Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has told his top commanders that he expects newly sworn-in Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R.) to remove him from office because of his response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year.
DeSantis, who took office on Tuesday, has not made any formal announcement about a suspension, and one of Israel’s lawyers said that Israel was working in his office at the public safety building in Fort Lauderdale, the Miami Herald reported Tuesday.
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But Jeff Bell, the Broward Sheriff Office's union chief, said Israel told his top staff on Monday that he would definitely be ousted. Bell would not comment on a possible replacement.
"What I will say is we want someone who will remove politics out of police work and commit to protecting the citizens and our children in the schools,’’ Bell told the Herald.
The Miami New Times first reported about Israel's discussions with his staff.
Israel received fierce criticism for his department's response to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, where shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, killed 17 people. Cruz randomly fired into the school building and was able to escape the school grounds. He was apprehended one hour and 16 minutes later.
Although Israel was initially praised for his handling of the situation, further investigation revealed a different story. The 15-member Marjory Stoneman Douglas public safety commission's report, commissioned by the state of Florida, found that even long after the shooting, officials involved with the response, including sheriff's deputies and high school assistant principals, provided investigators with accounts that contradicted surveillance video and other evidence. The panel concluded they were either incompetent or untruthful.
Israel, however, has maintained his original statement that his department handled the situation well.
"These are the leaders who led the first responders for police and fire, our deputies who were able do the amazing things we did in Broward County," he said days after the shooting.
DeSantis stated during his campaign that he would probably suspend Israel. Florida's governor can suspend a sheriff for many reasons, including criminal activity, neglect of duty, and incompetence. If DeSantis decides to do so, Israel will request a trial before the Florida Senate to fight it, his lawyer said.