More than six dozen Florida lawmakers are urging Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for his department’s response to the tragic shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Parkland, Florida.
What’s going on?
Nearly every Republican in the Florida House of Representatives signed a letter on Sunday calling on Scott to suspend Israel in pursuant with Article 4, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution, which allows the governor to temporarily suspend sheriffs and other county officers for “neglect of duty,” “incompetence,” “malfeasance,” among other reasons.
The four-page letter was written by Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran (R) and signed by 74 of the 76 Florida House Republicans. It accuses Israel’s department of ignoring the red flags and not taking significant action to prevent the shooting.
“I am requesting that you immediately exercise [your] power and suspend Sheriff Scott Israel of Broward County for incompetence and neglect of duty,” Corcoran wrote.
“In the years leading up to this unspeakable tragedy, Sheriff Israel, his deputies, and staff ignored repeated warning signs about the violent, erratic, threatening and antisocial behavior of [the shooter],” he explained.
The letter goes on to detail the apparent red flags the Broward County sheriff’s department somehow missed, in addition to scolding him for the actions of now-resigned Broward County deputy Scot Peterson, the school resource officer at MSD. According to the lawmakers, Israel didn’t provide Peterson with “state-of-the-art active shooter tactical training that meets the national standard.”
“Sheriff Israel failed to maintain a culture of alertness, vigilance, and thoroughness amongst his deputies. Sheriff Israel failed to fulfill his duty to ensure that all of his deputies have the necessary active shooter tactical training. As a result of Sheriff Israel’s failures, students and teachers died,” the letter stated.
“Sheriff Israel should be suspended immediately,” it declared.
What will Scott do?
Scott on Sunday directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to initiate an investigation into the Broward County sheriff department’s response to the shooting.
What happens beyond that remains unclear.
A suspension may not be out of the question given the pressure lawmakers are placing on Scott. However, chances Israel is terminated are very low. The Florida Constitution doesn’t allow Scott to summarily dismiss Israel — he would need the Florida Senate’s approval to do so.
Still, it’s relatively unheard of for a governor to suspend one of his state’s sheriffs.
It happened last year in Georgia after a sheriff was arrested in a Florida bar. That sheriff was only suspended 30 days. And in 2016, a North Dakota sheriff was suspended on grounds of “harassment and intimidation amid concerns that he fostered a quasi-military environment” in his agency, according to the Bismark Tribune.
Scott used the same power to suspend a county clerk last year who had been arrested for several criminal offenses, including petty theft.
What will Sheriff Israel do?
He told CNN anchor Jake Tapper on Sunday that he will not resign.