Broward County Sheriff's 'cop problem'

December 14, 2020


Matthew Hoy

Broward County, Florida, the site of the 2018 shooting at Margory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead and 17 more injured, has a serious cop problem.

The Parkland Shooting

First, some recent history.

The Broward County Sheriff's Department, headed at the time Sheriff Scott Israel, acted deplorably that day. School resource officer Scot Peterson, the coward of Broward County, famously hid outside the campus' 1200 building while the shooting was taking place.

Broward County Sheriff's Capt. Jan Jordan directed arriving deputies to form a perimeter, rather than charge the building. Jordan, demonstrating herself one of the few sheriff's deputies that day with any honor, later resigned.

The first members of law enforcement to enter the building where the shooting occurred were from the nearby Coral Springs Police Department, not the sheriff's department that had jurisdiction.

Sheriff Israel, a politician to his core, appeared on an infamous CNN Town Hall just a few days later to bash the NRA, gun owners, and radio show host Dana Loesch. In the days, weeks and months that followed, the Sun-Sentinel, did yeoman's work exposing the incompetence and foolishness that allowed the shooter to conduct his rampage.

Shortly after his election as Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis suspended Israel from his position as sheriff and a few months later, the state senate made it official. DeSantis, a Republican, appointed Democrat Gregory Tony, a former Coral Springs sergeant, to serve out the remainder of Israel's term.

New Sheriff; same cop problem

Fast forward to November 7. Bill Norkunas, a 70-year-old childhood polio survivor, calls 911 as a man tries to bash in his front door. Norkunas' front door is made of glass, but this is Florida, and the glass is advertised as hurricane resistant.

Instead of stopping the would-be-intruder at Norkunas’ door, witnesses said, the deputies stayed down the street and around a corner, some 500 yards away while Norkunas and his neighbors flooded the 911 emergency communications system begging for help for almost 15 minutes.

Read the entire, harrowing, story and remember this: Law enforcement has no duty to protect you. Patrol cars may read "To Protect and Serve" on their sides, but that's not legally binding.

Norkunas was lucky. The man eventually gave up, and Norkunas did have a gun—though he voiced reticence about actually using it.

But once again, for the second time in less than three years, Broward County deputies chose to set up a perimeter as their residents were terrorized, instead of attempting to stop the attack. Eighteen deputies were dispatched to the incident, and not a single one drove to Norkunas' residence to attempt to stop the attack.

Instead, the incident ended 15 minutes later when the attacker, fleeing, ran into the hands of law enforcement.

Norkunas' neighbors are talking about getting guns, and it's not a bad idea considering the fact that the attacker, 23-year-old Timothy Johnson, is out on bail. Four felonies apparently translate into a $14,100 bail amount, which he met.

The cop problem, and the local newspaper

The Sun-Sentinel did the public a great service with its reporting on the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy. It's 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service is well-deserved.

However, in the time since that Pulitzer, the newspaper's editorial writers have done little to keep their credibility (and they aren't the only ones). Last summer, as disgraced Sheriff Israel ran to get his old job back, the Sun-Sentinel endorsed him in the Democratic Primary. (Broward County is so overwhelmingly Democratic that the winner of the primary is practically assured victory in the general election.)

The endorsement caused many to wonder if the newspaper's editorial page actually read the news pages. This article, part of the Sun-Sentinel's winning Pulitzer entry, is so damning you'd be excused for thinking that no one could ever let Israel hold a position of public trust ever again.

A review of Israel’s performance since then shows continued excuses, falsehoods and inaction, revealing a leader who appears unwilling or incapable of addressing deep-rooted problems under his leadership.

  • Despite revelations that many of his deputies didn’t try to enter the school while shots were fired, Israel has been slow to recognize the problem or impose discipline.
  • The sheriff, in testimony to a state commission, misstated facts about what deputies and commanders knew during the crisis.
  • In public statements, he has glossed over failures and described his leadership as exceptional, a response that came as no surprise to those who knew him.
  • After a mass murder at Fort Lauderdale’s airport, he failed to address problems that would later cripple his agency’s response in Parkland. And a highly critical internal report about the agency’s performance at the airport, obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel, was scrubbed of dozens of recommendations and revised with a statement praising the sheriff.

In sum, Israel comes across as a politician who is quick to defend and slow to punish despite mounting evidence of problems.

Israel's replacement, Sheriff Gregory Tony, has problems of his own. Tony's failure to reveal that he fatally shot a man as a teenager, both when he applied to the Coral Springs Police Department, and when he was appointed to replace Israel by Gov. DeSantis has become an issue. Philadelphia police ruled the shooting self-defense and Tony was never charged.

The editorial writers at the Sun-Sentinel are rightfully incensed at the department's failure to protect Norkunas that night. Tony has been in office more than a year, and this incident was further evidence that the rot runs deep. However, it's a little difficult to take the paper's editorial board seriously considering that they were advocating to put Israel back in office.

The cop problem's solution

Of course, the solution to this is simple. Arm yourself. The right is guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Don't find yourself dependent on the good offices of the local law enforcement authority.

When seconds count, the cops are never coming, they're setting up a perimeter 500 yards away in hope of catching your murderer.

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