One of the greatest assets of the Republican Party of Florida continues to be the Florida Democrats, who repeatedly find ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. They proved it again this week in Broward County, publicly organizing to support former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel (D), who many view as culpable for his agency’s many failures related to the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 students and teachers dead, and another 17 injured.
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) wasted little time after he was sworn into office this January to take action against Sheriff Israel, suspending him a mere three days into his term as governor, via an executive order citing neglect of duty and incompetence by Israel. DeSantis also appointed Gregory Tony to take over as the new Broward County Sheriff.
Israel sued to try and keep his job, but has been rejected by the courts, with the Broward County Circuit Court dismissing his lawsuit against the governor earlier this month.
Israel’s local Democrats apparently find him far more sympathetic.
According to a report by the Sun Sentinel, at the meeting of the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee earlier this week, a resolution was considered to condemn DeSantis for suspending Israel “without good cause and with no hearing.”
The resolution was not able to be officially passed because the committee lacked the quorum of members needed for a vote, but Anthony Man, the Sun Sentinel reporter who attended the meeting, noted that “[b]ased on applause and comments, most of the almost 100 people present for the discussion supported the resolution.”
Democrats can grumble about DeSantis’ suspension of Israel, but the inconvenient fact for them is that the governor is enjoying a “remarkably high” approval rating. Even his actions against Israel have been viewed more as a just response to severe professional malpractice rather than a partisan political maneuver by a Republican seeking to remove a Democrat.
To argue that Israel was suspended “without good cause” requires one to ignore the many missed opportunities, poor planning, miscommunications, neglect, and other failures by the Broward Sheriff’s Office under Israel’s leadership. It is a long and heartbreaking list, considering the horrific toll. Among the most egregious:
- Broward deputies were called to the shooter’s (I am following the practice of the victim’s families in avoiding using his name) home dozens of times and were given direct reports of his erratic, disturbing, and increasingly violent behavior, but never arrested him, referred him to mental health treatment, or took any action that would have barred him from legally purchasing a gun.
- Israel had enthusiastically supported controversial alternative education and discipline policies that sought to minimize juvenile arrests, even when the student was being violent or threatening school safety.
- Multiple Broward deputies, including MSD school resource officer Scot Peterson, waited in the school parking lot during the shooting, never even attempting to enter the building until after it was over. The delay undoubtedly cost lives, according to analysis by multiple members of the media, government officials, and the MSD Public Safety Commission.
- Israel himself had overseen a change in the BSO training to say that deputies “may” engage instead of “shall” engage an active shooter.
DeSantis sent clear signals during the campaign that he was willing to remove Israel, so voters knew that was a possibility when they cast a ballot for him last November. He obviously did not view it as a politically risky position to take, and with his suspension of Israel and several other negligence officials around the state getting significant media attention, it is undoubtedly a factor in his approval ratings.
Israel should be fading away as a media story, but actions like this by the Broward County Democrats shove him right back in the spotlight again. Israel is unrepentant about his failures and continues to insist he did nothing wrong — a tough pill for many to swallow when they know the names and faces of those who died.
If the Democrats want to kick off the 2020 election season by embracing a disgraced former sheriff whose negligence has a body count, then they are sending a clear message to voters that partisan politics matter more to them than good policy, ethical government, or life itself.
Foliow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.