Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel lost a primary bid to reclaim his office on Tuesday after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended him in January 2019.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony declared victory in the Democratic contest, edging out Israel by about 4,000 votes in the six-candidate primary, according to WPTV. DeSantis appointed Tony to head the sheriff’s office after suspending Israel over failures related to the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“I am deeply honored that Democratic voters have chosen me to lead the Broward Sheriff’s Office into a brighter, safer future,” Tony said in a statement. “We’ve come a long way in the last 18 months, but there is still much work to be done. Together, we’re reforming the sheriff’s office, promoting good deputies, and keeping our communities safer by embracing police reform. As your sheriff, I will work tirelessly to make this department a model for how a public safety agency can be effective, transparent, and accountable to our community. Let’s keep moving forward.”
Tony is expected to win the November election over Republican candidate Wayne Clark and independent Charles E. Whatley in the heavily Democratic district. Israel conceded the race in an interview with WSVN.
“The people have spoken, and I accept the decision of the voter,” Israel said. “I want the community to know that I poured my heart and soul into being the sheriff of Broward County, and I fought hard to protect everyone’s rights.”
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and relatives of the victims have spoken out vigorously against Israel throughout the election.
“Scott Israel’s failures led to the death of my daughter. He bragged about his ‘amazing leadership.’ He mocked my family in our fight for justice for years. But tonight righteousness won over the wicked,” tweeted Andrew Pollack, who lost a daughter in the 2018 shooting.
Scott Israel’s failures led to the death of my daughter.
He bragged about his ‘amazing leadership.’
He mocked my family in our fight for justice for years.
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) August 19, 2020
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office, the largest sheriff’s office in Florida, has been mired in controversy stemming from Israel’s handling of the Parkland shooting, which resulted in the deaths of 17 people and injuries to 17 others. Israel has been accused of contributing to the death toll by changing department policy to say deputies “may,” instead of “shall,” confront active shooters.
“‘May’ gave [deputies] the out not to enter,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a member of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, in December 2018. “They decided to be cowards instead of heroes.”
In April 2018, hundreds of Israel’s own deputies turned on him as the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association held a “no confidence” vote that went overwhelmingly against the then-sheriff, 534 votes to 94, the first time the union had voted “no confidence” in a sheriff.
“[Israel] fails to listen to the people,” union President Jeff Bell said after the vote. “He fails to listen to the membership and he wants to blame everybody else for his problems.”