Fort Lauderdale, FL – Keeping a campaign promise to oust controversial Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, Florida’s new governor appeared in Broward County on Friday afternoon to announce the sheriff’s suspension and name his replacement.
At a press conference in front of the Broward Public Safety Building, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the suspension of Sheriff Israel.
The new sheriff will be former Coral Springs Police Sergeant Gregory Tony, who has a background in active-shooter and mass casualty incident training, DeSantis said.
The new governor said Sheriff Tony was “tailor-made for this position” and spoke glowingly of the experienced police officer’s integrity and leadership ability.
He said he didn’t want to focus his comments on Sheriff Israel’s suspension.
“I have no interest in dancing on Scott Israel’s political grave,” DeSantis said. “Just suffice it to say that the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”
He told reporters he didn’t want to detail the “neglect and incompetence” of Sheriff Israel’s administration.
“We lay it out in the suspension order – and I don’t have the inclination to rehash his failings,” DeSantis said.
Sheriff Israel has been the subject of intense criticism after it was discovered that members of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) failed to respond to the active shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in accordance with modern law enforcement training.
An investigation conducted by a special commission established by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at the request of former Governor Rick Scott, determined that multiple BSO deputies had failed to make any attempt to stop the shooter as they listened to him shoot 34 students and staff.
Seventeen people were killed as a result of the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre.
DeSantis also criticized the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) failure to act on the tips and leads they were given ahead of the massacre.
The new governor said the parents of the victims wanted those agents held accountable, but when he tried to take some of the victims’ parents to meet with the FBI when he was a congressman, “they wouldn’t even meet with us.”
“I know they were reassigned somewhere else, but to me that’s a bureaucratic two-step… if you at least fire the people who could have acted but didn’t, then we would at least be able to say there was accountability,” he said.
DeSantis was sworn into office only four days before he suspended Sheriff Israel.
“Once I took that oath and put my hand on the bible, I knew that oath compelled me to make this decision today,” the new governor told reporters.
Sheriff Tony took the podium and spoke briefly to the community and his deputies, reassuring both that they had his support.
“There’s become this myth that there’s not enough qualified people here. That’s there’s not enough strong leaders here. And they are [here],” the new sheriff said. “But when you have leadership at the top, it’s important to bring that type of quality and skills and expertise up.”
Sheriff Tony called the deputies of the BSO “brave and unselfish,” and said he planned to make sure that the department and the community “have the leadership they deserve.”
The new sheriff served 12 years on the Coral Springs Police Department before he left the police force to focus full time on the active-shooter and mass casualty incident training company that he founded, according to the Sun Sentinel.
While he served Coral Springs, Sheriff Tony was on the SWAT team for five years and attained the rank of sergeant.
He served as a sergeant for three years and left the Coral Springs PD in 2016, two years before the Parkland massacre.
“He’s a fantastic guy, great character, we hated to see him go,” Coral Springs Police Chief Clyde Parry told the Sun Sentinel. “I think if he was still here, he would be a lieutenant or maybe a captain. He had a bright future, he really did.”
Chief Parry was Sheriff Tony’s supervisor when he left that police department.
Sheriff Tony’s company, Blue Spear Solutions, does threat assessments on schools and businesses, in addition to offering active-shooter training.
Blue Spear Solutions created the first online curriculum for bleeding-control training and certification to teach people how to respond during a mass casualty incident, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Sheriff Tony played football for Florida State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology.
He went on to get a master’s degree in criminal justice from Nova Southeastern University, the Sun Sentinel reported.
The new sheriff’s appointment was greeted with enthusiasm by Broward sheriff’s deputies, who have been trying to oust Sheriff Israel since last spring.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association had asked the now-former governor to intervene after the deputies union held a vote of no confidence in April of 2018, and the membership voted against Sheriff Israel by 534 to 94.
But Sheriff Israel stayed in charge throughout the remainder of that governor’s administration.