Plantation, FL – Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has received a vote of no confidence from his deputies, and now their union will ask the governor to step in and suspend him.
Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, announced the results of the vote – 534 to 94 – at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.
Deputy Bell said the union’s “members have displayed great courage to come out and vote under threat of retaliation and reprisal from the sheriff,” the Sun-Sentinel reported.
He said the union planned to present the results of the no confidence vote to Florida Governor Rick Scott and ask him to please “replace the sheriff with somebody who is capable of amazing leadership.”
“Amazing leadership starts from the top, and there is no amazing leadership here. We are a ship out at sea with no power — adrift,” Bell told the Sun-Sentinel.
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.
When the sheriff touted his leadership skills in an interview with CNN, the union decided it had had enough.
Sheriff Israel has defended his handling of the Parkland school massacre, and said Thursday that the no confidence vote was “unfortunate and appalling,” and nothing more than a “ploy” to advance the deputies’ salary negotiations, CNN reported.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was investigating the incident response, which included a school resource officer who stayed outside the classroom building while a gunman murdered 17 students and faculty, and wounded 16 more.
Seventy-four Florida lawmakers called for Sheriff Israel’s resignation, and the Florida attorney general questioned the integrity of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
“I don’t think some people were honest, and we’re going to investigate this situation in Florida and the right thing will be done,” Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told FOX News.
Sheriff Israel responded to initial criticism of his agency’s handling of the shooting rampage by touting his own leadership skills, and blaming Broward County Deputy Scot Petersen.
The sheriff accepted no responsibility for the numerous warning signs about future-shooter Nikolas Cruz, and he disavowed responsibility for taking action regarding Cruz in advance in an interview with CNN.
“Jake, I can only take responsibility for what I knew about,” Sheriff Israel said. “I exercised my due diligence. I provided amazing leadership to this agency.”
As bodycam and surveillance videos of the scene at the Parkland high school were released, along with recordings of police radio traffic and 911 calls, it was revealed the Broward County incident commander had called for staging and setting up a perimeter rather than telling officers to go in and stop the shooting. It was not known at that time whether Cruz was still in the freshman building at the school.
The school resource officer had claimed that he didn’t know whether the shooter was inside the building.
Transcripts of radio traffic revealed that Deputy Peterson had actually told other responding officers to stay back from the buildings, and not to make entry. Video revealed that he’d stayed outside the building and taken cover while Cruz killed his former classmates.
Decisions made by the incident commander, Broward County Captain Jan Jordan proved to have been just as out-of-date and outside of department protocol as those made by the school resource officer.
The Sun-Sentinel reported that the heavily criticized Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel personally brought Capt. Jordan onto his sheriff’s department shortly after he was elected.
The recordings were released more than a week after Coral Springs police officers who responded to the Parkland high school on Feb. 14 said Broward County deputies were outside the school buildings, and had taken cover behind their vehicles, when they arrived at the campus, instead of rushing toward danger to try to prevent the loss of additional life.
In the weeks that have followed the shooting and the release of investigative materials related to it, security at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School continued to face challenges.
Then a Broward County deputy was caught napping on duty by a student when he was supposed to be protecting the school’s campus, prompting his suspension.
The agency has not released if their scheduling contributed to the deputy's exhaustion.