Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has come under fire over the past week for mistakes made by his office that helped enable the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (MSD) in Parkland, Florida.
The sheriff’s office is accused of ignoring numerous warnings and tips that a former student at MSD had shown potential warning signs of violent activity. In one call, which is now part of an internal affairs investigation, the caller stated that the young man could be a “school shooter in the making.” The office was also made aware that the shooter had displayed his intent to hurt himself and others on social media; in one instance, he commented on a YouTube post, “Im going to be a professional school shooter.” In total, there were at least 18 calls made to the sheriff’s office about the shooter.
Eighteen calls were made and eighteen times the sheriff’s office failed to properly respond to the warning signs.
Moreover, the MSD school resource officer, Scot Peterson, failed to enter the building during the shooting, potentially enabling the shooter to attack even more students and teachers. New reports suggest that there were three other sheriff deputies waiting outside the school building while victims were bleeding to death inside. Deputy Peterson has since been relieved of his duties.
It’s clear that had the sheriff’s office responded correctly in these cases the shooting would have never happened, or, at the very least, the number of victims could have been reduced. It’s saddening that failures by our country’s law enforcement agencies led to the tragic loss of 17 innocent lives. Going forward we must make sure to learn from our mistakes and prevent something like this from reoccurring. But what bothers me, even more, is the response and attitude of the sheriff in light of the mistakes made.
At a CNN Town Hall, where students, faculty, and parents questioned lawmakers, the sheriff, and a National Rifle Association representative, Sheriff Israel lambasted the NRA, suggesting that gun reform is the only way to stand up for those who have experienced this terrible tragedy and make sure it is never repeated. He claimed that his law enforcement agency should be given more power to confiscate the weapons of American citizens, while fully aware of the shortcomings of his own office in terms of preventing this shooting. The sheriff is suggesting that because his office failed to protect its citizens, we must give them more power and trust going forward. The logic here is puzzling and the attitude taken by Sheriff Israel is appalling. His refusal to take ownership over the mistakes made under his watch is not befitting of an honorable leader.
But it gets worse. Israel appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday morning, and continued to refuse any blame for the shooting, claiming that he has provided, “amazing leadership.” His words were so troubling that even CNN host Jake Tapper had to push back. Israel spent the half-hour interview deflecting the many accusations levied against him regarding the failure of his office to protect its citizens. Tapper also questioned Israel’s statements about the NRA, with Israel knowing the mistakes made by law enforcement regarding the shooting.
As the head of a department accused of so many miscues that put citizens in danger, the least Israel could do is take some of the blame for the failure of his office to protect its people. Even if he wasn’t directly at fault, the attitude Israel has taken towards the accusations is disappointing. And the fact that he instead came out and attacked the NRA should anger the American people who support our constitution. A true leader should take responsibility for the actions of those beneath him. If the sheriff can’t even come out and take responsibility for the actions of his own office, his ability to learn from these mistakes and fix them for the future should be questioned. The first step to fixing what is broken is admitting that there is something that needs to be fixed. Sheriff Israel fails to understand that the mistakes made by his team must be addressed, instead shifting the blame to a single deputy and assuming that getting rid of him will fix all the issues. Can we really trust him to make the appropriate decisions to help prevent a future incident?
The mistakes made by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office can be described as at best irresponsible and at worst, complete negligence. The coming days and weeks will reveal just how deep the shortcomings lie. During this process, we should expect better leadership within the organization. If Israel fails to provide it, instead choosing to use the tragedy for political gains by attacking the second amendment, the people of South Florida should look to replace him with a competent leader.