True leaders tend to take responsibility for mistakes that happen on their watch, even if there is blame to go around.
Poor leaders, instead, often point fingers when something doesn’t go well — and that seems to be exactly what embattled Florida Sheriff Scott Israel is doing right now.
Israel, as you likely remember, was the head of Broward County law enforcement during the tragic Parkland school shooting in February 2018. In the days and months after that incident, there were many questions about how officials responded to the attack and missed opportunities to prevent it.
Republican Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Israel, but now the politically connected sheriff is claiming bias and apparently trying to blame his career nosedive on state’s leader.
“Before any facts were laid bare, (DeSantis) began the mantra that Sheriff Israel must go, almost a political mantra,” attorney Benedict Kuehne, who is representing Israel, said.
“This is sad, to have politicized the lives of children and adults who were lost to a terrorist at Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” the lawyer said, according to the Associated Press.
Those comments came during a state-level hearing that will determine if Israel will be permanently removed from office. Frustration from much of the public and Gov. DeSantis has been directed at the law enforcement official since the week of the shooting, although the sheriff has fought to restore his tarnished reputation.
“DeSantis suspended Israel three days after taking office in January, saying the response to the Parkland massacre showed incompetence and neglect of duty. Israel said neither was true,” the AP noted.
“I’ve been called some names in my time, but on my 63 years on Earth … I have never been called incompetent, and I have never been called negligent,” Israel said in response to the push to remove him. “I know these hearings are about taking my livelihood away from me, but incompetent and negligent? No, sir.”
But that fiery response may be doing him no favors. Whether Israel was called incompetent years ago is an irrelevant straw-man argument; his competence now is what’s in question.
Israel seeing the incident that killed 17 people as a squabble over his “livelihood,” as if being a cop tasked with protecting people was only about his retirement plan, shows a staggering lack of perspective.
But that lack of perspective seems to be normal for Israel.
Not long after the shooting, he came across as detached and somewhat jovial during a CNN interview. Jake Tapper had to remind him that school kids died and O.J Simpson jokes weren’t appropriate; the discussion didn’t help Israel’s tone-deaf reputation.
Neither did the actions of school resource officer Scot Peterson, a former deputy under Israel’s command who chose to stay outside the school — instead of moving in to engage the shooter — as shots rang out.
“Any failure of Deputy Peterson is also a failure of Scott Israel,” said Nicholas Primrose, an attorney who helped make the case against the sheriff during the recent hearing.
“It’s baffling that Scott Israel accepts zero responsibility for the admissions and neglect of the deputies he appoints.”
And that’s the real problem here. If Israel cannot accept responsibility or swallow his ego, he probably isn’t the right person for the job.
Part of putting on a uniform, whether it’s in the military or the police force, is taking responsibility for oneself and the others in a chain of command. Sometimes it isn’t “fair,” sometimes it gets ugly and sometimes it involves falling on the proverbial sword.
Those facts of leadership may not sit well with Scott Israel, but it’s exactly what he signed on for when he pinned on that sheriff’s badge.
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