- Sgt. Brian Miller was one of four deputies fired last year for inaction during the 2018 Parkland shooting, with him specifically found to have been taking cover behind a car at the time.
- But an arbitrator found that the Broward County Sheriff’s Office violated his right to due process by firing him two days after a 180-day window it had to notify him.
- He will now be reinstated with full seniority, benefits, and backpay. For reference, Miller was paid more than $137,000 in 2018.
- The sheriff’s office said it is exploring legal options and stood by its initial termination, calling the arbitration “based on a technicality” and “wrongly decided.”
How Miller Responded During the Shooting
A Florida deputy who was fired for hiding behind his patrol car during the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has just won his job back, the police union said Thursday.
Sgt. Brian Miller was one of four Broward County Sheriff’s deputies fired last year for neglect of duty during the Feb. 15, 2018 shooting, which left 17 students and staff members dead.
Miller was the first supervisor to arrive on the scene while shots were being fired, but a report from Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ Public Safety Commission found that his first radio call wasn’t made until “approximately ten minutes after the first radio traffic about the shooting and approximately five minutes after his arrival.”
He defended his conduct to investigators by saying he had problems communicating over his radio. He explained that he stayed behind “trying to get resources to people in places to help.” That claim, however, was inconsistent with radio recordings and witness statements, which showed no evidence of him doing so.
When the Coral Springs Police Department arrived at the scene and rushed into the school, officers reported seeing Miller and other deputies staying on a nearby road instead of entering the campus. Other officers also reported seeing Miller and other deputies taking cover behind their cars.
“Any law enforcement officer — regardless of rank — who arrives at the scene of an active shooter while shots are still being fired has an obligation to pursue the sound of those gunshots and confront the shooter, but Sgt. Miller remained behind his car in a position of personal safety,” the commission’s report said.
In December, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a committee member, called Miller’s performance an “absolute, total failure,” according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Miller to be Reinstated After Arbitration
Now Miller will be reinstated with full seniority, back pay, and other benefits thanks to a recent arbitration ruling made Wednesday. For reference, he was paid more than $137,000 in 2018, including his salary, overtime, medical reimbursements, paid holidays, and other time off, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
However, the decision had nothing to do with his actions on that tragic day. Instead, the arbitrator, Danielle Hargrove, said the Broward County Sheriff’s Office violated Miller’s right to due process when firing him in June.
The Sheriff’s Union had argued that the department terminated him two days past the 180-day deadline state laws allow for punishing law enforcement officers once an investigation is completed. The arbitrator ultimately agreed and granted their motion for summary judgment.
Sheriff’s Office Responds
In a statement, the general counsel for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office said the decision was “based on a technicality” and “wrongly decided.” The counsel also said the agency was exploring all legal options.
The sheriff’s office also added that the arbitrator didn’t address “the conduct of Sergeant Miller on the day children and adults were massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School while he stood by. Nowhere in the decision is he vindicated for his lack of action on that day.”
On top of that, the current Broward County Sheriff, Gregory Tony, said he still believes he made the right call in firing Miller.
“I stood by the termination then, I stand by it now,” he said Thursday.
“The arbitration process is always part of the final aspect for any employee that is terminated or suffers some form of disciplinary action that I take, and I understand that’s always going to be on the table. But it’s not going to change my decision-making, in terms of doing what’s right for this community.”
Family members of the shooting victims were also outraged by the decision. Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed at the school, tweeted that Miller should immediately resign.
Miller’s attorney, Gary Lippman, said at a news conference Thursday that the union had been prepared to address Miller’s firing “on the merits,” but it first filed a motion addressing the violation of his procedural rights.
Though Miller’s actions on the day of the shooting have faced heavy criticism, the public safety commission’s investigation found widespread problems with law enforcement’s response, including flawed 911 and radio systems, deputy failures, and an “abysmal” response from school resource officer Scot Peterson.
Peterson’s case was arguably the most notorious after the shooting, as he was on campus when shots broke out, yet failed to confront the gunman. Peterson was charged last June with child negligence, culpable negligence, and perjury. He pleaded not guilty and his lawyers called the charges “politically motivated retribution.”
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Hill) (NBC News)
Surgeons Successfully Test Pig Kidney Transplant on a Human
The procedure has been hailed as a major scientific breakthrough that could eventually open the door to a renewable source of desperately needed organs.
Surgeons at the NYU Langone Transplant Institute revealed Tuesday that they temporarily attached a kidney from a genetically modified pig to a human patient and found that it worked normally.
The operation was the first of its kind and could one day lead to a vast supply of organs for those who are in severe need. According to the Associated Press, more than 90,000 people in the U.S. are in line for a kidney transplant. Each day, an average of 12 die while waiting.
With the family’s consent, the groundbreaking procedure was performed on a brain-dead patient who was kept alive on a ventilator.
According to the surgeons, the pig used was genetically engineered to grow an organ that wouldn’t produce a sugar that the human immune system attacks, which would then trigger the body to reject the kidney.
The organ was connected to blood vessels on the patient’s upper leg, outside the abdomen, and it was observed for over 54 hours, with doctors finding no signs of rejection.
Concerns and Hurdles Ahead
While the procedure was successful, this doesn’t mean it’ll be available to patients anytime soon. Several questions about long-term functionality remain, and it will still have to go through significant medical and regulatory hurdles.
Details of the procedure haven’t even been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal yet, though there are plans for this.
Experts are also considering the ethical implications of this type of animal-to-human transplant. For some, raising pigs to harvest their organs raises concerns about animal welfare and exploitation. Such medical procedures have already earned criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.
“Pigs aren’t spare parts and should never be used as such just because humans are too self-centered to donate their bodies to patients desperate for organ transplants,” PETA said in a statement, according to The New York Times.
On the other side of the debate are people like Dr. Robert Montgomery, the director of the N.Y.U. Langone Transplant Institute who performed the breakthrough procedure in September.
“I certainly understand the concern and what I would say is that currently about 40% of patients who are waiting for a transplant die before they receive one,” he told BBC.
“We use pigs as a source of food, we use pigs for medicinal uses – for valves, for medication. I think it’s not that different.”