Sometimes my children frustrate me by refusing to take responsibility for their actions while also puffing themselves up as virtuous superheroes out to save the world. These are all forgivable — even cute — characteristics in a child.
Yet it’s difficult to forgive Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who, without exception, in his public comments and press appearances on the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., comes off like an impenitent child who lies (badly) to cover up his blunders, is incapable of self-examination, and refused to admit he shares any of the blame for the horrors his community just experienced. Despite the obvious failures in his management, Israel shows no contrition and instead brags about himself as showing “amazing leadership.”
The people of Parkland deserve better in their top law enforcement official. At the very least, they deserve to have an adult in the position.
For the parents of the victims of the Parkland shooting, Israel’s lack of remorse must be particularly difficult to see. This level of self-delusion and misplaced confidence signals that Israel isn’t at all interested in reforming the system he now runs — a system that failed all the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Israel’s most passionate calls have been for more gun control. That's an important political debate worth having, but in his position, one would hope that he would show equal interest in how the system under his control failed to stop the alleged shooter, Nikolas Cruz.
Israel’s deflections and buck passing started immediately after the shootings. Even before the full details were known to press or public (but were largely known to Israel and many officials in the sheriff’s department), Israel went on live television to participate in CNN’s grotesque peep-show of a town hall meeting where, in front of an audience made up of the victims and victims’ families, he focused not on the particulars of how this well-known threat to the public wasn't contained, but on scapegoating the woman sitting to his left — Dana Loesch and the organization she represents — the National Rifle Association.
While letting the understandably angry audience attack Ms. Loesch, Israel never once acknowledged the multiple red flags his office ignored. He failed to mention the reported 45 times Broward County sheriff’s officers’ and other city officials were called to visit Cruz over the years. And when Loesch very reasonably brought up these visits, like a child, Israel claimed none of the incidents were actionable.
Israel also concealed the fact that 18 of those visits were made after individuals close to Cruz called into the sheriff’s office to alert them that Cruz was making threats of violence. In one call to the sheriff’s office, the callers even reported that Cruz "planned to shoot up the school.” Israel also conveniently forgot to mention that in five of those calls, the caller or callers mentioned Cruz had access to weapons.
Israel’s greatest failure, for which he hasn't taken responsibility, is that the connections his office made with Cruz did not result in the information being entered into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This is the reason Cruz passed his background check and was then able to legally purchase a gun.
Broward County residents should also be asking Israel what happened with the other officers who had a chance to limit the carnage. Apparently the day of the shooting, three sheriffs deputies who were ostensibly trained and ready to deal with this type of mass shooting incident, cowered outside the school while Cruz was able to pass through the halls undeterred.
The school’s armed “resource officer” was no better. He hid in a stairwell, never attempting to stop Cruz, nor render aid to those who were injured. It wasn’t until officers from a neighboring county arrived that police entered the school.
For this and many other reasons, Israel should act like an adult, take responsibility for these failures and step down.