Ten months after 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Scott Israel and Robert Runcie are still looking for redemption. Certainly neither one of them -- the Broward County sheriff nor the superintendent of schools -- found it in the MSDHS Public Safety Commission initial report released Wednesday.
The report is utterly damning.
Non-existent security measures, an inadequate law enforcement response and a school-system threat assessment process that put everybody inside the school at risk -- it was all there in the report.
What's worse, during a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Commission Chairman Bob Gualtieri, sheriff of Pinellas County, said students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas still aren't safe. Some of the same holes in the school's safety net remain -- even now, months and months after 19-year-old former student Nikolas Cruz walked unimpeded onto campus, through unguarded open gates, then an unlocked school door -- all while carrying a perfectly obvious and undisguised rifle bag.
Did you get that? Some of the same holes in the school's safety net remain ...
That's enough. No more.
Israel and Runcie should be removed and replaced, and not after the commission has finished. Now.
There were too many dead and wounded on Valentine's Day, too many important failures where the buck stops.
"Failures by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and school district cost children their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School," the Sun-Sentinel wrote about the 58 minutes of chaos on campus during which no one took charge. "A gunman with an AR-15 fired the bullets, but a series of blunders, bad policies, sketchy training and poor leadership helped him succeed. ..."
While Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis was campaigning, he made it clear: If it were up to me, I would have suspended Israel for his department's failures. He said that twice.
Luckily, in three more days it will indeed be up to DeSantis.
The commission has years of meetings ahead to establish good school-safety policy, not just for Broward but for all Florida schools. If DeSantis keeps this pair of Jacob Marleys on board, dragging their heavy clanking chains, all it will do is serve as an aching reminder to the families and friends of the victims that Israel and Runcie's incompetence and excuses are being washed clean -- corrected.
I agree with the Sun-Sentinel, Broward County's local newspaper, whose editors wrote in a Dec. 26, 2018 editorial: "... 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."
Neither has Superintendent Runcie acted responsibly, before or after the massacre. Here's what the Sun-Sentinel reported: "For months, Broward schools delayed or withheld records, refused to publicly assess the role of employees, spread misinformation and even sought to jail reporters who published the truth.
"New information gathered ... proves that the school district knew far more than it’s saying about a disturbed former student obsessed with death and guns ...
"After promising an honest assessment of what led to the shooting, the district instead hired a consultant whose primary goal, according to school records, was preparing a legal defense. Then the district kept most of those findings from the public.
"The district also spent untold amounts on lawyers to fight the release of records and nearly $200,000 to pay public relations consultants who advised administrators to clam up ..."
Remember, it's Superintendent Runcie who commands this leaking ship.
The initial report released Wednesday reflects a perfect storm of incompetence in Broward County, setting out why 17 people died and 17 were wounded Feb. 14 in Parkland. Here's a sampling:
- Shooter Nikolas Cruz’s mental and behavioral health issues;
- People not reporting warning signs or reporting signs that were not acted on by those to whom actionable information was reported;
- How Cruz’s behavioral and discipline issues were addressed (or not addressed) by Broward County Public Schools;
- The overall lack of adequate or effective physical site security;
- Unenforced or non-existent security measures and policies at MSDHS;
- The ineffective behavioral threat assessment process at MSDHS;
- The unsatisfactory law enforcement response, which includes the flawed City of Parkland 911 system and the flawed and failed Broward County law enforcement radio system;
- The Broward Sheriff’s Office’s inadequate active assailant response policy;
- The abysmal response by the school’s SRO;
- A failed response by some law enforcement officers and supervisors and BSO’s flawed unified command and control of the scene ...
Broward County -- for that matter, all of Florida -- needs a fresh start in moving forward. It needs a strong policy administered by leaders with the will and follow-through to keep our community as safe as is humanly possible. Hopefully, Gov. DeSantis will make one of his first orders of business removing and replacing failed Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and Superintendent of Schools Robert Runcie.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith