Florida: Senate panel backs removal of Broward sheriff over school shooting response – Democrats on panel back sheriff

Broward County Scott Israel, right, and his attorney Benedict Kuehne wait their turn to speak to the Senate Rules Committee concerning his dismissal by Gov. Ron DeSantis, Monday Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

By BOBBY CAINA CALVAN and BRENDAN FARRINGTON,  Associated Press  TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) 10/21 — The tragedy of the Parkland school massacre framed a developing political drama in Florida’s capital, as a divided legislative panel on Monday sided with the state’s Republican governor in removing a county sheriff accused of mishandling the response to the shooting that killed 17 people.

The mostly party line vote by Florida’s Senate Rules Committee sends the matter to the full chamber, which is expected to consider it Wednesday.

The highly charged session was a victory for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel just days after taking office in January. DeSantis faulted Israel’s handling of the Feb. 14, 2018, shootings that took the lives of 15 students and two staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Parkland family members wait their turn to speak at a Senate Rules Committee meeting concerning Gov. Ron DeSantis’ dismissal of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Monday Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)


The committee rejected the recommendation of an official the Senate had appointed to investigate the suspension. That investigator, former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette, concluded that DeSantis was wrong to remove the sheriff from his job.

“There was a case to be made, it just wasn’t made,” Goodlette told the committee.

Afterward, Israel said that if the full Senate finalizes his ouster, he will seek election for his old job.

His lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, called the proceedings “a shill” for the governor.

Attorney Benedict Kuehne, representing former Sheriff Scott Israel, speaks to the Senate Rules Committee concerning Gov. Ron DeSantis’ dismissal of his client, Monday Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)


Israel’s allies on the panel — all Democrats — argued that removing Israel circumvented the will of the voters in Broward County.

Some relatives of those killed in the Parkland tragedy gave emotionally charged testimony to the panel.

“Even after 20 months, it is difficult to find meaning in this tragedy,” said Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina died in the massacre.

“We didn’t understand the magnitude of the failures by law enforcement. The testament to that failure is 17 dead children and teachers, 17 more with life-altering injuries — a burden we must bear forever,” Petty said.

Attorney George Levesque, representing Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaks to the Senate Rules Committee concerning the dismissal of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Monday, Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)


DeSantis had promised on the campaign trail that he would remove Israel. He did so as one of his first actions after taking office, accusing the sheriff of neglect of duty and incompetence in his department’s response to the shootings.

“This is an extraordinary case,” George Levesque, DeSantis’ lawyer told the committee. “The governor’s not out there willy-nilly suspending sheriffs because of the actions of deputies.”

Levesque said Israel should be held responsible for the three failures at his department: not appropriately investigating threats made by suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz before the massacre; deputies who didn’t rush into the school to confront Cruz during the shooting; and not establishing an effective command base to respond to the shooting.

The sheriff’s supporters traveled more than 400 miles from Broward County, just north of Miami, to Florida’s capital city to urge lawmakers to reinstate Israel, who was first elected in 2012.

“Please be the body that doesn’t turn its back on the voters of Broward County,” said Patti Lynn. “Our county voted for Sheriff Scott Israel. It’s up to the voters of Broward County to remove him.”

Earlier in the day, Israel’s attorney argued that the governor’s office failed to prove that Israel showed incompetence.

DeSantis is required “to prove by facts — not suspicion, not innuendo, not belief — the basis for the suspension,” Kuehne said. “The failure of the governor to prove the charges requires reinstatement.”

Committee members were in an awkward position, especially since the governor will have control of bills and budget items the lawmakers will eventually send his way during the 2020 legislative session.

The committee met shortly after the Senate gaveled into special session. Senate President Bill Galvano was asked afterward if there was pressure on Republican senators to go along with the governor.

“I have faith in the senators that they’re going to rise to the occasion, look at everything and adhere to the standard, which is what, in their conscience, is best for the people of Florida,” Galvano replied.


Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in: Accusations, Dismissals, Investigations, Mass Casualty Attacks, Negligence, Police Leadership, Policies & Practices, Politics, School Shootings, Sheriffs

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

11 − two =

Terms of Use for Posting Comments

Terms of Use

This site (the “Site”) is operated and maintained by Law Enforcement Education Foundation, Corporation (“Company”). Throughout the Site, the terms “we”, “us” and “our” refer to Company.  The words “user,” “you” and “your” as used herein refer to you.

Please read these terms and conditions of use (“Terms of Use”) carefully before contributing content. If you do not agree to these Terms of Use, please do not contribute content. Your use of the Site is subject to the Terms and Conditions found here .

By contributing content to the Site, you represent and warrant that you are at least eighteen (18) years old and that you have read and understand these Terms of Use and any amendments thereto and agree to be bound by them. If you are not at least eighteen (18) years old or you do not agree and accept these Terms of Use, you are prohibited from contributing content.

From time to time, we may permit users to submit content to the Site.  You hereby acknowledge and agree that by submitting remarks, comments, suggestions, ideas, graphics, feedback, edits, concepts, comments, photographs, illustrations and other materials (other than personal information and/or registration information) through the Site (individually and collectively, “Submissions”), you (i) grant us a nonexclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, transferable, irrevocable and fully sub-licensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, translate, distribute, publish, create derivative works from and publicly display and perform such Submissions throughout the world in any media, now known or hereafter created, without attribution to you; (ii) grant us the right to pursue at law any person or entity that violates your and/or our rights in your Submissions; and (iii) forever waive any and all of your rights, including but not limited to moral rights, if any, in and to your Submissions, including, without limitation, any all rights or requirements of attribution or identification of you as the author of the Submission or any derivative thereof.  We reserve the right to remove any of your Submissions from the Site, in whole or in part, without notice to you, for any reason or no reason.

Submissions are made voluntarily. Any submissions which include personally identifiable information are subject to our Privacy Policy found here .  You may not upload or otherwise publish content on the Site that (i) is confidential to you or any third party; (ii) is untrue, inaccurate, false or other than an original work of your authorship; (iii) that relates to or impersonates any other person; (iv) violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property rights of any person or entity; (v) contains any content, personally identifiable information or other information, or materials of any kind that relate or refer to any other person or entity other than the provider of the products, goods or services to which the Submission relates; or (vi) violates any law, or in any manner infringes or interferes with the rights of others, including but not limited to the use of names, information, or materials that (A) libel, defame, or invade the privacy of any third party, (B) are obscene or pornographic, (C) are harmful, threatening, offensive, abusive, harassing, vulgar, false or inaccurate, racially, sexually, ethnically or are otherwise objectionable or otherwise contrary to the laws of any place where such Submissions may be accessed; (D) constitute personal attacks on other individuals; (E) promote criminal, immoral or illegal activity; (F) promote or advertise any person, product or service or solicit funds; or (G) are deemed confidential by any contract or policy.

You are solely responsible for any Submissions you make and their accuracy. We take no responsibility and assume no liability for any Submissions posted by you or any third party.

Unless approved by us in writing in advance, you agree not to: (i) provide or create a link to the Site; or (ii) create any frames at any other sites pertaining to any of the content located on the Site.

We reserve the right, in our discretion, to update, change or replace any part of these Terms of Use for Posting Comments by posting updates and/or changes to our Site.  It is your responsibility to check this page periodically for changes.  Your continued use of, and/or access to the Site, following the posting of any changes to these Terms of Use for Posting Comments, constitutes your acceptance of those changes.