Every so often I think of ethical police officers who are charged to protect and serve a community that doesn’t trust anyone with a badge, especially when that community has a damn good reason not to trust the police.
For years, we have been told to give the police the benefit of the doubt because officers willingly put themselves in harm’s way.
It is almost impossible to measure just how much damage Broward County, Fla., sheriff Steve Israel is doing to American law enforcement by staying on the job, because he tried to cover up something that is arguably even worse than racism or corruption.
Not to make racism less than horrific. Of course, it is. But you can punish racist cops when they are caught, even though it is difficult. A sheriff who roots out racism in his department can be seen as a crusader against corruption.
Now consider the behavior of the #BrowardCowards on Valentine’s Day. We know of at least one deputy on site — and possibly as many as four — who waited until Nikolas Cruz stopped killing and left to get a soda before they entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Israel knew this. He knew this because other police agencies advised him of his deputies’ dereliction of duty.
An honorable person in that position would privately throw a fit, then weep uncontrollably in shame while typing a resignation letter.
As for Israel, he grew up a Republican, but switched to Democrat to run for office in left-wing southern Florida. It’s a decision that smacks of political opportunism. I write that with confidence because political opportunists look for scapegoats, as Israel did when he went after NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch in front of a mob on CNN last week.
Keep in mind: I’m not defending the NRA as much as I am pointing out a coward looking for a scapegoat. I had already scrolled through a blizzard of gun rhetoric. I don’t own a gun. I have no dog in that fight.
In most televised situations, police officers behave in a composed manner. Yet, Israel struck me as a little unhinged by going after Loesch. Berating a woman? On national TV? You don’t even see that on a rerun of “Cops.”
Then he twice argued how these attacks could be stopped. “What I'm asking the law makers to give police all over this country is more power,” he said during the town hall.
That should have received a deafening cacophony of boos, moreso than Loesch. It should have been a message that have been booed from liberals and conservatives alike, for Israel is the wrong messenger.
It should be booed from liberals because more power invariably leads to more corruption. You want more misconduct in law enforcement?
It should be booed from conservatives because this man — this cynical politician hiding behind a badge the way his employees hid in their cars — has undercut one of your core beliefs. One of your core tenets has been to give the police the benefit of the doubt because cops are human beings trying to exhibit superhuman courage.
Only in Broward County, they aren’t.
I’ve mostly stayed out of the gun arguments in the shooting aftermath. Having said that, no gun legislation will matter a whit if the police are too scared to do their jobs. It undercuts the faith we are asked, to place our lives in their hands.
Steve Israel does not deserve that faith.