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Michelle Malkin: Public has right to see Parkland exterior surveillance video

| Sunday, March 4, 2018, 9:00 p.m.
Scot Peterson resigned as a Broward County deputy on February 22, 2018, after county Sheriff Scott Israel suspended him for inaction during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Tribune News Service
Scot Peterson resigned as a Broward County deputy on February 22, 2018, after county Sheriff Scott Israel suspended him for inaction during the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Open government isn't just good government — it's the public's right. In Florida, the Broward County sheriff's office and school district are fighting to keep exterior surveillance video from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting hidden from view. Sheriff Scott Israel and school Superintendent Robert Runcie, defendants in an open-records lawsuit filed by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald and CNN, claim the exterior videos are completely exempt from sunshine laws because they would expose the district's security system plan, are part of an active criminal investigation, and involve an active internal-affairs investigation of Scot Peterson, former school resource officer/deputy.

Let's break down these specious excuses for keeping information vital to the public interest locked in a black box.

First, disclosure of the videos would pose no danger to students because Building 12, where the shooting took place, will be demolished.

Second, key investigative records, transcripts and logs in the active criminal probe against the Parkland school shooter have already been released to the public. Moreover, the lawsuit notes Israel has already publicly described what the video shows: Peterson took a position with a view of Building 12's western entrance and got on his radio, but never went in for “upwards of four minutes” while 17 innocent students and teachers were slaughtered. Government sources have leaked FBI transcripts of caller tips, reporting Nikolas Cruz's violent threats and tendencies, that went unheeded. Unidentified sources leaked school disciplinary records documenting the alleged shooter's troubles. And Broward Circuit Court Judge Charles Greene already ordered the release of a Florida Department of Children and Families investigation into allegations of abuse and neglect in the shooter's home.

“If there were shortcomings,” the judge concluded, “the public has the right to know.” Any right to privacy that the shooter may have claimed was effectively waived by his own bloody actions and outweighed by the public interest. The school district is claiming that since law enforcement took possession of the videos, its hands are tied. But school property is public property, subject to the state's public records act.

Third, Peterson has resigned, so the sheriff's office should not be able to hide behind the confidential personnel records shield. Peterson publicly disputes Israel's version of events and released his own detailed account of his actions.

Israel's “just trust us” arrogance is an obstacle to the truth. He's a dime a dozen. Across the country, government control freaks in local, state and federal agencies — both civilian and law enforcement — routinely block public disclosure of information that destroys their carefully spun, job-preserving narratives.

Release the videos. Let the public, especially competent security experts, see them. Without transparency, there can be no accountability — and “Never Again” is yet another empty, expedient cable-TV sound bite in an ocean of self-serving rhetoric.

Michelle Malkin is host of “Michelle Malkin Investigates” on

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