Politics & Policy

Broward’s Cowards

Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel speaks at CNN’s town hall meeting, February 21, 2018. (Michael Laughlin/Pool/Reuters)

It is impossible to imagine circumstances under which Broward County sheriff Scott Israel could attempt to perform his duties with the confidence of the public. He should resign immediately, and if, as he promises, he refuses to go quietly, then he should be shown the door by the people he professes to serve.

The numbers tell the story: 23 sheriff’s calls involving the Parkland shooter; 18 sheriff’s calls involving the shooter’s behavior directly (some of the others were principally about his brother); four sheriff’s deputies, armed and trained, cowering outside the high school while the killer within carried out his massacre; 17 dead.

In spite of having the school’s armed “resource officer” — an on-site deputy — and three other sheriff’s deputies outside the school during the massacre, no one lifted a finger to stop the shooting until police from Coral Springs arrived and entered the building, at which point the killer escaped, walking off the campus with the rest of the stunned students. He then walked down the street to a fast-food restaurant and ordered himself a drink, and wandered around the neighborhood for a while (past an elementary school) before being spotted by a Coral Springs police officer, to whom he surrendered without incident. He eventually made his way into the Broward County sheriff’s custody — when he was delivered there in handcuffs.

Coral Springs city manager Mike Goodrum subsequently had a confrontation with Sheriff Israel he described as “heated.” We can imagine.

The failure of the Broward County sheriff’s department in this matter has been comprehensive — before and during the incident, obviously, and after it, too, with the continued sanctimonious blame-dodging of the sheriff. The sheriff’s department (and other law-enforcement agencies from Palm Beach County to the FBI) had every reason to believe not only that the killer was a danger to others but that he was specifically planning a school massacre. People who knew him called in with that specific worry, and the killer boasted online of his plan to become a school shooter. Those boasts were forwarded to the FBI, which did precisely nothing in response. The killer himself called police to tell them he had been having trouble after the death of his mother.

Pointing out these failures isn’t attacking law enforcement, as some supporters of gun control allege, but demanding minimal competence on a matter of the utmost public import. Such is the ardor of the most committed gun controllers that they are willing to look past every failure by authorities that doesn’t accord with their agenda (one of the Stoneman Douglas kids the other day said it was understandable that the SRO didn’t engage the shooter because no one wants to confront an AR-15 — of course, the officer had no idea in real time that the gun was an AR-15, which regardless isn’t particularly powerful for a rifle).

As for the sheriff, he is a pretty typical politician, hiring friends and political allies, treating his law-enforcement position as a nakedly political fief. His arrogance is astounding: When asked about his penchant for hiring his supporters and looking after his own interests first, the sheriff replied, “Lions don’t care about the opinions of sheep.” But the people of Broward County didn’t hire Scott Israel to be a lion; they hired him to be a sheepdog, a task at which he has failed so completely as to make regaining the public trust impossible. Indeed, it is not clear he ever deserved that trust to begin with. If he has any respect for his oath, his badge, or his community, he should step aside. If his sense of duty does not prevail, he should be forced out.

The Editors — The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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