Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has faced a growing roar of nationwide criticism for his agency’s handling of the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but one of his main attempts to defend his leadership is contradicted by the published protocols of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO).
Over the past few weeks, Israel has vociferously defended himself, claiming he provided “amazing leadership” and seeking to deflect the blame to everyone from the NRA to one of his own deputies, Scot Peterson, the school resource officer assigned to Stoneman Douglas High.
Among Israel’s efforts to shove the spotlight of public scrutiny on anyone but himself is his comments about Peterson and why Peterson and three other BSO deputies waited outside the school during the shooting and did not enter to engage the shooter.
“I gave him a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training,” Israel told a local reporter about Peterson. “If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility!”
Sheriff Scott Israel refuses to resign: "I gave [Scot Peterson] a gun. I gave him a badge. I gave him the training. If he didn’t have the heart to go in, that’s not my responsibility!"#ResignSheriffIsrael pic.twitter.com/cdEwoUQv3T
— Josh Caplan (@joshdcaplan) February 25, 2018
The trouble for Israel is that his office’s own published protocols expose his misrepresentations.
As Politco‘s Marc Caputo reported, the BSO “Standard Operating Procedures,” Section 4.37, for an “Active Shooter” do not actually require the deputy to engage.
If a deputy has “Real Time Intelligence” — defined as the “personal observation of people fleeing, gunfire etc. [that] provides awareness of an on-going Active Shooter situation” — then the deputy “may enter the area and/or structure to preserve life.”
Note that language: the deputy “may enter” — not “shall enter” — to engage the active shooter.
Other language elsewhere in this section reaffirms that the deputies are the ones who have the power to “make the decision to enter the area/structure of the active shooter with the goal of stopping the threat,” and that a “supervisor’s approval or on-site observation is not required for this decision.”
The footer on these protocols indicates that they were last updated in March 2016, during Sheriff Israel’s tenure. So did Israel approve a written rulebook that contradicts actual BSO training, or, what sounds more likely, does this reflect actual BSO training that does not direct deputies to engage active shooters?
“A spokeswoman for the Broward Sheriff’s Office declined to comment on the language of the office’s active shooter shooter protocol and why it doesn’t specifically require a deputy to engage the shooter,” wrote Caputo.
Since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, mass shootings have been studied with the general consensus that waiting to engage an active shooter costs lives, and that the shooters invariably kill themselves, attempt to flee, or surrender when confronted by law enforcement.
This was reflected in the letter from 74 Florida legislators to Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) yesterday calling for Israel’s suspension. “Sheriff Israel did not provide Deputy Peterson with state-of-the-art active shooter tactical training that meets the national standard,” wrote Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R-FL). “Because Deputy Peterson was not provided this training, he was ill-prepared to respond effectively to the situation and neutralize [the shooter]. Instead, Deputy Peterson took up a position outside the school building rather than entering the building to engage [the shooter].”
Peterson, through his attorney, issued a statement that further contradicts Israel’s claims about BSO training. As Streiff reported earlier, Peterson’s statement claimed that he originally believed that the gunfire was coming from outside, and “BSO trains its officers that in the event of outdoor gunfire one is to seek shelter and assess the situation in order to communicate what one observes to other law enforcement.”
“Consistent with his training,” the statement continues, Peterson “took up a tactical position” between the adjacent buildings.
Just to be clear: we have a written set of rules stating that BSO deputies are not required to engage active shooters, one deputy claiming that he was following his training in remaining outside the school, and three other BSO deputies who witnesses describe as also remaining outside during the shooting.
But there’s Sheriff Israel claiming that he gave his deputies a gun, a badge, and training, so it’s “not his responsibility” if they “didn’t have the heart to go in.”
Who do you believe?
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.