Why Was Security Footage From Florida School Shooting on 26-Minute Delay?

Security experts give their take on the potential reasons security footage from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting was on a 26-minute delay.

Why Was Security Footage From Florida School Shooting on 26-Minute Delay?

PARKLAND, Fla. — Seventeen people were killed last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a former student armed with an AR-15 rifle opened fire.

It is now being reported that surveillance footage at the school was on a 26-minute delay, leading police to believe the gunman was still in the building long after he had fled the crime scene.

Responding officers braced for a shootout as they entered the building, thinking the gunfire they saw on security camera footage was live.

“He went from the third floor to the second floor … They’re monitoring him on camera,” an officer said on radio transmissions recorded by Broadcastify, an audio streaming website, at 2:54 p.m., reports The Sun Sentinel.

Police Captain Brad McKeone says 20 to 25 officers were on the first, second and third floors of the building when they believed the shooter was still inside.

“Somebody would say: ‘He’s on the second floor,’ and we had guys on the second floor saying: ‘We’re on the second floor, we don’t see him.’ That’s when we figured out there’s a tape delay,” recalled Coral Springs Police Chief Tony Pustizzi.

Pete Blair, a criminal justice professor and executive director of the active shooter response program at Texas State University, says the long delay is unusual.

“I’ve never heard of that problem before,” he said. “That’s going to slow you down because you think that’s good information, but it’s not good information.”

Several other deterrents hampered police communication, including the fact that police initially could not get access to the security camera footage and couldn’t immediately find someone to help them. Police were also restricted by outmoded radios that left some transmissions inaudible.

Police attempted to look for armed school resource officer Scott Peterson as he “would be the one to have access to where the cameras are,” according to a police radio broadcast. Superintendent Robert Runcie says Peterson was on the 45-acre campus at the time of the shooting but was not in the targeted building.

According to a timeline provided by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the gunman began shooting into classrooms around 2:21 p.m. He continued to fire his weapon for seven minutes before fleeing the building. Police apprehended him more than a half hour after he had left school grounds.

Pustizzi says although the video delay complicated efforts to track down the shooter, it did not delay efforts to rescue injured students, according to CNN.

“We got in so fast, we’re pulling them out. It made it harder to identify where the guy was,” he said.

In May, Broward County commissioners approved a $59.5 million budget to replace the more than 25-year-old radio system. The new system won’t be ready to use until the end of this year, officials said at the time of the approval.

During the shooting, at approximately 2:56 p.m., a dispatcher warned all units that the radios were malfunctioning.

SSI reached out to several experts for their take on the incident. Business Fitness Columnist Paul Boucherle who has been working in work place violence education, risk assessments and strategies for over 20 years says:

My take on this is that quality and timely communications are essential to any active shooter or work place violence event. The video feed delay is puzzling and would need more details to really understand that failure of delivering real time information when it is needed the most by first responders. The radio communications issue is more troubling as funds were allotted in May last year and typical school upgrades are done during the summer so not sure what to make of that issue.

Lastly while resource officers are a valuable addition to any school safety program, the reality is one officer covering an entire campus may not be optimal based on the size of the campus without equipping them with the right tools.

Bob Grossman, frequent SSI contributor and president of consulting firm R. Grossman and Associates, says:

I agree with Pete Blair  who is quoted in the article as saying the long delay is unusual, and I’ve also never heard of this type of problem before.

Issues with remotely monitored systems are common in terms of delays or latency, but these are usually manifested by delays of no longer than a few seconds or dropped frames which cause a choppy image but no real delays. Assuming this is an IP based system (there’s no way to do a delay on an analog, tape-based system), I would suspect this is an error in how the system software was set up, or operator error.

It is as if they were monitoring the system through a TiVo box or cable box (or similar software function) that pauses live TV, and neglected to go back to live viewing.

SSI will update this post if an official cause is revealed.

Tagged with: News Video Surveillance

About the Author

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Amy Rock is the Campus Safety Web Editor. She graduated from UMass Amherst with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and a minor in Education.

She has worked in the publishing industry since 2011, in both events and digital marketing.

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4 Responses to “Why Was Security Footage From Florida School Shooting on 26-Minute Delay?”

  1. Art Dunn says:

    Who, if anyone, will investigate this aspect of the response by law enforcement? I can’t imagine that anyone involved in the purchase or installation of this system will want to expose themselves to the rancor of public opinion by doing anything other than waiting for this to pass from public view. Most likely it will later be determine to have been operator error rather than technical failure.

  2. schmoe says:

    yeah, bs – this doesnt happen “by accident” and no fat finger mistake or “operator error” would accidentally produce this.

    “no man, those lights are out on purpose”
    -blue lou

  3. parkland parent says:

    Short answer: High tech equipment run by intricate, specialized software systems requiring high levels of technical training, maintenance and frequent replacement are within the purview of the average American public school. For such systems to work effectively, they need to be used as part of an institution’s regular daily processes. The “set it and forget it” method does not work and the industry has not allowed for that since that system, any system is most likely considered outdated by the time it is installed, especially considering the long purchasing process involved with public institutions. It’s fancy, expensive stuff that makes us feel really safe but time and again still prove to be unreliable when depended upon in real time and whose malfunction encompasses a whole host of reasons. Those officers should have been on their phone with those inside the school and should have been directly connected and engaged with the victims, not in some office trying to figure out how to watch a specific camera, led by some school secretary trying to figure out how to use the damn thing. Anyone with an expensive state of the art camera security system in their home and who have still experienced illegal activity on their property knows what I’m talking about. Those cameras assume a lot of things, that professional criminals are well aware of and are willing to take their chance on.

  4. Online Reader says:

    I’ve read that they blamed this on user error, not a technical problem. The person who posted above is correct, they can’t just pay for the great system and not have staff who are trained how to use it. I’m not sure if it was the Sheriff Dept or the school staff but someone who was operating it did not know what they were doing, or didn’t communicate effectively.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-florida-shooting-coral-springs-video-20180222-story.html

    The “communication failure” led police to believe they were tracking the shooter in real time, when in fact they were seeing footage from 20 minutes earlier, the chief said.

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