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Florida Court Rules Governor Had Right To Suspend Sheriff Who Bungled Parkland Shooting

By  Ashe Schow

One of the first things Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) did as governor was to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for the way he handled two mass shootings, including last year’s school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

DeSantis signed an executive order suspending the sheriff, noting that Israel failed the people of Broward County.

“Sheriff Israel has repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership,” the executive order said. “He failed to protect Floridians and visitors during the tragic Fort Lauderdale International Airport shooting in 2017. He failed in his duties to keep our families and children safe during the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.”

“These incidents demonstrate Sheriff Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty,” the order continued. “The families of the victims deserve accountability. It is my job as Governor to ensure that the safety of our local communities, especially the safety of our children, is paramount. Government officials must be held accountable for their actions, and/or inactions. For these reasons, I am suspending Sheriff Israel from office effective immediately.”

After he was suspended, Israel vowed to take legal action.

“This suspension is not about what occurred on February 14th,” Israel said at the time. “The governor promised as a candidate — well before he had any facts of the investigation, well before the commission even began their work — that he would remove me from office. Today, he merely fulfilled a campaign promise. This was about politics, not about Parkland.”

Israel’s actions as sheriff were criticized in an official investigation which found that his office’s active-shooter training was ineffective. The report also criticized Israel for changing department policy that said officers “shall” confront active shooters to say officers “may” confront them.

This change resulted in Broward Deputy Scot Peterson and seven others to stay outside of the high school while a shooter murdered 17 people inside.

Nevertheless, Israel claimed he was being wronged.

The Florida Supreme Court disagreed, ruling on Tuesday that DeSantis had every right to suspend Israel, according to the Hill.

“Today’s @flcourts opinion leaves no doubt of my authority to suspend a government official for neglect of duty and incompetence,” DeSantis wrote on Twitter. “Scott Israel failed to protect the families and students of Broward County and I look forward to the @FLSenate resuming the process of formal removal.”

As the Hill reported, Florida’s Republican-controlled state Senate could reinstate Israel with a vote, though that is unlikely. As of now, Israel will have to run to be elected sheriff again in 2020.

“I hope and expect the Senate will look at the merits of the claim,” Israel’s lawyer Ben Kuehne told the South Florida Sun Sentinel. “If they do, and do not act politically, then Sheriff Israel will be reinstated.”

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