Jan. 11 (UPI) — In one of his first acts as governor, Florida’s Ron DeSantis on Friday ordered the suspension of Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who faced blame for his deputies’ response to a shooting at Parkland high school that left 17 people dead.
Gov. DeSantis appointed former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony, 40, to replace Israel. Tony is the county’s first African-American sheriff.
“Sheriff Israel has repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership,” the governor said, citing shootings at Fort Lauderdale International Airport in 2017 and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.
“These incidents demonstrate sheriff Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty.”
In July, a group of survivors and parents from the high school sued Israel along with other school and sheriff’s officials for failing to protect students and faculty at the school. The attorney representing the plaintiffs said law enforcement “choked” on Feb. 14, the day of the shooting.
Retired school resource officer Scot Peterson never entered the school building after hearing confessed shooter Nikolas Cruz open fire.
In December, the sheriff’s office said it planned to change its policies on how deputies respond to active shooters. The policy changes include altering language to indicate officers “shall” attempt to enter the scene and intervene rather than “may.”
The previous policy stated “if real time intelligence exists the sole deputy or a team of deputies may enter the area and/or structure to preserve life. A supervisor’s approval or on-site observation is not required for this decision.”
Israel told the commission in November he personally included the word “may” in the old policy to prevent deputies from entering situations that would result in certain death and allow them to “think on their feet.”
“I have no interest in dancing on Scott Israel’s political grave,” DeSantis said Friday, “but suffice it to say the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”
Israel, speaking during a news conference after news of his firing, said the move was about politics, “not about Parkland.”