Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel—the man whose agency failed to prevent the Parkland massacre despite having received a tip last November that Nikolas Cruz was plotting a mass shooting—has been accused of public corruption.
Two years ago, the Sun Sentinel reported that Israel was rewarding top political supporters by giving them and their family members cushy jobs doing public relations and community outreach for the Broward County Sheriff's Office. One such position, outreach manager, paid out a salary of $78,489. The person who got that job was the husband of Israel's campaign manager.
Israel had been a Republican but ran for office as a Democrat. He was first elected sheriff in 2012, then re-elected in 2016. According to the Sun Sentinel:
The outreach workers, who mainly attend community events, are in addition to political activists and others Israel hired into community affairs roles, writing and designing printed pieces about the agency, and sharing it on social media. The employee log shows six hired into community affairs roles, their salaries totaling $388,729.
Israel's opponents say he's built a publicly funded political machine, paying back supporters with jobs and using them to keep him in office. They say the money could be better spent, particularly after the sheriff complained about not having enough funding to secure the county courthouse, where a murder suspect recently escaped.
Asked about the allegations, Israel responded, "What have I done differently than Don Shula or Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King, Gandhi?"
He also said, "Lions don't care about the opinions of sheep." That's a paraphrase of a quote from the Game of Thrones character Tywin Lannister, a villainous public administrator known for promoting his family's interests ahead of the government's or the people's.
Were the employees hired to work at the Sheriff's Office competent? It certainly seems like a relevant question now that we know the authorities were forewarned about the dangers posed by Cruz. The office received at least 18 calls about Cruz's disturbing behavior and possession of weapons from 2008 to 2017. BuzzFeed has obtained records related to those calls. The most recent one, made on November 30, 2017, described Cruz as a "school shooter in the making." Broward County referred the matter to the Palm Beach Sheriff's Office but took no further action—even though a relative of Cruz had warned Broward County about Cruz's stash of weapons just three days before.
This news follows the resignation of Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, who refused to engage the killer while the rampage was underway. Israel suspended Peterson after watching video footage of the SRO's behavior, saying that it made him "sick to my stomach."
Given the appalling failures that took place at Israel's office, the "sheep" might like to ask the "lion" some questions. Perhaps he could answer them in a less condescending and authoritarian fashion.
Photo Credit: Michael Laughlin/ZUMA Press/Newscom