Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Jan. 10 suspended Broward County Sherriff Scott Israel, a Baldwin native, almost a month after a report found the law enforcement official’s active shooter policy may have allowed officers to remain outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School as a gunman killed 17 people inside.
“The massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at a press conference with parents of victims alongside him. At the center of the controversy, a commission investigating the Feb. 14, 2018 mass shooting criticized Israel’s policy that stated Broward officers “may” confront a mass shooter instead of “shall.” The commission, according to published reports, found several officers arrived at the school but did not engage shooter Nikolas Cruz inside.
Additionally, the commission found that Broward’s training for active shooter situations was inadequate and that some deputies could not remember the last time they were trained to handle such a crisis.
“Nothing, nothing, nothing will bring my kid or 16 others back, but there was failure everywhere you turned,” Fred Guttenberg, an East Northport native whose daughter Jamie died in the shooting, said at the press conference. “And after that failure, there was just a refusal to take accountability and responsibility. I wish him well but it was time for a change.”
DeSantis, who defeated Democrat Andrew Gillum last November in a race closely watched across the country, promised to suspended Israel during the campaign trail. Israel, at a press conference of his own, vowed to fight the suspension.
“I intend to vigorously fight this unjustified suspension both in court and before the Florida Senate,” Israel said. “There was no wrongdoing on my part. I served the county honorably.” He also called the move politically charged. “This was about politics,” he said, “not Parkland.”
Under Florida law, the governor can suspend elected officials for criminal activity or incompetence.
Israel, 62, grew up in Baldwin and attended Baldwin High School in the 1970s, according to his Facebook page. A Democrat, he was first elected sheriff in 2012. Following the Parkland massacre, he called for police to have more power to remove guns from those they deemed potential threats. “What I’m asking the lawmakers is to give the police more power,” he said on a CNN town hall last year. He’s also been a staunch gun control advocate.