PARKLAND, Fla. - While public outrage might be centered on Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for the agency's apparent failures regarding the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, deputies are also paying the price.
Broward sheriff's Deputy Jeff Bell said his fellow deputies are hearing it all too often these days, being called cowards.
"It's the deputies that are out on the street taking the beating," said Bell, who serves as the president of the IUPA union, which represents the rank and filed at BSO. "It's the individual deputy that is getting the comments of being called a coward and, 'Oh, you're working for the Coward County Sheriff's Office.' Those are confirmed reports."
Bell said he doesn't see that stopping until Israel stops putting out spin about the shooting and puts out the facts.
"We want total transparency," he said. "That is our position on this. Come forward with all the facts."
Bell on Wednesday was reacting in part to Tuesday's posting by the sheriff of the website bsofactcheck.org, in which BSO defends its actions, even as it continues to withhold crucial information about the shooting.
"Releasing little tidbits of information without anything to back up those points -- the only thing is does is create more speculation out there," Bell said. "You can't pick what you want to release."
Israel so far has refused to release the agency's Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) notes from the shooting, as well as the radio transmissions and the outside surveillance video that would show the public exactly what happened during the agency's response.
"The citizens have a right to know," Bell said. "For the family members of the victims -- they have a right to know."
What is known is that the school deputy on duty during the shooting, Scot Peterson, took cover outside the building for four minutes while the shooter was firing on students and school staff, failing to enter the building.
Israel is also not disputing Coral Springs officials, who have said several other deputies failed to go into the building before Coral Springs police officers arrived. Policy for BSO and agencies across the U.S. during school shootings is to immediately go into the building to take out the threat.
It's also confirmed that BSO's commander in Parkland, Capt. Jan Jordan, spoke in her first radio transmission of creating a perimeter, which also appears to run counter to policy.
While an incomplete leaked version of the dispatch notes obtained by Fox News indicates Jordan said "need perimeter," the BSO Fact Check website claims Jordan "asked if a perimeter had been established."
The website author then opines that a perimeter order would "be appropriate to apprehend the subject, stop him from entering the neighboring middle school and prevent non-first responders (responding parents) from coming on the school property."
What the site doesn't mention is that, according to the leaked dispatch notes, Jordan's order appears to have come at 2:32 p.m., when the shooting had stopped. But deputies didn't know the location of the shooter, and it was believed he still might be inside the school, where many victims remained bleeding.
Bell said that if at that time of the Jordan radio transmission there was a sufficient number of cops inside the school, it might be appropriate to call for a perimeter. But if not, talk of the perimeter would have been improper.
He said the unanswered questions are exactly why BSO must release all of the dispatch information, instead of its own defenses. He also said a full release by Israel would clear up a key question: Did deputies fail to enter the school because of an order?
"If they were given an order to take a perimeter point, I really can't blame them," he said. "That's why we're asking for transparency. Did they follow an order or was it not an order? We don't know yet."
Ironically, the website tries to refute a claim that "The Broward Sheriff's Office is not forthcoming with information related to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School," claiming that "once all the facts are gathered and the investigation is completed, we will publicize the findings." Then it issued a bit of warning to the public: "We would like to caution everyone regarding the dissemination of information that has not been verified."
Bell said the union has considered a no-confidence vote on Israel, but he said a decision on that matter will be made only after all the information is released.
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