FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – The no-confidence vote against Broward Sheriff Scott Israel did not go his way.
One union representing about 1300 deputies and sergeants had 628 members cast a vote. They voted 534 – 94 that they did not have confidence in Israel, sending a strong message to the BSO leader.
“Deputies and sergeants cast their ballots to say ‘Sheriff, we no longer have confidence in your leadership’,” announced union BSO Deputies Association President Jeff Bell.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, which is a chapter of the International Union of Police Associations, kicked off the voting last Friday. It’s the second largest union at BSO representing more than a thousand road patrol deputies.
The vote closed at 2:00 p.m. Thursday. Bell said the vote is significant.
“The time now is for the Sheriff to listen to his membership and listen to the residents of Broward County. We ask you to start changing your policies that are absolutely failing, we ask you to change your leadership to something that somewhat resembling amazing,” said Bell.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, with the union, vows to ask Gov. Rick Scott to remove Israel from office, according to union President Jeff Bell.
According to Florida statute, Gov. Scott has the power to suspend the sheriff for things like “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty” and “may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension.” The actual power to remove the sheriff from office is in the hands of the state Senate.
Bell said it was his union’s first vote of no confidence against a sheriff.
Prior to the vote results, Sheriff Israel downplayed the results and said it would have little impact.
“You have to remember this is one small portion of a union. The largest union of this agency staunchly supports us,” said Sheriff Israel, who spoke before the the vote results were released.
“The vote is really and truly inconsequential. My focus, as it’s always been, is going to be on protecting Broward County, serving our community,” said Sheriff Israel.
Israel said he believes the whole “no confidence” vote centers around one thing, contract negotiations. He cited a letter that he received from the union president in 2016 commending his “strong leadership, morals and commitment to the community and law enforcement.”
“In fact the union boss, who asked for this vote of no confidence, wrote me a beautiful letter about a year and a half ago actually endorsing me for sheriff, talking about my leadership and moral. And what’s changed since then? One thing, I denied them a 6.5 percent raise,” explained Israel.
Bell said the historic move isn’t about the pay raise.
“The sheriff is a complete liar, with Capital letters on that. This has never been about a contract, this has been about his longstanding bad policies, his failure of leadership,” said Bell.
Bell said the historic move is due to the dysfunction of the office, which has been piling up for years but it was Israel’s handling of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that is a major component of the no-confidence campaign, saying he should not have put the full blame on Deputy Scot Peterson, the school’s resource officer.
Video shows Peterson remained outside after investigators say former student Nikolas Cruz opened fire Feb. 14 inside the three-story freshman building with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. Israel said shortly after the shooting that Peterson should have rushed into the building to confront and kill Cruz. Peterson retired rather than accept an unpaid suspension.
Bell also has criticized Peterson, but said Israel should not have publicly singled out the deputy and should have placed him on paid leave until an investigation into his conduct was completed. He said only deputies accused of crimes are placed on unpaid leave and Peterson has never been charged.
Bell said contract negotiations played no role in calling the vote and there are other issues besides the shooting, including Israel’s policies on arresting juveniles, promoting the Promise program and a lack of training. Bell also said that even though the vote was taken on a secret ballot there were attempts to prevent deputies from voting on the issue. The union boss said they plan to file at least two grievances citing instances where BSO supervisors tried to suppress this vote. A BSO spokesperson said they have no evidence of that.
Bell said contract negotiations played no role in calling the vote and there are other issues besides the shooting.
Sheriff Israel responded to the vote with this statement via Twitter.
Sheriff Israel responds to IUPA vote: pic.twitter.com/RCuoz0Y9cO
— Broward Sheriff (@browardsheriff) April 26, 2018
“I am accountable to the citizens of Broward County. My job is to continue to do the job I was elected to do, which is to ensure the safety of Broward County’s 1.9 million residents. I will not be distracted from my duties by this inconsequential IUPA union vote, which was designed to extort a 6.5 percent pay raise from this agency. Those who purportedly voted in this straw ballot reflect only a small number of the 5,400 BSO employees. The unions representing the vast majority of our employees solidly support the leadership of this agency.”