Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is facing a no-confidence vote from his own deputies for his actions in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that have “crushed morale through the agency,” as the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association described it.
The February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 students and teachers dead, and an additional 17 wounded. Israel has faced intense criticism for the dozens of visits to the shooter’s home that never resulted in an arrest, their policy of avoiding juvenile arrests even for serious and violent crimes, and the failure of his deputies to enter the school and engage the shooter.
Israel’s actions in the aftermath of the shooting have only raised the v0lume from his critics — his grandstanding attempts to demonize the NRA and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at a CNN townhall, his scapegoating of his own deputies, and additional troubling reports about the shooter’s brother being arrested on campus and a BSO deputy getting caught sleeping while on duty that same day at Stoneman Douglas.
After news broke about the BSO deputy sleeping on campus, the shooter’s brother being arrested, and two students being arrested for bringing weapons onto campus, several parents of Stoneman Douglas students kept their children home from school, and Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) ordered armed guards to be at campus while school was in session.
Parents of several of those killed in the shooting have been increasingly vocal that the government officials who failed to keep their children safe need to be fired, as Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter Jaime died that day, told the Miami Herald.
“We all think we know, but we need to know with certainty, we need to find out why they made the mistakes and we need to fire people for their mistakes,” Guttenberg said. “Do any of the mistakes cross over to a criminal activity? I don’t know the law, but I do know at a minimum people need to be fired and they need to be fired soon.”
Shortly after the shooting, Scott ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to conduct an investigation into the BSO’s actions before and during the shooting, and that is still ongoing. Seventy-four Florida legislators also signed a letter calling for Scott to suspend Israel. So far, Israel has remained defiant and not only refused to resign, but given statements to the media touting his “amazing leadership.”
The vote from the union may help nudge Israel closer to resigning — even though it will be largely symbolic, a clear result against him will bolster the pending investigations against him, and provide political cover for any efforts to remove him from his position, elected by the people of Broward County.
The news about the no-confidence vote was confirmed by union president Jeff Bell, who told CNN that the vote would take place electronically and in person at their office starting tonight and continuing through April 26.
The official statement from the union slammed Israel for “many instances of suspected malfeasance, misfeasance, failure to maintain fiduciary responsibility by the sheriff, failure to properly investigate possible criminal conduct by members of his senior command staff and the lack of leadership that has crushed morale throughout the agency.”
Central to their complaints is Israel’s efforts to scapegoat Scot Peterson, the deputy who was the on-campus school resource officer the day of the shooting and never entered the building until well after the shooting was over. Peterson resigned almost immediately after the shooting, and while Bell acknowledged that Peterson should have entered the building, Israel’s refusal to show leadership and accept any responsibility infuriated his deputies.
“He blamed it all on Peterson,” Bell said in an interview with CBS Miami. “You don’t do that to one of your deputies.”
“There is a complete failure at the sheriff’s office and he doesn’t recognize it,” Bell continued. “The morale just disappeared. The morale is gone.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.
[Cross-posted at The Capitolist.]