with the family would have had a tool to try and help this out of control kid and therefore been the “HELP” component my mentor and good friend Chief Mike Force talks about all the time.

I can’t get it out of my head that maybe, just maybe if the Sheriff’s department had our video cards this incident might have been prevented. We will never know of course, but I think it is time the police get back to HELPING the community and not being at war with the community. 

My prayers and condolences for everyone involved in this sad tragedy that can never truly be comprehended. 

Click Picture for BIO

Larry Lawton 

To learn more about the Reality Check Police Video Card Program, call: 844-922-4800 or email