Florida Senate Sheriff Scott Israel
Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel appears before the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

By Bobby Caina Calvan, Associated Press

The Florida Senate handed a political victory to Gov. Ron DeSantis on Wednesday, as the chamber backed the suspension of a county sheriff who the Republican governor said bungled the response to last year’s mass shooting in Parkland that killed 17 people.

The 25-15 vote for removal was no surprise in the Republican-dominated Senate, considering that the Rules Committee just two days earlier had sided with the governor’s decision to oust Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.

With the tragedy framing the debate and emotions sometimes fraying, alliances transcended party allegiances, with some Democrats signaling their support for removing Israel. In the end, three Democrats voted for removal, while one Republican sided with the now-former sheriff.

Some, like Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat, said the rawness of the tragedy influenced their decision.

“Seventeen people died,” she said after the vote. “To put that aside … I couldn’t do it.”

Removing an elected official from office was a difficult decision, she said, “but there are times when someone should not have that job.”

Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa died in the shooting, watched the debate from the Senate gallery. Afterward, she said she took another step toward closure.

“There is finally accountability for the many failures. His incompetency as sheriff led to the death of my daughter Alyssa and 16 others,” she said.

In a statement emailed by his attorney, Israel said “politics won the day.”

“Law enforcement in Florida fundamentally changed tonight. The office of sheriff, once accountable to the people and the law is now subject to the petulant whims, political paybacks and personal piques a partisan tyrants in Tallahassee,” Israel’s statement said.

On Feb. 14, 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and killed 15 students and two staffers.

A former student, Nikolas Cruz, was arrested shortly after the shootings and faces 17 counts of first-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted first-degree murder.

During a court hearing on the same day the state Senate considered Israel’s dismissal, a Florida judge said she intended to proceed with a trial early next year, with jury selection set to begin on Jan. 27.

Israel, who was first elected as Broward County sheriff in 2012, has vowed to run for his old job next year. DeSantis has said he would not seek to remove Israel again, should the lawman win the confidence of Broward voters.

“It’s not going to be something that will matter to me either way,” DeSantis said Tuesday.

In a statement released by his office after the vote, DeSantis said he hoped “the outcome provides some relief to the Parkland families that have been doggedly pursuing accountability.”

The Senate’s decision to strip Israel of his job came despite the recommendation by an investigator appointed by the chamber that the sheriff be reinstated.

Israel’s supporters said his removal would embolden DeSantis and future governors in removing other elected officials for political reasons.

Sen. Tom Lee, a Republican and former president of the Florida Senate, made an impassioned plea to reinstate Israel, saying that removing him would be “anti-law enforcement.”

“When we go home and jump into a selfie with our sheriff — because I know how good that looks on our campaign pieces — make sure he knows what we did today,” Lee said.

Senate special master Dudley Goodlette said no evidence was presented to suggest Israel’s policies or his training of deputies were inconsistent with Florida standards. Goodlette attributed the shooting deaths to “individual failures,” especially on the part of the school resource officer on duty who had failed to enter a school building and confront the shooter.

During his bid for governor, DeSantis partly campaigned on removing Israel from his post in Broward County, a Democratic stronghold. Days after taking office, DeSantis used his authority as governor to remove the lawman, deeming him incompetent in his department’s Parkland response.

DeSantis also criticized Israel’s handling of the 2017 shootings that killed five people at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

After the vote, some senators said they would pursue a review of the governor’s authority to remove elected officials from office.

But Senate President Bill Galvano did not seem eager to do that.

50 COMMENTS

  1. The founders would have tarred & feathered followed by rope of this disgrace who caused the death of helpless children and teachers relying on police to save them who failed them!

    YOU ARE ALWAYS THE FIRST LINE OF DEFENSE AND FIRST RESPONDER FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY BE SMART PREPARE GET ARMED SURVIVE!

  2. I’m not surprised, and thank God. Now we get to see if he carries out his threat to run again, next election cycle. I kinda doubt he will, he has to know what the campaign is going to entail, and that’s the families of the kids. I don’t think he will have the balls to do that.

    The families of the killed mounted a full-court press to personally lobby every senator, and it sounds like that may have had an impact…

    • I presume you mean running for sheriff? He should forget about that and throw his hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president. He’s as big of a douche as any of them. Might just have a shot.

      • Yes, sheriff.

        Like a typical ‘Progressive’, he’s convinced everybody loves him and the job he did except for a few nutjob conservatives.

        Kudos to the families for pressuring the individual state senators…

    • Might as well run again. If people are that dumb, have at it. If nothing else, campaigning alone these days has become a business. He might try to squeeze a few more bucks from the democrats.

  3. From 825 miles away, I can see this POS is nothing but an incompetent political hack that is delusional in thinking his re-election will succeed (see his tweet). The ghosts of 22 souls should be enough to drive him into obscurity. His own department voted 85% No Confidence in him and his ability to provide ‘Amazing Leadership’.

  4. This disgrace to the badge and the failures of the school administrators to prevent this tragedy stand as a stark reminder that both of those institutions need to be held accountable. The failure of the school administration to use common sense regarding the shooter in an attempt to squeeze more funding by sliding around the guidelines for troubled students speaks to a culture of unthinking obedience to the politically correct culture of no one is responsible for their actions.
    As for this screaming failure of a sheriff the families of all the victims should sue him, the lieutenant who assumed on scene command and every officer who stood by while their children were slaughtered.

  5. “Law enforcement in Florida fundamentally changed tonight. The office of sheriff, once accountable to the people and the law is now subject to the petulant whims, political paybacks and personal piques a partisan tyrants in Tallahassee“

    Oh! So now your all concerned about political whims and partisan tyrants! You didn’t seem so concerned about that when you were wiping your ass with the constitution to advance the cause of gun confiscation.

  6. I cannot believe anyone thinks israel should not have been removed. He is a the epitome of incompetence and that incompetence contributed to the death of 17 people.

    Now the voters in Broward county, etc. should remove every school committee member and all the school officials involved in allowing cruz to stay in the schools and not pursuing charges or mental health help for him. They are even more responsible for the murders than israel.

    • The general principle that the Sheriff is the top law enforcement official within a county—superior to all others (including Federal)—and that he is an elected official who answers to the people within his county is an important system to protect the Consent of the Governed. (Much like the jury system is supposed to be.) Removing a Sheriff or any other elected official by any means other than an election or recall petition is something I view with great trepidation. There seem to be some people opposing his removal for this reason, though most defending him are clearly partisan bigots.

      The clear conflict here is that the people of Broward insisted on electing an incompetent boob who should never have access to any kind of power because they are equally incompetent ideologues. So the challenge is in how to deal with such an obviously incompetent/corrupt elected official without undermining that system which provides a check to protect the Consent of the Governed.

      Maybe the people of Broward deserve the Sheriff they insist on voting for, good and hard.

      There should definitely be recourse for those victimized by his incompetence/corruption that is borne by him personally, not some fine or settlement paid via taxpayer dollars. He needs to be directly accountable for his actions or lack thereof.

      • Israel went the further step of not only denying responsibility for policy but going on TV asking for us all to be disarmed. A real low life.

        • Really, this walking/talking turd should have been “flushed” from public view after the townhall used to trash Dana L.

      • State law in Florida allows the sheriff to be removed with a ratification vote by the state senate. I’m guessing most other states do not have such a provision. If the people of Broward county really want him back, they can re-elect him. If Floridians don’t like the law, pressure legislators to change it.

        My home state doesn’t allow the governor to take such action, but county elected officials can be removed via impeachment proceedings for malfeasance.

  7. A warning should be tattooed on his forehead to alert people meeting him that he is dangerously incompetent and a full of crap politician.

    But what message to put there? What warning whould be most appropriate?
    “FIRED”?
    “MORON”?
    “IDIOT”?
    “LIAR”?
    “NINCOMPOOP”?
    “KEEP BACK! MINIMUM SAFE DISTANCE 500 METERS”?
    “I LIED CHILDREN DIED”?

    Possibly multiple warning notices will be needed.

  8. Pollack’s book “Why Meadow Died” goes into great detail the failings due to incompetence and negligence across the board in Broward. I highly recommend it especially for any parents with children in public school. The author says he wrote the book as a how-to manual to fix our disciplinary system to prevent shooters from slipping through the cracks (fissures really).

    • His voice has been a very powerful one in this. His daughter died because of pure incompetence and corruption, that is something that is hard to live with.

  9. The question in my mind isn’t about the training of the deputies, the question in my mind is about the question of non-arrest of the Parkland Shooter before he killed 17 people.

    Remember, love your neighbor but a loaded gun is a handy backup.

    • ” the question in my mind is about the question of non-arrest of the Parkland Shooter before he killed 17 people.”
      The promise program and lowering of White culture to be equal with lower morality cultures is your answer. It is like how gun free zones exist because of bipartisans in the 90’s, were afraid to admit that all cultures are not equal, so all Citizens had their rights infringed upon.

      It is like where I live used to be all White with a few indians that left the reservation, and now crime has risen because both parties lowered the quality of life expectations to be equal with reservation indians

  10. So when are Obama and his AG going to be censured or prosecuted for their role in stopping the arrests, incarceration, and/or involuntary commitment of Cruz, thereby allowing him to purchase and own the weapon with which he carried out the many threats he had made over a number of years?

    By the time the Sheriff’s office became involved the horse was out of the barn and well down the road.

    • Wow, this is the ACTUAL cause of the shooting, yet not a SINGLE response. Really??? WTF TTAG posters!
      Obama tied the schools hands when he made it almost IMPOSSIBLE to expel troubled students. This didn’t just make schools more dangerous, it made them less capable to educate students due to disruptions and students that would have been removed prior to the Obama incompetence.

    • It’s certainly true that the problem goes beyond the former Sheriff. It’s a set of problems both wide and deep according to the reporting.

      I think, personally, what rubs people the wrong way is the guy’s reaction to what was most assuredly a clusterfuck of astronomical proportions.

      If he had essentially said “Mistakes were made, I bear some responsibility for that” and then rolled up his proverbial sleeves and gotten to work he would have made some political enemies within Broward County but come away looking like the adult in the room.

      He didn’t do that and he didnt come away looking like an adult. Then, when he didn’t get the reception he wanted he threw a fit which made him look nearly infinitely worse.

      So, is he a scapegoat? Yeah, in many ways he is. OTOH, he brought part of that on himself.

      The rest isn’t going to be fixed until the public, in Broward and beyond, wises up. He could have been an instrument of their needed education. He chose not to be.

    • 1) You don’t censure someone who doesn’t hold office.
      2) What specific law would they be charged with?

      Publicize their incompetence and misguided policies. Let history know the dangerous results of lowering standards and discipline. Poor policies are a moral shame, but not a criminal act.

  11. But Scott said he “did an amazing job” of leading his department. I don’t see the problem!!! I mean, he said it right?

  12. Scott Israel wants his job back. Scot Peterson wants his bond money back. Meanwhile, the Parkland parents just want their kids back.

  13. The 15 senators who voted to retain this POS should be sent packing as well. He has no defense for his actions other than his incompetence, why would you vote to retain him other than political reasons. In which case it adds to the case for removal of the senators.

  14. He not only failed as a leader, but also rushed out to politicize the event and shift the blame to the NRA, before the bodies were even cold. So that alone made him fit to be removed. Of course, the geniuses in Broward county will make sure someone at least as bad as him is elected the next go round.

  15. Well, folks, I live here in Florida and agree with the Senates actions against Israel this man knew this young man was a danger to everyone his parents called many times because they were scared of him and had done stuff to them yet the sheriff refused to do anything even when he was no longer a student of the school he should have been picked at any of those calls and sent for a mental evaluation and at that time a record put on file to where he could of bout any firearms this is what the laws are

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