Broward County Sheriff Facing No-Confidence Vote from His Deputies: ‘The Morale is Gone’

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• April 20, 2018 4:26 pm


Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel faces a "no-confidence" vote from the union representing his deputies in the wake of his department's widely criticized handling of the Parkland school shooting.

The Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association has informed Israel of its decision to hold the vote, which will take place electronically beginning Friday through April 26.

Union president Jeff Bell told CNN, "There is a complete failure at the sheriff's office and he doesn't recognize it."

One of Israel's deputies, Scot Peterson, failed to enter Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 and engage the shooter, even though he was on campus as the massacre unfolded. The Broward County captain who came upon the scene initially told deputies to form a perimeter around the scene, rather than enter the school and engage the shooter, as they had been trained.

In addition, Israel's office fielded multiple calls before the shooting warning about the alleged perpetrator, Nikolas Cruz, being a potential school shooter.

Israel has been defiant about his department's actions, saying it wasn't his responsibility that Peterson was derelict in his duty. He also told CNN host Jake Tapper in a contentious interview on Feb. 25 that he had provided "amazing leadership" to the agency.

"Do you think that if the Broward County Sheriff's Office had done things differently, this shooting might not have happened?" Tapper asked.

"If ifs and buts were candies and nuts, O.J. Simpson would still be in the record books," Israel said.

The Wednesday before that interview, Israel participated in a town hall on guns hosted by Tapper. During the raucous event, Israel praised students pushing for gun control and debated National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch.

The vote on Israel comes at a time where there exists a "lack of leadership that has crushed morale throughout the agency," the announcement from the deputies association says. One example is mixed messaging from leadership and confusion over department policies, such as its active shooter policy, Bell said:

One example, he says, is the active shooter policy, which states a deputy "may" go into a building and engage the shooter to preserve life. But in training, Bell says, deputies learn to enter the site of the shooting and confront an active shooter. Deputies have to make split-second decisions, he said, so their guidance and training should be identical.

He also talked about policies that he says don't make sense. For example, if a citizen loses his balance and a deputy reaches out to stop the fall, he says, policy requires the deputy to file a "use of force" report.

"The laws are there that allow you to do your job; but the policies make it so paperwork-heavy that no one wants to do their job anymore," Bell said.

According to CNN, one elected sergeant and one elected deputy from each of the county's 22 districts and specialized units have voting power. The vote is symbolic but will give Israel, a Democrat, a sense of where he stands with his department's rank-and-file.

"Some of his best supporters are being vocal against him," Bell said. "The morale just disappeared. The morale is gone."

The law enforcement response to the Parkland shooting is the subject of multiple state investigations.

Published under: CNN, Florida, Gun Control, Guns, Jake Tapper