States can create obligations for the police under certain circumstances — for example, a crossing guard who is assigned to keep children from getting run over. But those would be civil liabilities, said Darren L. Hutchinson, a professor at the University of Florida School of Law, not criminal ones.
Professor Hutchinson noted that the criminal statutes under which Mr. Peterson was charged for his behavior during the shooting, neglect of a child and culpable negligence, were not specifically drafted for law enforcement officers and are usually applied to parents. “Normally we don’t think of police officers as caregivers for children,” he said.
The culpable negligence charge would require proof of behavior so reckless, like driving down a crowded sidewalk, that it could be inferred that the accused intended harm, Professor Hutchinson said. “Under a civil standard that’s a very tough load, and now they’re turning to the criminal standard, which is somewhat tougher, because they have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said.
Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter, Meadow, died in the attack, said he welcomed Mr. Peterson’s arrest.
“It’s about accountability, and there’s to be more in Broward County,” said Mr. Pollack, who previously filed a wrongful-death suit against Mr. Peterson. “We knew all along that this guy did something very terrible. He let my daughter die, and a lot of other victims in the school — teachers and children — and he didn’t do his job.”
In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Pollack said he and his lawyer had turned over records — including a deposition of Mr. Peterson — in the civil case to law enforcement officials to consider during their criminal inquiry.
Mr. Pollack said he hoped Mr. Peterson would be convicted and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. “He brought his Bible with him to the deposition,” he said. “Let him bring his Bible with him to prison. He can read the whole thing a bunch of times.”