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Government Wants Our Trust, but Where's the Accountability?

The foul ups by the Broward County Sheriff's Office don't inspire confidence.

The school shooting in Parkland, Florida, is heartbreaking but increasingly infuriating, as we endure a sea of excuses from Broward County's law enforcement officials. The glib Sheriff Scott Israel has been ubiquitous on television, where he's complained about a lack of police power to detain people and called for tougher gun control. But one thing is missing from his tiring shtick: any personal responsibility for his own department's failures.

Israel's interview with CNN's Jake Tapper was something to behold—even for those of us who have spent careers writing about the antics of public officials. Tapper, who had pointed to the many "red flags" about the alleged killer, asked if the shootings might have been avoided if the sheriff's department had done things differently. Israel's answer: "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books."

What does that mean? Tapper had no idea, either, and then pressed Israel again. "We understand everything wasn't done perfectly," the sheriff added, in what has to be the understatement of the decade. He had boasted of his "amazing leadership" and the fabulous achievements in the sheriff's department—and said there wasn't anything he could do about his deputy who didn't enter the building. He had training, after all.

That deputy, Scot Peterson, didn't admit responsibility, either. A statement from his attorney complains that Peterson, who has since resigned, has been maligned by the sheriff and says he thought the shots were coming from outside and "took up a tactical position." The statement noted: "Let there be no mistake, Mr. Peterson wishes that he could have prevented the untimely passing of the 17 victims on that day, and his heart goes out to the families of the victims in their time of need."

Gag. I understand all those pointless shipments of "thoughts and prayers" from people who can't do much other than offer their best wishes to the grieving families of the murdered students and faculty at the high school. But my "heart goes out to the families" doesn't quite cut it from the armed deputy who was assigned to protect the people in the school.

That was far from the only miscue. For a reminder, CNN reports that three other deputies allegedly "had their pistols drawn and were behind their vehicles, the sources said, and not one of them had gone into the school." The sheriff's office says that it is still investigating the veracity of that claim, which reportedly came from a police department.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office was warned repeatedly about the shooter—and the FBI even got a call to its tip line in January fearing that the gunman might "explode" and go heading "into a school and just shooting the place up." Social-services authorities also were called to his house. The sheriff's office issued a prickly statement insisting that the media stop reporting that it was called to the shooter's house 39 times, when it was only 23 times.

But Newsweek reports that despite the department's claim, "Public records now reveal that 45 calls were placed to the sheriff's office in south Florida." Whatever the exact number, when the sheriff's best argument is that he was called fewer times than reported, that might be the sign of a problem within that organization, no? Bureaucratic butt-covering has to be expected in such situations, but I've covered enough government scandals to know that few if anyone will face any serious repercussions. At worst, some folks might retire early with full benefits.

In a scathing editorial called "Broward's Cowards," National Review argued that Israel should resign given the "comprehensive" failure of his department. That's a good point, of course. But the issue goes beyond one sheriff and his department. This was a widespread failure of the entire system designed to protect the public. Only the most naïve people would believe that the system works much better elsewhere.

Police claim a "monopoly of violence," which is political-science-speak for the exclusive right to enforce the laws. Broward County residents cannot fire their sheriff's department, although they can perhaps fire the sheriff during the next election cycle and hope the next one isn't a buffoon. But there's no real accountability when the government fails.

Police responses to mass shootings have long been debated, with critics still wondering about the slow response times and lack of quick engagement with the shooter at a variety of horrific incidents over the decades. At the Pulse club massacre of 49 people in Orlando in June 2016, it reportedly took three hours before the SWAT team made a direct assault on the shooter.

Sheriff Israel has at least become a public face to put on the debate about gun control. The bottom-line question is simple: Do you trust him—and others like him—to protect your safety, or would you like to remain free to have a back-up plan?

This column was first published in the Orange County Register.

Photo Credit: Michael Laughlin/TNS/Newscom

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  • DajjaI||

    The point of 'gun control' is to start a war on guns and import Israel's police state. Lots of bad things are happening in Europe and the people don't have gun rights (again) and they are sitting ducks (again) and will get slaughtered by the millions (again). And guess who will come to their rescue? American 'crazies' and 'gun nuts' and "people who shouldn't own firearms". Again. As for these incidents, we just have to stop pathologizing normal kids with destructive autism 'treatment' and homeschooling.

  • BambiB||

    During WWII, the Brits were terrified of a German invasion. The British subjects had long-ago surrendered their means of self-defense to the Crown - which lacked the means to defend the shores.

    Enter the crazy Americans. The individuals who shipped their personal firearms and ammunition at their own expense to their British counterparts to give them a chance of repelling the Hun invasion.

    Of course, once the war was over and a few years behind, the Brits returned to complacent obliviousness and decided to destroy all their arms. This time, it wasn't so much British firearms being chopped, smashed and melted down as firearms sent by Americans to help the Brits. I suppose it never occurred to those of the U.K. that returning the firearms might have been a better decision - or that at some time in the future they might have need of them again.

    As for trusting government: The JPFO has calculated that in the 20th Century over 170 MILLION people were slaughtered BY THEIR OWN GOVERNMENTS - in each case after the imposition of gun control and gun confiscation.

    Trust the government? Only a fool would. The bright line test for whether the government needs to be overthown (as the Founders presaged) is when it attempts to limit the right to bear arms.

    As for home-schooling, that seems to be more of an antidote to cultural decay than a problem.

  • Gerald4||

    US citizens and US criminals are probably more violent than Northern European Residents, but I do not want to remove my ability to resist violent criminal actions such as armed robbery, kick burglaries, rape, protection payments, etc. that might be performed against myself and/or members of my family!

    What if the Chinese citizens had been as violent and as armed as US citizens were in the 1930's?

    The Japanese could not then have thrown Chinese babies into the air and catch (impaled) them onto their end of their bayonets as the baby's mothers watched, raped young Chinese Girls until they bled to death, posted handbills onto telephone poles stating that any (Philipino) female refusing sex with any Japanese soldier will be sumarily executed on the spot, using live Chinese male citizens as targets for bayonet practice, etc, forcing Korean women to be comfort women providing (essentially) free sex to Japanese soldiers, etc.

  • Gerald4||

    Since 1968 Mexico has increasingly increased their rules and regulations to essentially disarm the citizens and limit the possession of pistols and other firearms to only the military and police despite Article 10 of the Mexican Constitution adopted in 1917 that guarantees its citizens the right to bear arms,

    Mexican citizens are now essentially disarmed and now must submit themselves to the desires, demands and control of any and every armed (criminal) person with whom they come into contact or face death by summary execution for disobeying that criminal.

    This disarming of Mexican citizens is the primary reason for the rise of kidnapping, murder, drug wars, rape and other crimes where the police and military are also paid by and are under control of the organized criminals.

    Does anybody want US citizens to live like Mexican citizens?

    Only the average non-criminal citizen complies with the Mexican Gun Control laws, and so he will have to comply with the will of any and every armed criminal that he encounters, unless he sufficiently arms himself illegally and becomes deadly proficient in the use of his weapons so that he can resist the armed criminal element. The Mexican criminals do not pay attention to any of the Mexican government regulations.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    The media has lost the gun control fight again. Predictably, they have moved on from the Parkland shooting story because there is nothing but government incompetence there.

  • Flinch||

    Accountability is indeed the question. But I'm always wary of Newsweek, as it is best suited for the birdcage. The sad part of the whole debacle is revealed in the sheriffs bold claim of him doing a great job. And, you know what? He sadly was - for the hideous vision crafted in Eric Holders DOJ, and the grant program put in place. For schools to get the money they basically needed to stop reporting crimes committed, but still needed a way to show parents police were involved in security. Sheriff Israel stepped to the plate and delivered, I am sad to say - the school couldn't have done it without him. When Obama had his hacks adjust methodology for calculating GDP upon arrival in 2009, that was disappointing and frustrating, but it didn't cost lives. When progs come up with schemes to plow crime stats under so they can make a claim of 'peace and security' watch out: they are rolling the dice with our lives. And when this is done to schools and children... call it evil. The shooter was able to pass background checks because our DOJ put a system in place to destroy its ability to function, then sit back and wait for the inevitable. Parkland was a planned event: not by location, but as a percentage play. We are just lucky Holder was no longer the AG, to recommend whatever broken "solution" was sitting in his drawer waiting for the right bloodbath on TV to pull it out.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Tapper, who had pointed to the many "red flags" about the alleged killer, asked if the shootings might have been avoided if the sheriff's department had done things differently. Israel's answer: "If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books."

    Damn, that answer could use some work!

  • JFree||

    If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be a putz.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    You misspelled "beloved star of gridiron and Naked Gun movies."

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    And we have a winner!

  • Chumby||

    O.J. Simpson would still not be a Jew.

  • sarcasmic||

    Trust means not having to be accountable.

  • DrZ||

    Or, for the big-government crowd: Love of big gov means never having to say you are sorry.

    I think I heard that in a movie.

  • Citizen X - #6||

    Obviously, the solution is to pass laws making it illegal not to trust the government. Easy peasy.

  • sarcasmic||

    Two 'heroic' SWAT team members are suspended without pay for disobeying orders and responding to Florida high school massacre while 'cowardly' deputies cowered outside

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....sacre.html

    Like I said, officer safety is number one. These guys put officer safety at risk by doing something instead of cowering. And now they're in trouble.

  • Gerald4||

    Police protection as a solution for individual citizen security does not exist to stop active shooters or provide protection during mass murder or a riot.

    Past riots in Los Angeles and Washington DC exhibit a disturbing pattern of police actions when social chaos overwhelms law and order.

    The police almost always "pull back" and abandon entire neighborhoods to vicious mobs. Maybe the police are afraid of lawsuits arising from the use of force that would be necessary to stop the riot?

    In the case of the 1992 Los Angeles Rodney King race riots where Caucasians and Asians were hunted down, beaten, robbed, and murdered, the LA police retreated and hid in their defensive positions.

    This allowed the murderous rampages to continue for three days until the rioters got tired, quit rioting and then went home. (1965 also)

  • Eidde||

    Any comment on the alleged anti-arrest policy of the Broward public schools, designed to reduce the number of "minorities" with criminal records? Is this a right-wing propaganda myth, or was it a real thing?

  • The Laissez-Ferret||

    City officials have admitted this so I'd say it happened, and it was corroborated by members of the DOJ that served under Holder. They didn't say minorities though, they said at-risk, but there were 10-12 pilot programs all started in heavily minority areas.

  • Rhywun||

    Wasn't one of Obama's "Dear Colleague" letters specifically about reducing the number of suspended minority kids? This could have flowed from the same thinking. Hell, it could be a direct result.

  • sarcasmic||

    'Do not approach!' The panicked 911 call of coward cop who told police to stay 'at least 500ft away' from Parkland school shooting as victims lay dead inside

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....-call.html

    Putting officer safety first, and then lying about what happened. Seems like SOP to me.

  • Eidde||

    Numero uno, what happened to the confront-the-shooter policies which were supposedly implemented after Columbine.

    Numero two-o, isn't there a cute Internet meme about how, when "civilians" are running away from danger, the brave hero cops are running straight towards it? Could this meme be wrong?

  • Libertymike||

    Same with 9/11 - the videos don't lie - see cops on the fly - they were running for their lives.

  • ||

    You're Boston-ish, yeah?

    Soon after 9/11 I was working a job that had me in contact with the LEOs tasked with "protecting" the LNG terminal in Everett. I asked one state trooper what - in the event of an attack or explosion - was the evacuation plan for the area. He responded, "Follow the blue lights... we'll be the first ones out!"

    He was only half-kidding.

  • General_Tso||

    Cheers from Mansfield

  • Longtobefree||

    Like the bomb squad t-shirt that says "If you see me running, try to keep up!"

  • Unable2Reason||

    Same with the LA riots. They withdrew, cordoned off the area, and let the rioters inside the loop rape pillage and burn to their heart's content. The cops were all snug in their beds while that guy got pulled from his vehicle and had his head bashed in with a brick

  • Agammamon||

    Re:. Numerous two-o - no, that's an Army National Guard recruiting commercial.

  • SIV||

  • Eidde||

    "It's sorta perfect that the Trumpian right would make an ethnic slur out of a word that basically describes people who are cultured, learned, well-traveled, and enjoy learning about and interacting with people from other countries."

    Tourists?

    Jet-setters?

    Eurotrash?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "...people who are cultured, learned, well-traveled, and enjoy learning about and interacting with people from other countries." How does that make me a "globalist" [I'm guessing that's the term under discussion here]?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    "Do you trust him—and others like him—to protect your safety, or would you like to remain free to have a back-up plan?"

    Well now that is the question, isn't it? And much of the tribal dividing line that seems to exist in our society at present. Do you take responsibility for your life, your health, your well being, or do you want to count on someone else to do it for you, even if they do it terribly? Just so you don't have to worry about it.

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    ""Do you take responsibility for your life, your health, your well being, or do you want to count on someone else to do it for you, even if they do it terribly? Just so you don't have to worry about it.""

    Government must protect me, government must give me health care, government must make risk decisions on my behalf.

    The Progressives Mantra.

  • flyfishnevada||

    Law enforcement has failed again and again to prevent these shooting. Yet, we're supposed to accept "gun free" zones in schools where our kids are all but forced to attend and give up our rights to defend ourselves. And it's not law enforcement's job to stop crime before it happens anyway. I wish one, just one, talking head would explain that to the sheeple more concerned about feeling good than in actually doing anything meaningful.

  • rhkennerly||

    So far the only people drawn to shooting up schools are the kids who attend there (or recently were expelled or sudpended). Don"t know of any cases where a doer walked in off the street to shoot up a school.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    The Rancho Tehama Reserve shooting was just this past November; Adam Lanza is the most notorious case, but he was a hyper-autistic maladroit who probably would have snapped at some point and killed a bunch of people anyway.

  • Gerald4||

    If you are congregating in a "GUN FREE ZONE" venue such as a school, church, café, disco, stadium, theater, etc. when these murders start to occur, the ONLY possible thing that will stop the mass killing or limit the carnage is one or more legally or illegally armed person in that same space. Maybe that is why the Las Vegas shooter chose higher velocity longer range weapons at a remote location instead of using pistols within one of these "Gun Free" venues!

  • TrickyVic (old school)||

    "" "We understand everything wasn't done perfectly," the sheriff added, in what has to be the understatement of the decade. He had boasted of his "amazing leadership" and the fabulous achievements in the sheriff's department—and said there wasn't anything he could do about his deputy who didn't enter the building. He had training, after all.""

    Sounds more like a politician.

  • ||

    NEVER TRUST GOVT, STATE OR FEDERAL.
    BOTH ARE ENEMIES OF WE THE PEOPLE, AND THEY PROVE IT EVERYDAY.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    Or local.

    Anyone who desires power/authority is unworthy of it.

  • DrZ||

    "But there's no real accountability when the government fails."

    Government does not fail. It just appears that they fail and when this happen they can not tell us why it looks like a failure for security reasons.

    Remember, they are from the government and they are here to help.

  • Longtobefree||

    Ah, yes. But help WHO?

  • rhkennerly||

    Well that's dim. Don't really see the 'Reason" in this article.

    Sure the parkland doer was known to the police, but he didn't commit any crimes that I could tell. Surely the author is not suggesting the police confiscate his weapons just because he frightened neigbors, is he? Force their way into the house & rummage around until they find all the guns & take them?

    In fact. It was only this week that Fl actually gave LEO the tools they need to do just what I described, confiscate pending hearing.

    These are exactly the kinds of laws LEO & the public have needed for decades, but the NRA & gun owners fear. There would have howls of fury if this kind of law were passed under the former prez.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Sure the parkland doer was known to the police, but he didn't commit any crimes that I could tell.

    Helps to have a sheriff with a policy of not arresting juveniles who commit crimes.

  • Longtobefree||

    So here is the accountability for Broward county Florida.
    The sheriff is not subject to a recall vote. The county has to fire him.
    Only the board of commissioners are subject to recall, through a simple straightforward process.
    (A recall cannot begin until the targeted official has served at least one-fourth of his or her term in office)

    (see below, character limits again)
    And that's all you have to do to get rid of the county commission, and demand the new guys fire the sheriff. No worries.
    And that is accountability in the age of participation trophies.

  • Longtobefree||

    1. Grounds for the recall must be provided. There are 7 grounds. They are "malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, and conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude".
    2. Once the recall petition is approved for circulation, gather signatures of 5% of the registered voters within 30 days.
    3. Submit the signatures, along with 10 cents per signature, to the clerk or auditor of the county.
    4. The clerk will immediately convey the signatures to the supervisor of elections, who has 30 days to review the them.
    5.If there are enough certified signatures, the supervisor will notify the clerk/auditor who will immediately serve the subject of the recall with a certified copy of the petition. That person has up to 5 days to submit a written defense of no more than 200 words.
    6. After the defense is submitted, or after the 5 days, the recall committee gets to collect signatures from 15% of the registered voters.
    7. Submit the signatures, along with 10 cents per signature, to the clerk or auditor of the county.
    8. The supervisor if elections gets another 30 days to review the three times as many signatures.
    9. If there are sufficient valid signatures, the official gets 5 days to resign.
    10. If the official does not resign, a judge must set an election date not less than 30 days, nor more than 60 days in the future.
    11. The recall ballot is a simple question; shall (name) be removed form office?"

  • libertynugget||

    I'm pretty sure Autocracy doesn't ever call Accountability again after a disappointing night of much hyped but under performed 'boning.'

  • Gerald4||

    Each individual citizen is now and always has been responsible for his or her own personal safety and security. The taxpayer will not ever be able to afford to employ sufficient numbers of policemen to protect each citizen the way that wealthy people hire private bodyguards to protect themselves and their families 24/7.

    Each individual citizen must evaluate their own exposure to criminal activities and then take whatever measures they deem required to counteract their threat posed by the criminal element.

    These measures for the average citizen to consider might include security lighting, intruder alarm systems, baseball bats, knives, and/or firearms.

    Since the start of Concealed Carry in Texas many decades ago, has "a bunch of good intentioned cowboys cross firing and hitting innocent citizens" ever happened in Texas, or anywhere else? I have not heard of that happening.

    Each citizen is still responsible for his/her own security.

    The police solve a few crimes, but they mainly fill out reports as required for insurance claims, and write traffic tickets.

    If you need a firearm to defend yourself, then the second amendment allows you to do just that, probably just for that reason.

  • Gerald4||

    Police protection as a solution for individual citizen security does not exist to stop active shooters or provide protection during the mass murder of unarmed innocent people cowering under desks and tables awaiting their turn to be executed.

    The police almost always "take cover" and abandon the school or other "Gun Free" venue to the vicious murderer and allow him to continue his murders until he runs out of ammo or is satisfied with his "Body Count."

    Mass murderers know that after the police arrive, the police will not place themselves at risk in order to stop the killing and/or to save any of the lives of the remaining potential victims in that venue.

    When some deranged mental patient or a Muslim true believer is killing a child at a "Gun Free" venue such as a school every few seconds, the armed police who have the capability to stop the killing are usually several minutes (and many additional dead students) away!

    When and where have the local police ever stopped an active shooter? I cannot recall one single instance, but surely there are a few somewhere.

    Thousands of schools in the USA already allow teachers to be armed for the protection of their students. Has there ever been one instance of a teacher's gun shooting a student in these schools?

    There are several documented incidences of armed school teachers stopping the killing of students!

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