Newly elected Florida governor Ron DeSantis suspended Broward County sheriff Scott Israel on Friday over failing’s in his department’s response to the mass shooting that left 17 people dead at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School last February.
“Sheriff Israel has repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership,” DeSantis said in a statement. “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’s Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty. The families of the victims deserve accountability.”
DeSantis, who called for Israel’s suspension repeatedly during his campaign for governor, appointed retired Coral Springs Police sergeant Gregory Tony as Israel’s successor. Tony is the first African-American to serve as Broward County Sheriff.
Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, has long criticized Israel’s leadership and praised DeSantis on Friday for acting in accordance with the will of his union members.
“True leaders like Governor DeSantis are willing to make the tough decisions that may not always be the most popular choices,” Bell said. “Scott Israel misused his authority and abused his public trust by politicizing the nation’s largest fully accredited Sheriff’s Office for his own political ambitions.”
In a report released last week, a state commission tasked with investigating the February 14 mass shooting detailed a number of errors and missteps by Israel’s department, including the failure of two of his deputies, who arrived on scene during the shooting, to enter the school and engage the shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. The commission also faulted the department for failing to respond meaningfully to multiple reports of threatening behavior on Cruz’s part.
Israel, who has praised his own leadership as “exceptional,” faced a vote of no confidence from his deputies in April but refused to step down or admit any wrongdoing.