Suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel recently appeared before the Senate special master in his appeal hearing. Israel pointed to Governor Ron DeSantis’ allegations of incompetence on the job as political.
Facing questions from his own attorney Ben Kuehne, and the governor’s counsel, Israel defended his job performance leading up to the February 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
Kuehne: “Why are you challenging the governor’s decision to suspend you?”
Israel: “Well, it’s the wrong decision. I’m committed to fulfilling my term and not vacating my responsibility to the people in Broward County, to the community that I serve, and fell in love with.”
In an effort to disprove DeSantis’ allegations of incompetence and negligence, Kuehne painted the Governor’s actions as political in nature.
“There is a distinct difference between neglect of duty, obligations required by law, and those set by the position of office, and whim or fancy on the part of a politician,” Kuehne said.
But Nicholas Primrose, the governor’s lawyer, says Israel failed to properly train his deputies – particularly when it came to the frequency of planning for active shooter scenarios.
“Unlike SWAT officers, who are supposed to engage in active shooter situations and undergo training multiple times a month, Scott Israel’s deputies assigned to schools were not keeping their skills sharp on a monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, or even semi-annual basis,” Primrose said.
Israel, answering questions from Primrose, said staffing shortages played a role.
“In law enforcement there are many vacant positions,” Israel said. “So, if you can't fill vacancies (in) an agency, there's a lot of training that you can't do, or do as often as you want. Because you can't leave the road or the community short of police officers.”
Primrose also grilled Israel about the reporting mechanisms for intelligence that may set off red flags about a potential school shooting. Israel defended protocol used by his agency.
Primrose: “You did not train them that if they get information about a school shooting – it should go immediately to the top – not fill out an incident report that then goes to their supervisor and through a list of commands – it is a dead stop right to the top.
Israel: “I don’t know of any agency in the United States of America that has that protocol in place.”
Over the two-day hearing, Senate special master Dudley Goodlette heard Israel and several former Broward Sheriff’s deputies field questions. Goodlette will now draft a report on the hearing and give it over to the Senate for a vote.
There was one answer from Israel that caught the Governor’s ear. It came when Israel was addressing former deputy Scot Peterson, who was recently arrested for failing to act during the Parkland high school shooting.
“I was responsible for his inactions that day, and as soon as I saw that video, being a tactical officer myself, I suspended him, ordered an internal affairs investigation, and was ready to wait for the results and take action,” Israel said.
DeSantis responded to Israel’s remarks while fielding questions from reporters Friday.
“I was surprised, though, that he did indicate that he’s responsible. He has not been willing to say that previously. His initial comment was, ‘I give someone a gun and a badge, they do with it what they will – I’m not responsible,’” DeSantis said. “So the fact that he admitted responsibility I think really justified my decision.”
Ultimately, DeSantis, like Israel and everyone else, will have to wait and see how the senate votes.
“This has been an extremely lengthy process, I mean, they’ve gone and tried to litigate, obviously unsuccessfully,” DeSantis said. “Now we’re doing the Senate process, so there will be folks that are going to vote on it, and you know, they can vote how they want.”
During the hearing, Israel said regardless of the Senate’s decision, he will be running for Sheriff of Broward County again.