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Capital Report: Special Session Called After Report Recommends Scott Israel Be Reinstated

Brynn Anderson
AP Photo

A special session has been called for the Florida Senate, to weigh the reinstatement or permanent removal of suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. A senate special master is recommending Israel’s reinstatement amid Governor Ron DeSantis’ ongoing push to oust him.

“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,” Israel said in June, during the two full days he spent appealing his suspension.

Months ago, Israel and his legal counsel set out to disprove the governor’s allegations of incompetence and negligence. DeSantis’ claims against Israel center on the 2018 mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed the lives of 17, and another mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale Airport in 2017 that saw five deaths.

DeSantis has argued Israel failed to provide proper training to deputies tasked with protecting the school.

Nick Primrose, DeSantis' attorney, argued the frequency of Israel’s trainings wasn’t adequate.

“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.

In the case of the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting, DeSantis has accused Israel of not properly staffing the airport for security.

Israel has vehemently defended his policies and training, even describing training sessions during his June hearing.

“Incredible training – we repelled a canine dog down off the helicopter into those upper classrooms so that the canine dog could search out the killer,” Israel said.

During questioning by his own attorney, Ben Keuhne, Israel says other law enforcement agencies even sought to duplicate the training for their own officers. Since being suspended, Israel and Kuehne have maintained DeSantis’ accusations have been politically motivated. Kuehne called it “look-back finger-pointing.”

“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 of DeSantis’ allegations.

Dudley Goodlette, who served as special master for the senate during Israel’s June hearing, made waves in Florida’s political landscape this week by recommending Israel be reinstated. In his recommendation, Goodlette says DeSantis didn’t prove Israel’s policies and training are inconsistent with state law enforcement standards.

It resulted in Senate President Bill Galvano calling for the special session, which is to run the entire week of October 21.

Shortly after the release of Goodlette’s report, DeSantis stood by all of his allegations, and appeared confident putting the final decisions in the hands of the Senate.

“There’s no doubt there was incompetence and neglect of duty and Florida law says the sheriff is responsible for the conduct,” the governor said this week. “So, I think the senators will separate the wheat from the chaff on that and I think they’ll do the right thing.”

Meanwhile, Israel held a press conference of his own in South Florida, also sticking to his assertions that there was no incompetence or negligence on his part. He thanked Galvano for calling the special session, adding he believes senators will be “fair and impartial.”

“I want to thank special master Goodlette, and I want to thank Senate President Galvano for creating this process,” Israel said.

Ahead of the special session, Galvano is urging senators to 'review all evidence, arguments put forth by counsel for both parties.' There were 7,300 pages of evidence and depositional testimony were submitted during June hearing.

Senators have been directed by Galvano not to speak publicly about Israel’s suspension, except for in the Rules Committee or during the Special Session.  

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.