Fort Lauderdale, FL – Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has already started moving personal items out of his office in anticipation of being replaced by new Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
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 as they had been trained.
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.
Three BSO sources told the Miami New Times that Sheriff Israel has informed his high-ranking staff members that he was going to be suspended and expects to be ousted by the new governor in short order.
The sheriff also told them he would appeal the decision and fight to get his job back, the Miami New Times reported.
DeSantis was sworn in on Tuesday, but he hinted during a press conference on Monday that the Sheriff Israel issue was on his front burner and that he was already considering replacements for the beleaguered sheriff.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association asked the now-former governor to intervene last spring.
The deputies union held a vote of no confidence in April of 2018, and the membership voted against Sheriff Israel by 534 to 94.
Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, said at the time that 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.
Deputy Bell said the union asked Scott to please “replace the sheriff with somebody who is capable of amazing leadership.”
But Sheriff Israel stayed in charge throughout the remainder of that governor’s administration.
In the meantime, Deputy Bell joined the transition team for the DeSantis administration.
The deputy said that removing Sheriff Israel is only the tip of the iceberg, and that “if you’re looking to fix the agency and put it on the right track, it does nothing to do that.”
Deputy Bell told Blue Lives Matter in June of 2018 that “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 said, sounding frustrated.
He told Miami New Times that the sheriff’s cronies and political hires also have to be removed from office in order to make a difference.
Cleaning house would be a massive undertaking, but it’s one that Deputy Bell calls well worth the effort.
The Miami New Times reported the Sheriff Israel had made a “dizzying number of political appointments that had nothing to do with law enforcement.”
“They vowed their allegiance to Scott Israel, not to the community,” retired BSO Sergeant Willie Jones said. “We need leaders who are not going to kiss the ring, but who are committed to the community.”
After his election, Sheriff Israel hired his campaign strategist, Ron Gunzburger, as BSO general counsel for more than $200,000 a year, the Miami New Times reported.
He also hired two political supporters with zero combined law enforcement experience for a combined salary of more than $250,000 a year.
Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo has bounced around the BSO while his wife, Lisa, has hung in as Sheriff Israel’s chief of staff, the Miami New Times reported.
The sheriff tried to hire his campaign manager, Amy Rose, after the election but she failed the background check.
Instead, Sheriff Israel hired her husband as a “community outreach manager” for $80,000 a year.
He also put three of controversial political consultant Roger Stone’s staffers on the BSO payroll, the Miami New Times reported.
Sheriff Israel is also accused of firing experienced BSO officials and replacing them with his cronies from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
Stuart Kaplan, an attorney for the sheriff, pushed back on the notion that Sheriff Israel had already announced his imminent departure to his staff.
“The governor has not said anything to us, directly or indirectly, as to whether or not the sheriff is going to be suspended,’’ Kaplan told the Miami Herald. “He is working and continues to serve the citizens of Broward County.’’