The Florida Senate on Oct. 23 voted to officially remove Scott Israel from his elected position as the Broward County sheriff.
The 25-15 vote finalizes Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order suspending Israel from the position due to allegations of neglect of duty and failures in his department’s responses to mass shootings in 2017 at the Fort Lauderdale airport and in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Wednesday’s vote agrees with a recommendation by the Senate Rules Committee, which voted narrowly Monday night to support DeSantis’ decision to suspend Israel.
The five state senators voted to reinstate the former sheriff. A Senate-appointed special master also recommended Israel be reinstated.
Families of some of the victims in the Parkland shooting, who attended proceedings on Monday and Wednesday, praised the decision to not reinstate Israel.
Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was killed in the shooting, said families worked tirelessly over the past week to make sure the ex-sheriff wouldn’t be reinstated.
“We did it for everyone in the community and for the thousands of kids that attend school in Broward,” he told CNN after the vote. “They could be rest assured now that that county will be a lot safer without … this failed sheriff in Broward County,” Pollack said.
He said Israel “has to be judged by his systematic failures and the failures of individuals because that’s what leadership is.”
DeSantis said in a statement, “I hope the outcome provides some measure of relief to the Parkland families that have been doggedly pursuing accountability.”
DeSantis says he suspended Israel for his allegedly incompetent and negligent response to the Parkland shooting, which left 17 people dead, and the Fort Lauderdale airport attack the year before, in which five were killed, leaving deep scars on the community.
Florida law allows DeSantis to suspend a sheriff for malfeasance or neglect of duty. It also allows him to appoint an interim sheriff, but the Senate wields the power to determine whether the governor’s rationale for suspension is legitimate.
Israel’s critics, including some family members of those killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting in Parkland, contend the blame falls on Israel.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter, Alaina, was killed, told Israel he was rekindling parents’ pain and pleaded with the ex-lawman to stop fighting for his job.
Republican Sen. Tom Lee argued Israel was unpopular and is entitled to due process by the Senate and the special master. This was before the vote on Wednesday.
“Nikolas Cruz is going to be afforded that process—why should we not also give it to the sheriff?” Lee said before the vote, referring to the Parkland shooter.
Lee, the only Republican to vote to reinstate Israel, said the emotion of parents of the Parkland victims can’t “trump the fact that we are setting a new precedent here.”
Sen. Darryl Ervin Rouson, a Democrat, said his vote to remove Israel is a vote of his conscience.
“We can’t reinstate the lives of those lost on February 14 but we can choose to not reinstate a man who oversaw the development of policies, procedures and training that failed to protect those lives,” he said before the vote.
Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat, said lawmakers didn’t listen to Parkland parents when they urged them not to arm teachers and ban assault weapons. She told a story of getting a call from a Parkland parent as she packed Sunday to travel to the capitol. Taddeo said she didn’t have time to take the call, which would have made her late.
She recalled her daughter telling her: “Mommy, if I would’ve died in Parkland, you would want them to take that call.”
“So, I am taking the call of the parents. I understand, and I will vote to recommend the suspension of Sheriff Israel,” she said.
Rouson and Taddeo were among three Democrats who voted to remove Israel.
Politics or Accountability?
Israel, a Democrat, has said he believes the Republican governor had political motives for removing him.
In a statement posted on Twitter on Wednesday, Israel said he was “sad to report that politics won the day.”
“Your vote has been stolen and the results of our 2016 election have been overturned. From 450 miles away, the Governor substituted his judgement for yours and installed his own sheriff in Broward County,” he said addressing voters.
— Scott J. Israel (@ScottJIsrael) October 23, 2019
Israel, who was elected sheriff in 2012 and 2016, has said he will run again in 2020.
If Israel is re-elected in 2020, DeSantis says he “will not suspend him for previous actions of neglect of duty and incompetence,” spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre told CNN.