MIAMI (CBSMiami) – After 3 hours of debate on Wednesday, Florida Senators voted 25-15 to permanently remove former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel from office. Three Democratic Senators voted with their Republican counterparts to oust Israel while one Republican Senator voted with Democrats.
“Scott Israel is hereby removed from the position of Sheriff of Broward County,” said Senate President Bill Galvano (R) after Senators cast their votes.
And with that, Florida Senators spoke. A majority of them agreed that former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel should be officially removed from his job. Democratic Senator Annette Taddeo from Miami was one of 3 Democrats to vote to remove Israel. She said it boiled down to listening to the wishes of the Parkland families, several of whom watched the Senate proceedings from the gallery.
“For me, it was a vote of my conscience,” Taddeo said. “Every single parent in this whole state ever since Parkland every time we drop our kids off at school, we hug then just a little bit tighter and there has to be accountability.”
Families of Parkland victims agreed.
“With my daughter being shot and killed at Stoneman Douglas High School, I wanted truth, justice and accountability and today we received some of that accountability,” said Lori Alhadeff, Alyssa’s mother.
Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Israel just days after taking office in January, citing his handling of the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood airport shooting and the Parkland shooting. The Governor’s suspension order criticized the active shooter policy that Israel changed giving deputies discretion on whether to engage an active shooter. All but one Republican Senator agreed with the Governor, faulting Israel for a lack of training for deputies and the inaction of BSO deputies to confront the confessed Parkland killer while shots rang out.
“When it mattered most, when a weapon was being fired and lives were being lost, when it mattered most, everyone wearing a BSO uniform failed,” said Sen. Rob Bradley (R).
After the vote, DeSantis released a statement praising the Senate decision.
“I thank the Florida Senate for tending to this matter,” DeSantis said. “I hope the outcome provides some measure of relief to the Parkland families that have been doggedly pursuing accountability.”
But several Democratic senators said the true blame lies with former BSO deputy Scot Peterson who stood outside the Freshman building while students, teachers and staff were murdered.
“Peterson received training and he was prepared, and he was armed and he was supposed to go in but instead he did nothing,” said Sen. Lauren Book (D).
Republican Senator Tom Lee took a different stance. He called Israel an unpopular character but said DeSantis decision to remove Israel was prosecutorial overreach.
“A sheriff was prosecuted in this Senate after a suspension on the basis on the acts of an individual deputy on an individual day,” Lee said.
Lee told Senators that he fears what this could mean for other sheriffs in Florida.
“There is grave concern among law enforcement that what we’re doing here today is anti-law enforcement,” Lee said.
Israel’s attorney, Ben Kuehne, meanwhile said this vote hinged not on the law but on politics.
“I think the people should be outraged that this process was done to take away their vote,” Kuehne said.
Kuehne also said that Israel’s fight might not yet be over.
“If there is a violation of those constitutional rights there are courts that will remedy that deficiency,” Kuehne said.
But families of the Parkland victims say the most important thing to come of the Senate vote is protecting public safety.
“This failure and this problem within the Broward County Sheriff’s Office under Mr. Israel was exposed in Parkland but it could have happened to any community while he was in charge of the Broward Sheriff’s Office,” said Tony Montalto, whose daughter Gina was murdered at MSD. “They need to understand that this removal helps make all of us safe in Broward County.”
After the vote, Israel released a lengthy statement. It reads in part, “My poor choice of words and inartful tone in the days following the Parkland murders caused them pain. I am deeply deeply sorry for that…and I will be for the rest of my life.”
Israel also decried the political nature of his removal.
“Law enforcement fundamentally changed tonight,” Israel wrote. “The office of Sheriff, once accountable to the people and the law is now subject to the petulant whims, political paybacks and personal piques of partisan tyrants in Tallahassee,” Israel said.
Israel wrote that he’s not done fighting.
Israel has said that he plans to run for re-election for sheriff in 2020.