90 Miles From Tyranny : As Broward sheriff touts ‘amazing leadership,’ a low grumble builds in the ranks

Thursday, March 1, 2018

As Broward sheriff touts ‘amazing leadership,’ a low grumble builds in the ranks

As the elected sheriff of Broward County, Scott Israel has been fond of self-promotion and found comfort among friends.

After he was first elected in 2012, he opened the Broward Sheriff’s Office pocketbooks to surround himself with campaign supporters. When he ran for reelection, he had his mug festooned on the facade of community outreach vehicles.

It’s a tactic that’s earned him criticism during his five-plus years as the top law enforcement officer at Florida’s largest sheriff’s department, but one that may come in handy now that he’s under intense scrutiny for the way his agency responded to a Parkland shooting that killed 17 — and how it handled calls and tips before the tragedy about shooter Nikolas Cruz.

If his crisis is of his own making, then his salvation may be as well.

“[Scott Israel] stood with us now we must stand with him,” Col. Jim Polan, one of Israel’s top lieutenants, wrote Monday in an email urging other brass to rally deputies. “It’s important that they are reminded about all of the great things that our agency has accomplished under the direction of Sheriff Israel.”

Now two weeks removed from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Israel is on an island.

Republicans are demanding his ouster following the sheriff’s belated disclosure that a deputy assigned to the school waited outside the building where Cruz did his killing and “never went in.” Democrats are keeping their distance as outside investigators review how BSO handled dozens of calls and tips that painted a portrait of an armed, volatile teenager.

And as Israel deflects any responsibility for errors his deputies may have made — touting his own “amazing leadership” on CNN Sunday — the rank-and-file are beginning to “grumble.”

“It’s a low grumble now, but it’s starting to build,” said Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association.

The pressure — including a subpoena for documents issued Wednesday by the Florida House of Representatives — is forcing Israel and his allies to try and gin up support, relying on the sheriff’s skills as a politician in order to defend his abilities as a law enforcement agent. On Thursday, with conservative media painting him as “the Barney Fife of Parkland,” Israel’s supporters will gather at a Pompano Beach church to show their support for the sheriff.

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday the school resource officer stationed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was suspended without pay after he learned the deputy never went into the building when the shooting began. Broward Sheriff's Office

But it’s hardly an independent event: The gathering is scheduled at the Word of the Living God Ministries, where pastor John Mohorn is a former BSO chaplain.

If Israel has few people outside his department to lean on, it may be because he’s done himself few favors since Cruz killed 17 students and faculty on Feb. 14 and wounded 15 more.

Immediately after the shooting, for instance, the sheriff touted his agency’s swift response and said the tragedy was a reminder that the public has to help law enforcement identify people on the edge of violence.

“If you see something, say something,” he told the media. “If anybody has any indicator that someone is going through a behavioral change, or on their social media that there are disturbing photos, perhaps bombs or firearms or videos or pictures that are just not right, please make sure law enforcement knows about it.”

As it turned out, members of the public had done exactly that: In call after call, they warned BSO deputies, as well as the FBI, that Cruz owned weapons and was a threat to himself and others. He was a “school shooter in the making,” one tipster stated. He was posting photos with guns on Instagram, another warned.

But little was done.

The sheriff’s office — which has shut down the release of information while the investigation continues — has adamantly stated that none of the tips or calls it received...Read More HERE

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