Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel Refuses to Explain His Office's Failures to Congress

He "let the American people down and also the citizens of Florida," according to Sen. Chuck Grassley.


Lannis Waters/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Scott Israel, the embattled sheriff of Florida's Broward County, won't answer Congress's questions about a collective failure to prevent the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Israel was asked to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on school safety and gun control this week. Both Israel and Florida Department of Children and Families Secretary Michael Carroll refused the request, earning a stern rebuke from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the committee.

"By thumbing their noses at Congress, Sheriff Israel and Secretary Carroll have let the American people down and also the citizens of Florida they serve," said Grassley, according to The Hill. "[T]he Broward County Sheriff and Department of Children and Families are integral to the Parkland fact pattern."

Perhaps it's no surprise that Israel and Carroll were unwilling to subject themselves to Congressional criticism, but Israel was perfectly happy to appear on television in the immediate wake of the tragedy, before his own office's mistakes became the story. Israel really does seem like a consummate media opportunist: eager to commandeer the spotlight when it makes him look strong and decisive, uninterested in being held publicly accountable for the numerous errors his officers committed. Recall Israel's own appraisal of his leadership: "amazing."

The Department of Children and Families, Florida's version of child protective services, has plenty to answer for as well. In 2016, the agency mistakenly determined that Nikolas Cruz posed no threat to himself or others.

At the hearing on Wednesday, FBI Deputy Director Bill Bowdich took some responsibility for his agency's missteps. The FBI had learned that Cruz was mutilating small animals, possessed a cache of weapons, had threatened other family members, and was planning to shoot up a school, but agents did not follow up on this information.

"We made mistakes here, no question about it," said Bowdich, according to The Los Angeles Times. "That said, even if we had done everything right, I'm not sure we could have stopped the attack."

It's true that not every horrific tragedy can be prevented by law enforcement, even if everyone does their jobs. But the public entities involved in the Parkland incident did everything wrong: in the weeks leading up to the shooting, and even as it was unfolding. They should be held accountable; Israel, too.