After defending Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for months against Republican criticism over his office’s failed handling of the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the left-leaning Sun Sentinel editorial board published a lengthy editorial Wednesday on “the failed leadership of Broward Sheriff Scott Israel” that explains why they now agree with Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis that Israel must go.
“It’s a big deal for a governor to remove an elected sheriff, especially if the governor is a Republican and the sheriff is the most powerful Democrat in Florida’s most Democratic county,” the Sun Sentinel editorial board states. But after reviewing a draft of the state commission’s report on the shooting, the editors have concluded that Israel simply cannot be allowed to stay in office.
“[A] community of our size is going to face another tragedy,” the editors conclude. “It’s just a matter of where and when. And if we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Given Sheriff Israel’s failure to learn from history — and his failures during our community’s most horrific events — we now stand with those who believe he should be removed and replaced.”
The editors begin by underscoring that they have repeatedly defended Israel against criticism they believed to be premature, including in late February when Republicans called for Gov. Rick Scott to suspend him for incompetence and in April when the deputies’ union voted no confidence in him “largely because of pay raises.”
“We’ve suggested all along that people hold their fire until more details are known,” they write. “But after seeing the damning details in the commission’s draft report — and Israel’s troubling testimony — we cannot encourage the governor-elect to wait and let voters decide the sheriff’s fate in 2020.”
After highlighting Israel’s progressive accomplishments, including supposedly lowering burglaries and violent crime and his promotion of left-wing policies, like keeping teachers unarmed and participating in LGBTQ pride parades, the board dismisses the claim that criticism against Israel is only motivated by his war on the NRA.
“Israel’s supporters say the only reason the sheriff finds himself in the political crosshairs is because he stood up to the NRA at a CNN Town Hall after the shooting, and had a terrible interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper,” they write (formatting adjusted). “But that’s not it at all. The issue is public safety, the sheriff’s paramount duty. And on his two biggest tests — the mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas — Israel has come up short. Worse, the sheriff fails to accept responsibility for things that have gone wrong, instead suggesting that things couldn’t have been better. If he fails to acknowledge that mistakes were made — not only by individuals, but by his command — how can we expect a better outcome next time?”
The board then walks through key findings of the report, including one of the most infamous moments of the Parkland massacre: when the school resource officer failed to act to protect students. Israel has tried to keep the blame squarely aimed at the officer, but the Sun Sentinel stresses that the resource officer’s failure to respond was part of a much larger problem that ultimately falls on the sheriff’s shoulders:
After the Stoneman Douglas shooting, the sheriff argued that a general can’t be blamed if a single soldier fails to do his job. He was referring to School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, who failed to pursue the shooter after reporting “shots fired.” The commission’s report says Peterson waited 45 minutes to enter the school and warned others to stay away, too.
But Peterson was not alone. While a great many BSO deputies demonstrated bravery that day, far too many showed cowardice, hiding behind trees, cars and walls.
Besides Peterson, seven other deputies also heard the gunfire and failed to pursue the shooter, as best practices would dictate. During interviews with investigators, several noted BSO policy says they could pursue a shooter, but don’t have to.
Israel should be mortified to know a team of Coral Springs police officers blew by his deputies and entered the building where [the shooter, named redacted] had unleashed hell. A Sunrise police officer who raced to the scene said a BSO deputy told him: “Don’t go in.”