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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – Governor Ron DeSantis said on Friday afternoon that he had signed an executive order removing embattled Broward Sheriff Scott Israel from office.
Governor Ron DeSantis was at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters where he delivered a short statement saying he had suspended the Sheriff. DeSantis was joined by parents of victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre.
“I have no interest in dancing on Scott Israel’s political grave,” DeSantis said. “Just suffice to say that the massacre might never happened had Broward had better leadership in the Broward Sheriff’s Department.”
Family members of the Parkland victims applauded his decision.
“You have to take into account the multiple failures that occurred that day and when there are so many levels of failure the occurred that day you have to look at the leadership as not doing the best it can,” said Tony Montalto, whose daughter, Gina, died in the shooting.
Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died at MSD, said he believes change at the top of BSO will make a difference. He cited flawed decisions made by Israel — like changing an active shooter policy to give deputies discretion on whether to confront an active shooter.
“Choices have consequences,” Guttenberg said. “The choice of “may” go in versus “shall” go in, there’s consequences. I do think changing the top and a different philosophy and different personnel decisions will make a difference.”
The Executive Order signed by DeSantis laid out a lengthy case to remove Israel.
It includes numerous points including: Deputies who failed to follow up on specific tips about the confessed school shooter threatening violence against MSD prior to the shooting, School Resource Deputy Scot Peterson’s failure to go into the Freshman Building as the shooting began, other deputies who failed to rush towards the gunfire, a lack of consistent active shooter training and the change in the active shooter policy.
The new Sheriff is Gregory Tony, a retired Police Sergeant from Coral Springs. His resume says he is a former SWAT member He has a doctorate and runs a company that specializes in active shooter training. He’s also been focused on efforts to train civilians on stop the bleed techniques — a particular point of emphasis for families of the Parkland victims.
Tony said his goal is to provide the best law enforcement possible for citizens of Broward County.
“I am not here for any type of political grandiose or agenda,” Tony said. “I’m here to serve. I’m here to provide you with the best leadership I can provide.”
According to Florida statute, the governor has the power to suspend the sheriff for actions such as “misfeasance” and “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.
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According to the state Senate website, it makes “final dispositions” on whether to reinstate a suspended official or remove him from office.
Tony will be the county’s first African-American sheriff.
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It was reportedly Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre, that recommended Tony.
— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) January 11, 2019
While campaigning last year, DeSantis said on multiple occasions that Israel should be suspended for how he and his office handled the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Seventeen people died and 17 more were hurt on Valentine’s Day when self-confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz walked through an open gate, into the MSD freshman building and opened fire.
During a November meeting of the MSD Safety Commission, Israel was brought in to answer questions.
He was asked about a perceived lack of urgency from initial arriving deputies at the school, who, in some cases, did not immediately run toward the gunfire and did not have annual active shooter training.
Israel said that any deputies who are found to have acted inappropriately or failed to act would be dealt with.
Commission members also grilled Israel over BSO’s policy for deputies dealing with an active shooter.
They said the policy as written provided deputy’s discretion on whether to confront the shooter.
Alaina Petty was killed in the MSD shooting. Her father Ryan said the failure of BSO deputies to rush into the freshman building to confront the shooter and an active shooter policy that allowed them to avoid doing so is evidence of a failure of leadership at the agency.
“I’ve called for Sheriff Israel to resign and he’s refused to do that so I’ve subsequently called for his removal and I hope Governor will do that today,” he said.
Petty said those in charge of responding to the shooting have not acted quickly enough or sufficiently enough to fix mistakes that happened.
“The response from those that had a responsibility to make sure our kids and our teachers were safe have still not recognized the mistakes that were made that day and tried to change them,” he said.
“I think BSO needs a different leader,” said Debbie Hixon whose husband Chris was killed in the MSD massacre.
Hixon said the inaction by multiple deputies when shots were being fired in a school building as a sign of a failure of leadership.
“They had all those other people that reacted very similar so to me that’s more of a systemic issue than it is an individual acting on his own,” she said.
Jeff Bell, the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, said the Sheriff failed to focus on training, among other criticisms.
“There’s a big cultural change that needs to happen,” he said, “I think we’re gonna get the opportunity soon.”
If removed, Israel is likely to fight the move in the Florida Senate or possibly in court.