Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis announced his transition advisory team on public safety Tuesday. By Wednesday, several members were calling for the removal of Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.
That’s not unexpected; DeSantis chose to name many of Israel’s harshest critics in public life to the team, including Max Schachter, Andrew Pollack and Ryan Petty, all of whom lost children in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Pollack’s son, Hunter Pollack, another Israel critic, is on the committee as well.
So is Kyle Kashuv, a conservative Stoneman Douglas student who has served as a counterpoint to the gun-control advocates that have come from the school.
Jeff Bell, the president of a Broward Sheriff’s deputy police union that passed a no-confidence vote against Israel in April, is also on the 45-member team. The union endorsed DeSantis after the governor-elect had said he would have removed Israel from office had he been governor at the time.
DeSantis is still considering doing so and will make a decision quickly after being sworn in.
“All options are on the table as we move forward with the transition,” said DeSantis transition spokesperson Dave Vasquez.
The Sun Sentinel reached out to Israel to respond to calls for his removal and will update when he responds.
Petty, who sits on the state committee investigating the Stoneman Douglas shooting, used his experience there to explain why Israel should go.
“My view, based on the facts presented to the MSD Commission and the sheriff’s testimony to the commission, Sheriff Israel should be removed,” Petty said. “The sheriff failed to properly and adequately train BSO deputies for active shooter scenarios, creating an officer safety issue for BSO deputies under his command and responding law enforcement officers from other agencies. Coupled with the lack of incident command and effective on-scene response on Feb. 14, the residents of Broward County deserve a sheriff that has public safety as a top priority.”
Petty also said that Israel’s active shooter policy, which he changed to read that deputies “may” engage shooters rather than “shall,” is “contrary to well-established law enforcement best practices.”
Pollack said the sheriff’s testimony before the commission was untrue, and that he not only wanted Israel gone but would be pushing the DeSantis administration to do the deed.
“[Israel] misled the public at the last [MSD Commission] meeting when he claimed that the deputies did not know shots were fired,” Pollack said. “He claimed prior that the other deputies knew. He lied. He should be removed and I will advocate for it strongly.”
But the commission also includes seven elected county sheriffs and four retired county sheriffs, many of whom could be reticent to support ousting a county’s chief law enforcement officer.
Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is not on DeSantis’ public safety advisory team, but he chairs the Stoneman Douglas shooting commission that Petty is on. And he doesn’t support removing Israel.
“There’s no evidence of anything that would constitute in my opinion malfeasance or misfeasance,” Gualtieri said. “It’s not my job to make that determination. That’s for the governor. But we are also not an investigative body that is tasked with that assessment or that investigation. We have conducted a very, very thorough, extensive investigation into these areas, and from what I see there is no evidence of widespread issues that rise to that level.”
The governor has broad powers to remove any elected city or county official in Florida, based on their being arrested, indicted or for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, incompetence or permanent inability to perform official duties,” according to Florida state law.
If the elected official is found not guilty — or cleared by a trial in the Florida Senate in the case of most noncriminal offenses — then they can go back to their job. In the meantime, the governor can appoint a replacement until the next election for that office. Israel is next up for re-election in 2020.
DeSantis will be inaugurated as governor on Jan. 8.
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