A Texas sheriff, disgusted by the failures of the Broward County Sheriff in the Parkland school shooting, sent a memo to his deputies: “We do not stage and wait for SWAT. We do not take cover in a parking lot, and we do not wait for another agency. We go in and we do our duty.”
Sheriff Tracy Murphree’s full letter to his Deputies reads: “With the recent tragedy in Florida, I want to make clear my policy on responding to an active shooter. All commissioned Deputies: If you respond to an active shooter you are expected to take immediate action. We do not stage and wait for SWAT, we do not take cover in a parking lot, and we do not wait for another agency. We go in and do our duty. We go in to engage and stop the shooter and save lives. If for any reason you feel you cannot follow this directive please inform your supervisor and we will work to get you reassigned. “Thank you for all you do every day.” Sheriff Tracy Murphree Denton County Sheriff’s Office 127 North Woodrow Ln. Denton, TX 76205 Romans 3:4: "For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer."
You have the Sheriff’s address in his letter. Please consider writing him and thanking him for his principled stand, as well as for quoting a Scripture that every law enforcement officer should memorize.
It is very rare for police officers to criticize one another because they all know how difficult the job is, and how many things out of their control can go wrong. So I was surprised, as the facts came out about the Parkland shooting, to see so many high-ranking police officials, both in Florida and around the nation, criticize the Broward County sheriff for lack of leadership, and his deputies for an ineffective response and even for cowardice.
As a former Palm Beach County Deputy Sheriff myself, I am also very hesitant to criticize law enforcement. (Palm Beach is the County just North of Broward, where the shooting took place.) It’s so easy to be a “Monday morning quarterback,” especially if you have never been involved in a life and death situation. But when you compare the response of the Broward Sheriff’s Department, to that of the Coral Springs Police Department, the widespread criticism of the Broward Sheriff makes more sense.
There has been a lot of false information and even more speculation disseminated about the tragedy at the High School in Parkland, Florida. In order to provide a clear and accurate picture of events, we need to set the stage by understanding the geography and the governmental agencies involved.
First of all, Parkland, Florida is a tiny city of 14.3 square miles located in Broward County. Like many small Florida towns and cities, it has no police or fire department. It contracts with the Broward County Sheriff’s office for police services, and with nearby Coral Springs, Florida for fire services. These types of arrangements usually work well. I once worked for the Boynton Beach Fire Department as a Fire-Medic. We served several smaller surrounding towns; some with Medical services, some with both Fire and Medical services.
Unfortunately, Fire, EMS, and Police first responders cannot always respond to every situation in a timely manner. And sometimes when there are competing requirements for service, loyalties can determine priorities. So many cities choose to establish their own emergency service organizations that they can directly control, even though it might be cheaper to farm these services out.
Although it is often referred to as “The Parkland High School,” the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is actually a Broward County school that happens to be located in Parkland. So the Broward County Sheriff’s office is responsible for the protection of the school both because it is a County School and because it handles all police responses in Parkland.
Coral Springs, Florida is located about a mile away from Parkland. As I mentioned earlier, its Fire Department handles Fire and Rescue Services to Parkland by contract. But its Police Department has no responsibility to respond in Parkland. In my opinion, since in most jurisdictions the Fire and Police Departments normally respond together and work very closely together, this can create confusion in high-stress situations.
Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel claims that his Department is the largest in the nation. That is not true. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department is much larger. But there is no question that the Broward Department is huge. And there is also no question that Sheriff Israel is more politician than policeman, and is very impressed with himself. He has larger-than-life portraits of himself painted on some Department vehicles. And despite the myriad of mistakes his Department made both in failing to follow up on information that could have prevented this massacre, and in its actual response to the shooting, he boasts that he is “An Amazing Leader.”
In addition to the tips about the shooter that the FBI mishandled, there were numerous other tips and actual callouts in Broward County. Various news agencies report that there have been anywhere from 20 to 39 incidents which should have raised red flags. The Broward County Sheriff’s Department admits to 23 “incidents” (including callouts where they came in contact with the suspect for various crimes and disturbances) and telephone tips. The other roughly 20 incidents seem to have been reported to other police agencies, the high school, and to County Social Services.
If Sheriff Israel had been providing the “amazing leadership” he brags about, there would have been a system in place where all these red flags would have been collected in one office. Once the desk in that office started looking like a forest of red trees, something should have been done.
To be fair, every commentator I hear or read says that “something” should have been done. But they never say what that “something” should have been. Here are some concrete steps the Sheriff could have taken, armed with all the information at his disposal.
- He could have used the provisions of Florida’s Baker Act. The Act allows law enforcement to take individuals that appear to be a danger to themselves or others into custody – forcibly if necessary. They are then transported to a mental health facility where they can be held for evaluation up to 72 hours. At that point a court order is necessary to hold them longer should the medical staff advise it. I have personally participated in many actions under the Baker Act, and can say without doubt that many suicides and other acts of violence were prevented.
- He could have informed the school that it was in imminent danger. While the school knew he had committed acts of violence and had even expelled him, they didn’t know about his numerous contacts with the Sheriff’s Department. They still allowed the shooter to visit the campus, which is likely why he was able to walk through the gate on the day he committed 17 murders. If the Sheriff had informed the principal of the school of what he knew, do you think the principal would ever have allowed the shooter on the campus?
- He could have gone to court and sought a restraining order preventing the shooter from coming anywhere near the school. I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know what a judge might require before issuing such an order. But I suspect that dozens of police callouts, acts of violence at school, specific phone tips warning that this teen had threatened “shooting up a school” and the fact that he signed a YouTube post stating that he wanted to be "a professional school shooter" would have been sufficient.
My biggest problem with Israel is his lack of leadership. He appointed one of his friends, Jan Jordan, to head the Parkland District of the Sheriff’s Department. In fact, on her application she listed the Sheriff as her reference. Jordan left the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for unknown reasons in 2009. After that, she had a spotty career. She worked for just one year as a police sergeant in Colorado before returning to Florida. Then she worked in several non-police positions for short periods. She was an “Accreditation Coordinator” for eight months, then worked for just three months at the Public Defender’s office.
Israel hired her as a paper-pusher for his Department and gave her the rank of Captain. She headed the “civil division” which served people with legal documents until he appointed her to head the Parkland District. Strangely, after eight years of mainly administrative work (one year of which was as an officer in a tiny CO police department), she suddenly found herself in a high-level field position.
I don’t know why he chose someone with her background to command seasoned men and women on the street. Granted, she had field experience with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, but that was many years ago. When Israel put her in this situation, the results were predictable. She choked in her first major emergency situation.
When Jordan arrived on the scene the sole Deputy assigned to protect 3,200 students had been hiding outside the school, far from the shooting, for four minutes. (The shooter actively fired his weapon for six minutes.) The next three Deputies who arrived had joined him – outside.
Meanwhile, an unarmed off-duty Coral Springs Police Office arrived and was running toward the shooting when three officers from his department arrived. One of them threw him a vest and gave him his sidearm. The four officers then entered the building – with no backup from the Deputies.
At this point, other Deputies had arrived. Instead of following procedure and sending – or preferably, leading – the Deputies inside, Captain Jordan ordered them to set up a perimeter. While they were surrounding the school, there were children bleeding and dying, and the shooter had not been located. Later it was discovered that the shooter had calmly walked out of the school – right through her perimeter
By this time Coral Springs Fire-Rescue was on the scene and wanted to go inside to try to save lives. They were ordered to stand down (wait outside) by the “incident commander.” While the person who gave that order has not been identified by the Sheriff, Jordan was in command, so presumably, it was she. It appears that she didn’t want the bravery of the fire personnel to make her and her deputies look bad.
A medical first-responder told local news station WSVN that medical personnel were asking to go into the school, but law enforcement wouldn't let them. He told WSVN "Everything I was trained on mass casualty events says they did the wrong thing. You don't wait for the scene to be cleared. You go in immediately, armed, and retrieve the victims. You can't leave the victims laying there."
I don’t want to seem harsh, but I believe the Sheriff and his Department miserably failed to “protect and serve” their community. He should immediately fire everyone in the chain of command who failed to do their duty in this tragedy and then resign himself. I am not alone in my opinion. The Speaker of the Florida State House has asked the Governor to remove Israel from his office. Numerous police officers and County officials have called for him to resign.
He also needs to stop hiding the facts about what happened. He lied from the very first press conference. He talked about how well his Department handled the situation but didn’t reveal that the Coral Springs officers led the way in to try to stop the murders, and basically shamed his people into finally doing something. When the truth came out about the deputy assigned to the school failing to perform his duty, he threw the Deputy under the bus, calling him a coward – but taking no responsibility himself.
When Israel was interviewed on CNN, Jake Tapper took him to task. (See VIDEO link below.) Israel made this ridiculous statement: “My name is on the door, but I am not responsible for the actions of the people in my department.” When the Sheriff bragged about how well his Department performed, Tapper challenged him on specific claims. He repeatedly asked why police and medical personnel were prevented from entering the building while some students were lying inside bleeding out. He also asked Israel why he spent hours on a nationally televised town hall while the initial investigation was ongoing and families were desperate for answers. Tapper mentioned that Israel used the town hall to blame the NRA for the shooting. The Sheriff also made a pitch for more funding for his Department while on national television.
At one point Tapper asked the Sheriff, “Are you really not taking any responsibility for the multiple red flags missed by the Broward Sheriff’s Department?” Israel: “I can only take responsibility for what I knew about. I’ve given amazing leadership
to this Department…” Here Tapper interrupted him and asked incredulously, “Amazing leadership?” Israel: “Yes, Jake…There's a lot of things we have done throughout this...this is...you don't measure a person's leadership by a deputy not going into a...these deputies received the training they needed. They received the equipment.” He was visibly rattled and stumbled around in his attempt to respond. Tapper then said, “Maybe you measure leadership by how well they protect the community. How can you claim amazing leadership?” The video is worth watching.
Broward was also deficient in its technology. For some unknown reason, Deputies watching surveillance video to determine where the shooter was in the school did not realize they were videos that had been rewound. So they were watching what they thought was the shooter moving around the school – when he had already left the school and bought a drink at Walmart. Also, radio calls went out that many radios were not working properly. The problem with the radios had been known for a long time.
When the press asked to see the surveillance video of the incident to discover the truth about how his Department responded – or failed to respond – he refused, saying he didn’t know if he would ever release the tapes. Jeff Bell, president of the Broward County Sheriff's Deputies Association, called on the Sheriff’s Office to release the incident radio logs and other documents on how the shooting was handled. When your own Deputies have to call you out for withholding the truth, I say that is the opposite
of “amazing leadership.”
Sheriff Scott Israel, Captain Jan Jordan, and the Deputies who failed to do all they could to save the lives of the students are not the only guilty parties in this disaster. There is plenty of blame to go around. The FBI had actionable intelligence, but those handling the information were either too lazy or too incompetent to send it to the people who could act on it. The school administrators and the County Department of Social Services both knew that this young man had serious problems, but did nothing about it. The school admits that they allowed him to come back on campus after expelling him for violent and erratic behavior.
The only ones who do not share blame in this incident are the citizens of Broward County and federal gun laws. Many citizens did as we tell them to do – they saw something and they said something. Unfortunately, they were ignored. (Actually, the citizens as a whole do
share in the blame, because they elected Israel as their Sheriff.)
Even though Democrats immediately and cold-heartedly used these dead children to further their political goals by – predictably – calling for more gun laws, no gun law could have prevented this shooting. They called for laws to outlaw high capacity magazines. No high capacity magazine was used by this shooter. They point to the fact that he purchased the AR-15 rifle he used legally, and claim stricter background checks would have prevented him from buying it. That may be true, but they conveniently leave out the most important fact – that he had three other rifles that he purchased illegally.
It’s strange to say, but something amusing came out of all this. On March 3, 2018, history was made in the Florida State Senate – the shortest gun control action in history. The Senators approved a ban on the AR-15 rifle, then realized how stupid that was, and rescinded the measure 15 minutes later.
Look at it like this. Let’s say a terrorist driving a Toyota drove into a crowd and killed 17 people. Should the State then outlaw the sales of Toyotas? Of course not, because there are lots of other cars around.
Outlawing one model of rifle is ridiculous. If they were trying to outlaw “assault-style weapons,” the AR-15 is just one of many. If they were trying to outlaw actual “assault weapons” they’re already outlawed nationwide. So when Dick’s Sporting Goods claimed they had outlawed “assault weapons” they lied to get good PR. As one of the largest gun retailers in the nation, they certainly know the difference between “assault-style
weapons” and “assault
weapons.” (See my article below, “The AR-15 is NOT an ‘Assault Weapon.’”)
An “Assault Weapon” is a machine gun. That means you can pull and hold the trigger and it will continuously spit out rounds until they run out. These have been outlawed by federal law for over 30 years, with very few exceptions. The vast majority of fully automatic machine guns are owned by law enforcement agencies. Prior to the passage of this law, gangs and drug cartels used assault weapons in their turf wars. But since 1980 machine gun deaths have become so rare that it's nearly impossible to find data on any crimes involving automatic weapons at all.
A few select civilian gun collectors can purchase automatic weapons – but with such difficulty and at such great expense that practically no one buys them. And if they do, they are so thoroughly registered and documented that if one were to be used in a crime, the police would know within minutes who owned it. If after reading this, you still want to buy one, you would have to… Obtain a special ATF license.
- Undergo a background check.
- Pay a tax on the firearm.
- And designate a licensed gun dealer who will receive the weapon in the event of your death.
If you’re willing to go through all that, you will face the biggest obstacle of all. With the vast majority of the 543,073 registered automatic weapons in the U.S. belonging to law enforcement (according to the U.S. ATF) the cost of a pre-1986 weapon can run well into five figures. And after paying tens of thousands of dollars for the gun, you can’t even will it to your kids.
So, since the AR-15 is NOT an automatic or “assault” weapon, why are the Democrats so intent on banning it? After all, it is a semi
-automatic rifle. Almost all cops carry semi
-automatic pistols. All “semi-automatic” means is that the gases released when the weapon is fired both loads a new round in the chamber and cocks it for you. You still have to pull the trigger for every round fired. Other than the difference in size, the major difference between an AR-15 and the cop’s handgun is that the bullets in the cop's handgun are twice as large as those in the “assault-style” AR-15.
The truth is that Democrats don’t really want to ban the AR-15. They want to ban ALL guns
. If a handgun had been used in Parkland (which has been the case in over 75% of mass shootings) they would be screaming about laws to control handguns.
The bottom line is that, unlike most mass shootings, the one in Parkland was totally preventable. If the Sheriff and the FBI had done their jobs, the nation would not be in mourning, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
Unfortunately, it is very unusual to have had all these warnings. There have been other tragedies that could have been prevented, such as when the FBI interviewed the Boston bombers, but eventually dropped their surveillance of them.
But most mass murders are simply not preventable. As I pointed out in my article “Abortions Cause School Shootings
” we have gone so far down the road of devaluing human life in this nation that only prayer and our nation turning back to God can stop school and church shootings.
So if the police can’t stop them, should we just give up and wait for the next one? Of course not. They can’t stop school shootings
, but together can stop school shooters
What’s the difference?
There’s a lot that we can do to prevent shooters from ever aiming a gun at innocent people. That includes perimeter security, metal detectors, and ending the ridiculous practice of designating schools as “Gun-free Zones.” (Almost all mass shooting have occurred in “Gun-free Zones” – see article link below.)
But no matter how well we secure schools, some will get through the security. That’s when they must be met with deadly force. Whether that comes from armed professional guards, well-trained school staff carrying concealed weapons, or a combination of those approaches, the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
Coral Springs Police Upset at Broward Deputies for Not Entering School https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/23/politics/parkland-school-shooting-broward-deputies/index.html
The AR-15 is NOT an “Assault Weapon” http://www.conservativetruth.org/article.php?id=6354
VIDEO: Broward Sheriff Takes “No Responsibility” for School Shootings; Claims he is an “Amazing Leader” https://www.cnn.com/2018/02/25/politics/sheriff-israel-sotu-full-transcript/index.html
Captain in Parkland School Shooting was Brought onto Force by Sheriff Israel http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-florida-shooting-bso-perimeter-20180302-story.html
Abortions Cause School Shootings http://www.conservativetruth.org/article.php?id=6369
Over 98% of Mass Shootings Occurred In Gun-Free Zones, Research Shows https://www.theblaze.com/news/2017/01/09/over-98-of-mass-shootings-occurred-on-gun-free-zones-research-shows