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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/CNN) — Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is facing a no-confidence vote from the union representing his own deputies.
According to a statement from Jeff Bell, the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, “Today, Friday April 20th, 2018, the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association announced it has scheduled a No-Confidence vote on Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Union President and Broward Sheriff Deputy Jeff Bell said the move follows many instances of suspected malfeasance, misfeasance, failure to maintain fiduciary responsibility by the Sheriff, failure to properly investigate possible criminal misconduct by members of his senior command staff and the lack of leadership that has crushed morale throughout the agency.”
The vote begins electronically Friday night and closes April 26.
While the vote is more symbolic than anything else, the union president says the Governor will have grounds to let Sheriff Israel go once he sees the misuse of tax payers money that’s happened under his watch.
Bell says the historic move is due to the dysfunction of the office, which has been piling up for years. But it was Israel’s behavior after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 people dead that pushed the rank and file over the edge, he says. Especially when Israel swiftly blamed school resource officer Scot Peterson for not entering the building and stopping the shooter.
Peterson said through his attorney that he thought the shots were being fired outside the building. Peterson was suspended without pay and later resigned.
Bell, who also has been critical of Peterson, agrees that the deputy should have entered the building. But he said he and his union members believe the sheriff should have taken some responsibility as well, instead of shifting all the blame to a deputy.
Israel “didn’t say it’s an open investigation (on law enforcement’s response to the shooting). He blamed it all on Peterson,” Bell said. “You don’t do that to one of your deputies.”
“My members are not poster children. They are not squeaky clean. They make mistakes. What we are saying is, they should be punished fairly,” Bell said.
Sheriff Israel, meanwhile, says Bell is using the Marjory Stoneman Douglas tragedy as a bargaining tactic to get a pay raise.
“It is unfortunate and appalling that the IUPA union boss – in the midst of ongoing labor contract salary negotiations – is trying to use the Parkland tragedy as a bargaining tactic to extort a 6.5 percent pay raise from BSO through this ‘vote of no confidence’ ploy,” Sheriff Scott Israel said.
Jeff Bell, however, says the Marjory Stoneman shooting was the catalyst in his lengthy investigation into the Sheriff.
In one case, public information requests show a misuse of taxpayer dollars where Napa Autoparts workers used gas at BSO’s private gas pumps since at least 2015 with gas cards issued by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.
“In one year time period alone, they took almost 6-thousand gallons of gas with our gas pumps with cards that were issued by the BSO, we cannot do that, we are not licensed to buy sell or barter with a private gas company,” said Bell.
That’s just one case, Bell says, where Sheriff Israel was not honest with the public and failed to live up to his duties.
Bell also says Morale among deputies and sergeants is non-existent. He says his members are tired of mixed messages from leadership and confused over some of the department’s policies.
One example, he says, is the active shooter policy, which states a deputy “may” go into a building and engage the shooter to preserve life. But in training, Bell says, deputies learn to enter the site of the shooting and confront an active shooter. Deputies have to make split-second decisions, he said, so their guidance and training should be identical.
He also talked about policies that he says do not make sense. For example, if a citizen loses his balance and a deputy reaches out to stop the fall, he says, policy requires the deputy to file a “use of force” report.
“The laws are there that allow you to do your job; but the policies make it so paperwork-heavy that no one wants to do their job anymore,” Bell said.
This is not the only move against Sheriff Israel in the aftermath of the shooting.
Eleven days after the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and 73 other Republican representatives sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, asking him to suspend the sheriff for what they called his “incompetence and neglect of duty.” The lawmakers also cited the failure of Scott and his deputies to enter the school building to stop the shooter, and their failure to act on warning signs about the shooter for years.
The governor did not suspend the sheriff but did launch a state investigation, which is being conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The Broward County Commissioners and the Florida State House of Representatives are also investigating the law enforcement response to the Parkland shooting.
The Broward County Sheriff’s Office has been consistently accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, most recently in November of 2017. The national organization maintains a body of standards on public safety initiatives and establishes and administers the accreditation process.
In a heated interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” on February 25, the same day lawmakers sent the governor that letter, anchor Jake Tapper asked Israel how he could claim “amazing leadership” of the sheriff’s office when it failed to keep guns out of shooter Nikolas Cruz’s hands after several reports of alarming behavior and incidents involving him, and when the school resource officer — a Broward County deputy — remained outside the building as Cruz killed 17 people and wounded many more.
“Jake, on 16 of those cases (reports about Cruz), our deputies did everything right. Our deputies have done amazing things. We have taken this — in the five years I have been sheriff, we have taken the Broward Sheriff’s Office to a new level. I have worked with some of the bravest people I have ever met,” Israel said. “It makes me sick to my stomach that we had a deputy that didn’t go in, because I know, if I was there, if I was on the wall, I would have been the first in, along with so many of the other people.”
While the outcome of the no-confidence vote is mostly symbolic, it will give the sheriff a sense of what his rank-and-file deputies think of his command.
“Some of his best supporters are being vocal against him,” said Bell. “The morale just disappeared. The morale is gone.”
The union has never held a vote of no-confidence vote against the sheriff before, according to Bell.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association represents 1,325 deputies, more than half of the county’s 2,560 certified deputies.
(©2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)