After waiting for nine months after the Parkland Massacre in Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the election of a new governor, Sheriff Scott Israel has finally been suspended. Governor Ron DeSantis sent out a tweet announcing the move: “Effective immediately, I am officially suspending Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for his repeated failures, incompetence, and neglect of duty.” It won’t bring back those children and adults who died that day, but the move is getting massive media coverage and praise by those who lost loved ones.
DeSantis stated that Israel “repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership.” Many out there seem to more than agree with his assessment. Their only question is why it took so long for him to be removed from office. DeSantis made his move three days after being sworn into office. He appointed a former police sergeant to serve as acting sheriff. It’s shameful that the previous Republican governor did not do this.
DeSantis has been very vocal on this issue and told a news conference that Israel failed to keep families and children safe before and during the Feb. 14 shooting that left 14 students and three staff members dead inside the three-story freshman building. Here is the actual order signed by DeSantis on removing Israel from office.
“The neglect of duty and incompetence that was connected to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has been well documented, and I have no interest in dancing on Scott Israel’s political grave,” DeSantis stated. “Suffice it to say, the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”
Effective immediately, I am officially suspending Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for his repeated failures, incompetence and neglect of duty. https://t.co/tkHzxTHhjH
— Ron DeSantis (@GovRonDeSantis) January 11, 2019
The shooting and murders featured then-Broward Deputy Scot Peterson, who was assigned to the school. He drew his gun and then proceeded to hide instead of going in to save the kids. Seven other deputies also failed to come to their aid and many say it was under alleged orders from Israel. Finally, officers from neighboring Coral Springs went into the building.
Israel, in an attempt to save his own hide, changed the office’s policy from saying deputies “shall” confront active shooters to “may.” He claimed he did so because he did not want his deputies to take on suicide missions. Per the New York Post, Deputies also received two calls about suspect Nikolas Cruz in the months before the massacre saying he had amassed an arsenal and was a potential school shooter but took no action.
More from the New York Post:
“Minutes after DeSantis’ announcement, Israel said he “wholeheartedly” rejected the governor’s order and would fight it in court, arguing that DeSantis was making a “power grab” against the will of the county’s people who elected him. He said DeSantis was acting on behalf of the National Rifle Association, which quickly blamed the sheriff’s office after the shooting.
“There was no wrongdoing on my part. I served the county honorably,” he said. “False narratives may continue, but not in a court of law. In a court of law, only the facts matter.”
“Under Florida law, the governor can suspend elected officials for criminal activity, misfeasance, incompetence or neglect of duty. If Israel challenges the suspension, the state Senate would hold a trial and could either fire or reinstate him. DeSantis’ Republican predecessor, now-U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, refused to suspend Israel, saying he wanted to wait until investigations were completed.
“Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime was fatally shot as she ran down a third-floor hallway, inches from the safety of the stairwell, said she and other third-floor victims could have been saved if Peterson or other deputies had gone inside immediately.
“One more second and she makes it,” Guttenberg said. “If anybody wants to know what failure means and lack of response (means), my daughter would have lived if someone had given her one more second.”
“Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow died on the third floor trying to protect a younger student who also died, said “when eight BSO deputies listened to shots fired in a school and stayed outside they were following Sheriff Israel’s policies.”
“A 15-member state commission that recently completed its initial report on the shooting said deputies also had about 20 contacts with Cruz as a juvenile — mostly over arguments with his now-deceased mother. Israel has said none of those contacts warranted an arrest. Law enforcement members of the state commission investigating the shooting have agreed with that conclusion.
“But commissioners also concluded that the department’s active shooter training had not been effective. Still, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the commission’s chairman, and other law enforcement officials on the panel have said they didn’t think Israel should be suspended.”
Israel is 62-years-old now. He was elected in 2012 and is a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. He has served a long time in law enforcement. At one point he was a Republican but changed to a Democrat just before running in 2008. Rumors of corruption have dogged Israel for a long, long time. The left, however, praised his work with the homeless, minority and gay communities. Violent crime did go down under his watch and he was reelected in 2016.
The Parkland Massacre was not the only nail in Israel’s professional coffin. Shortly after Israel’s second term began, a man retrieved a handgun from his luggage at Fort Lauderdale’s airport and opened fire, killing five people. While Israel’s deputies apprehended him within 72 seconds, the draft of a county report said Israel and others didn’t control the chaos, leaving passengers huddled in fear for hours. He heavily criticized the report and the final version was softened.
Israel’s luck ran out with the massacre and his true persona was revealed. His incompetence has now been rewarded with dismissal and it only took nine months. That was nine months too long.