According to a 2014 report, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who has come under increased scrutiny over his deputy’s handling of the Parkland mass shooting and the policies that appear to have shielded the shooter from serious consequences leading up to the massacre, used to insist on being chauffeured around by an armed bodyguard because he feared “threats.”
In the explosive CNN Parkland shooting town hall, in which pro-Second Amendment advocates, including NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch, were decried as “murderers” by pro-gun control audience members, Israel told Loesch that she was not “standing up” for the students unless she would agree to reducing the number of weapons.
“You just told this group of people that you are standing up for them,” Israel told Loesch. “You’re not standing up for them until you say, ‘I want less weapons.'”
Though Israel seemed to suggest in front of the audience largely filled with student survivors, their parents, and gun control advocates that fewer guns results in more safety, his actions suggest otherwise.
A 2014 report by the Sun Sentinel highlights some strange details about Israel’s tenure, including that he insisted on being driven around by armed security guards so that he had time to text and make phone calls and as an extra security against “threats”:
Why does Israel have a driver? Broward Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Veda Coleman-Wright said that frees him up to read and respond to emails and text messages and to make calls. Because of threats against the sheriff, the driver is an armed deputy, BSO officials said.
The Sun Sentinel’s report notes that Israel’s former driver-security guard, Troy Wilkins, was “under investigation and was removed from that post.” Israel “tapped his brother’s brother-in-law to be his new driver-bodyguard, after his previous driver-bodyguard was stripped of his gun and badge and put on restrictive duty.”
As the Tampa Bay Times reported shortly after the CNN gun control event, the same day that Israel appeared at the town hall alongside Loesch to criticize her stance on gun rights and defend his handling of the tragedy, he also announced that he was going to support more heavily arming school security, including potentially with AR-15s.
“Only deputies who are trained and qualified will carry those rifles,” said Israel, according to the Sun Sentinel. “But we need to be able to defeat any threat that comes onto campus.”
As more details about what led up to the shooting emerge, including law enforcement being called a reported 45 times about the shooter and his family members, pressure on Israel has mounted. Not only has the sheriff’s office been criticized for the hesitation of some deputies during the shooting, the sheriff has also come under fire for his counterproductive policies, including mandating that juveniles be spared harsher punishments, particularly jail time, effectively shielding potential “threats” like the student shooter.
As Sarah Rumpf reported, the number of arrests of juvenile offenders during Israel’s tenure, which started in 2013, has decreased by nearly 50%. A 2016 candidate questionnaire filled out by Israel highlights his “innovative initiatives” that likely shielded teens like the Parkland shooter from real consequences:
My innovative initiatives also helped keep children in school and out of jail, greatly expanding the juvenile civil citation program and making issuance of civil citations mandatory for BSO deputies. … I will build upon these impressive successes in my next term as Sheriff.