Sheriff Scott Israel is quickly becoming the most famous sheriff in the country. After the school shooting February 14th, Sheriff Israel became the face of the law enforcement response. In the days after, his department was plagued by revelations of dereliction of duty. And now the sheriff is fighting to keep his job.
Sheriff Israel’s defense of his department’s response keeps spiraling out of control.
“I gave him a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training,” Sheriff Israel NBC6’s Erika Glover. “If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility.”
There are many who feel like Sheriff Israel is the one ultimately responsible for the breakdown in procedure both leading up to the shooting and during the shooting. Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has even called on the Governor to suspend Israel.
“The speaker sent a letter to the governor that 73 House members joined him in signing,” Breitbart writes. “The Florida Constitution provides the governor with the authority to ‘suspend from office any state officer not subject to impeachment, any officer of the militia not in the active service of the United States, or any county officer, for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony, and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension.’ Sheriffs are covered by this provision.”
The criticism of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department heated up late last week when news broke that deputies had positioned themselves outside of the building in which a former student, armed with an AR-15, was actively shooting students.
The Sheriff’s deputies didn’t enter the building until after officers from the Coral Springs Police Department arrived and began clearing the building.
This, combined with the long list of warning signs that were missed, is why so many are questioning Israel’s ability to lead.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Sheriff Israel tried to defend himself.
Tapper asked him if the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School could have been averted if warning signs had been heeded.
“If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, OJ Simpson would still be in the record books,” Israel responded.
Tapper then pressed for a more coherent answer. “We understand everything wasn’t done perfectly,” Israel responded. “That’s life.”
“If it happened in Los Angeles or Chicago or any other city, every person wouldn’t have performed perfectly,” he said. “That’s not what happens.”
“Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags that were brought to the attention of the Broward sheriff’s office about this shooter before this incident, whether it was people near him, close to him calling the police?” Tapper asked.
“Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I exercised my due diligence. I’ve given amazing leadership to this agency,” Israel added.
“Amazing leadership?” Tapper asked.
What Tapper may have been implying with his incredulous response was the slew of interviews after the shooting given by Israel. He’s been criticized for trying to control the message through his bombastic (and crowd pleasing) attacks on gun owners. He’s also taken heat from the other agencies involved in the response who feel like Israel has taken credit for their actions.
Even the announcement that a school resource officer who hid outside during the shooting seems to have been an attempt to deflect attention away from three other deputies that had an opportunity to engage the shooter, but did not.
“You don’t measure a person’s leadership by a deputy not going into [the school]. … These deputies received the training they needed,” Israel said.
“Do I believe if Scot Peterson went into that building and there was a chance he could have neutralized the killer and saved lives, yes. But as far as anything else done at this point. I can’t say that.”
Tapper then addressed 23 incidents involving the shooter and asked why nothing was done.
“On 16 of those cases, our deputies did everything right. Our deputies have done amazing things. … In five years, we’ve taken the Broward Sheriff’s Department to new levels,” he said.
— Bill Hager (@RepBillHager) February 24, 2018
“One person at this point didn’t do what he should have done,” Israel added. “It’s horrific. The victims here, the families, I pray for them every night. It makes me sick in the stomach that we had a deputy who didn’t go in.”
Israel won’t talk about the other three deputies, as the investigation into them is continuing.
“Our investigation to this point shows that during this horrific attack, while this killer was inside the school, there was only one law-enforcement person, period,” Israel said. “And that was former Deputy Scot Peterson. Coral Springs arrived — a group of Coral Springs officers went in within, I think, about 4 minutes, we’re projecting, after the killer left the campus.”
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel refusing to resign telling @nbc6: "I gave him a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training. If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility." Clip from our one-on-one interview below. #DouglasHighSchool pic.twitter.com/FV5Gn0ZEBY
— Erika Glover 🎥 (@ErikaGloverNBC6) February 25, 2018