Fort Lauderdale, FL – So many deputies have left the Broward Sheriff’s Office in the wake of the Parkland school shooting that it should be causing real safety concerns in the community served by the largest sheriff’s department in the United States.
“The citizens need to start worrying about it now,” Jeff Bell, a Broward deputy and the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, told Blue Lives Matter.
“Obviously the Parkland incident shows we cannot protect them in the schools. And with the critical shortage, deputies are getting burned out by the minimum number of hours they have to work just to fulfill minimum staffing requirements,” Deputy Bell explained.
Amidst much criticism surrounding Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and the handling of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, deputies are leaving the Broward Sheriff’s Office faster than the department can recruit and train replacements. And applications are down, too
Deputy Bell said “everybody has zero faith in the sheriff” and it’s killing the department.
“We’re considered the laughingstock of law enforcement in Florida and most of the nation for how we’ve acted in the media lately,” Deputy Bell told Blue Lives Matter, sounding frustrated.
Deputies are applying to other agencies at an alarmingly high rate, furthering the critical staffing shortage that already exists, he said. They’ve been told that more than 50 deputies have put in applications with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and other city police departments.
“At minimum, we need another 50 Deputies to fill the mandatory School Resource Deputy positions at the schools that will go into effect this fall,” Deputy Bell said. “And we currently have 130 vacancies for road patrol. Fifty to 60 would be a normal number.”
And Sheriff Israel has also asked for another 49 positions for the new gun restraining order program, he said.
It’s a recipe for disaster, according to Deputy Bell.
The deputies’ union held a vote of no confidence for Sheriff Israel on April 26, and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of removing the sheriff from office.
They then asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to intervene and “replace the sheriff with somebody who is capable of amazing leadership,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.
Under Florida law, the governor has the power to suspect Sheriff Israel for "malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty" and "may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension,” CNN reported.
Then it would be the responsibility of the Florida State Senate to decide what to do. The senate has the power to make final decisions about what happens to an official after they have been suspended.
The union cited examples of problems that have existed throughout Sheriff Israel’s administration, but said the sheriff’s handling of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day was the last straw.
In May, the union put up a billboard on the busiest interstate highway on the East Coast to make sure the governor got their message.
“Governor Scott: There is no confidence in Sheriff Israel,” the sign read.
However, Scott has not yet done anything in response to pleas from the deputies’ union, so they tried again.
On Monday, a new billboard appeared just off of Interstate 95 that carried a strong message for the governor.
“Governor Scott: Before it happens again, Remove Sheriff Israel,” read the bright orange billboard.
Deputy Bell said morale was at an all-time low in the Broward Sheriff’s Office for numerous reasons, all of which stem from the installation of Sheriff Israel at the head of the department.
“Using officers to pass out groceries but you’re not allowed to lock up juveniles who commit crimes anymore,” he cited as examples. “It kinda takes the wind out of your sails and makes you not want to be a police officer anymore.”