Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who oversaw the office during the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, says that now that GOP Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been sworn in, Israel will lose his job.
According to the Miami New Times, Israel, 61, informed his top commanders on Monday that he will be removed from office. Israel told his staff that he would be ousted, but Israel told them he would appeal the decision. As The Miami Herald reported, Jeff Bell, the Broward Sheriff office’s union chief who is a member of DeSantis transition team, stated, “We know that he is telling everyone at the public safety building that he is going to be gone.” Bell added that removing Israel “would remove an incompetent sheriff. But if you’re looking to fix the agency and put it on the right track, it does nothing to do that.” He opined that in order to fix the problems in Broward County, people hired by Israel need to be replaced, saying, “What I will say is we want someone who will remove politics out of police work and commit to protecting the citizens and our children in the schools.”
That sentiment was reiterated by retired BSO Sgt. Willie Jones, who ran and lost to Israel in the 2016 Democratic primary. He said, “Top administrators must be looked at real quickly and very closely. You must restore the trust to the community to know that the sheriff’s office is going to do the things they need to do to make them safe.”
An attorney for Israel, Stuart N. Kaplan, said he was unaware of any ouster planned by DeSantis, asserting, “The governor has not said anything to us, directly or indirectly, as to whether or not the sheriff is going to be suspended.” He stated, “I’m not sure his decision is being made on merit or on fact — or is he just now concerned about following through on a campaign promise that is politically motivated. Scott Israel has never wavered that the school district and school children and all members of the community are safe. There is a false insinuation on the part of the public — a feeling that BSO is somehow a better agency just because Scott Israel has been removed.’’
According to the Miami Herald, in a 458-page report released last week by the state panel investigating the massacre, numerous failures by the Broward Sheriff’s Department were listed for the Valentine’s day massacre in February 2018, when a shooter murdered 17 people, 14 of whom were students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The report said sheriff’s deputies responding to the shooting had not been properly trained and that the sheriff’s department had used outdated, malfunctioning radios, limiting communication during the fatal attack.
Although Israel declared that he had displayed exceptional leadership, the men working under him failed to protect the students; the school’s assigned sheriff’s deputy took cover outside while a deputy took his time looking through his trunk for his bulletproof vest and then crouched behind his car.
Robert Jarvis, author of “Out of the Muck: A History of the Broward Sheriff’s Office,’’ commented, “At the end of the day, the governor can suspend and has the power to suspend public officials for almost any reason — whether it’s malfeasance, incompetence or neglect of duty — all that is in the eye of the beholder.”