A long discovery process lies ahead in the anatomy of the Parkland massacre. But one conclusion is indisputable. Or, should be.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel should be removed.
Never mind the more than 30 ignored follow-ups on warning phone calls. Based on nothing more than his deputies' failure to adhere to their active-shooter-incident training, Israel has to go.
Broward, second most populous county in Florida, deserves so much better.
The more we learn about the details of the Broward Sheriff's Department response -- or, lack of it -- the more tragic the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School becomes. And the more exposed Sheriff Israel's failed leadership.
It took a public records request from Judicial Watch to uncover Israel's Standard Operating Procedure and lesson plans for an active shooter incident.
As you would imagine, the manual specifically directs that the first one or two officers on the scene of an active shooter incident “will immediately go to confront the shooter.”
The department confirmed that armed school resource officer Deputy Scot Peterson was first on the scene of the Feb. 14 shooting, but did not enter the school to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz.
Three other deputies also arrived, but they stayed crouched behind their cars, too. Judicial Watch lays it all out: Broward County Sheriff's materials direct that if four officers are on the scene of an active-shooter incident, they are to assemble in a “quad” formation and enter the building.
During Columbine, the response to an ongoing shooting situation was to contain the suspect. After Columbine the International Chiefs of Police addressed the problem with the response and came up with the “Quad” or diamond formation. With the quad, the first four officers to respond entered the building with coverage in all directions. This was critical to address the concerns of officers who previously would not enter and just wait for SWAT.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said during a news conference that, “What I saw was a deputy [Peterson] arrive … take up a position and he never went in.” Israel said Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.”
The lesson plan clearly states: “If you are on scene or in the area and hear gunshots, you should immediately access what you have and prepare to respond. Remember, every time you hear a gunshot in an active shooter incident; you have to believe that is another victim being killed.”
The training materials also state that the first officers on the scene will “engage the suspect,” which Peterson did not do. “There are now three teams during Active Shooter Incident [Contact, Extraction and Rescue Task Force]: Contact Team: Is first on scene, 1-4 deputies, they will be actively engaging/searching for suspect (HOT ZONE).”
The lesson plan lists “priorities of life” as: 1) Hostages/victims; 2) Innocent Bystanders; 3) Police/deputies; and 4) Suspects. “If in doubt about going through the door after a suspect, think about the victims and where they stand on the list.”
Again, the lesson plan instructs officers to immediately confront a shooter.
Was Sheriff Israel even familiar with the "quad" and the lessons learned after Columbine?
Records also show that Israel is the second highest paid of Florida’s 67 sheriffs at $186,631 for Fiscal Year 2017/18. The sheriff was eligible for $2,000 in supplemental pay for completion of a 20-hour training course. In 2016, Israel received a warning letter that he had not successfully completed the course and his supplemental pay was being withheld.
Pressure on the vocal sheriff "to do the right thing" is mounting as we speak. While Israel criticizes everyone from local politicians to the NRA to his own officers, petitions and rallies for his resignation are mounting on social media and some, even, follow him into the street.
Israel put up a bizarre defense when asked by CNN's Jake Tapper if the shooting might not have happened had his department handled things differently. “Listen," he replied, "if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books.”
Again, I ask, was Israel even familiar with the lessons learned after Columbine? This is a sheriff who didn't complete the active-shooter course. Didn't complete it. This isn't simply a mistake, it is gross negligence.
Simply put, what these documents do is show the law enforcement agency failed the victims of the Parkland shooting.
Ignored warnings about shooter Nikolas Cruz aside -- as Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton already has pointed out, “The sheriff was fully aware of the threat this individual presented to his community and chose to ignore it” -- lives were lost in Parkland because the Sheriff's personnel were either poorly trained or failed to follow training protocols.
The buck stops with Scott Israel, a stunningly incompetent leader.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith. This commentary is based on the investigation of Judicial Watch, a conservative educational foundation and public watchdog.
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