Suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel pushes back against Ron DeSantis at final hearing
Without emotion: Attorneys for suspended Sheriff Scott Israel says to ‘focus on the facts’ in his Senate hearing.

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"I've never been called 'incompetent,' and I've never been called 'negligent.' "

Suspended Sheriff Scott Israel defended his tenure leading the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) at a Tuesday hearing that will help decide his fate in that role.

Israel testified for more than 90 minutes at a proceeding overseen by lawyer and former lawmaker Dudley Goodlette, who was assigned by Senate President Bill Galvano to review the case. Israel’s testimony will continue Wednesday morning.

Following the hearing’s conclusion, Goodlette – the special master in the case – will send a recommendation to the Senate, which will make a final determination whether to terminate Israel or reinstate him as Sheriff.

Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Israel back in January, citing BSO’s handling of the Parkland shooting and Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting. Israel’s attorney, Ben Kuehne, pushed back against claims by DeSantis that Israel failed in his statutory role as “conservator of the peace.”

“He fulfilled that standard of competence and attention, he exercised his duties, and it is for the people of Broward County to decide who is their elected Sheriff,” Kuehne argued Tuesday.

“It is not for the Governor to, for reasons not based on fact, try to implement a narrow constitutional provision to take over the job of the electors in Broward County.”

Attorneys for DeSantis have pointed to the report from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which found failings in the reaction to the shooting by Broward Deputy Scot Peterson.

Peterson was a school resource officer for the high school on the day of the shooting. He recently was criminally charged with failing to confront the shooter.

As to the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting, DeSantis’ Deputy General Counsel John MacIver pointed to “chaos” that ensued during the response to the 2017 attack, asserting that BSO was not properly prepared.

But Israel and other defense witnesses defended the agency’s response, and argued any chaos was due to the 15,000-20,000 people present at the airport that day.

Ultimately, Israel said his role was not to prevent crime altogether.

“That’s not what the conservator of the peace means to me and other sheriffs,” Israel said. “It means giving your best every single day to take a proactive approach instead of a reactive approach to law enforcement.”

Kuehne also attempted to hint at framing the suspension as a political decision. DeSantis, a Republican, said during his run for Governor that he would push to suspend Israel if elected. Israel is a Democrat.

“Do you consider yourself, in the time you’ve been Sheriff, to be a sheriff or a politician?” Kuehne asked Israel.

“A sheriff,” Israel responded.

“But part of your role as an elected official is to involve yourself in political matters,” Kuehne noted.

“Most certainly,” Israel replied.

Kuehne also honed in on training efforts mandated by BSO, arguing the agency did everything they could to prepare for an event such as the Parkland shooting. That attack resulted in 17 people killed, but Kuehne argued Peterson’s inaction was not foreseeable or the fault of BSO.

“Nothing in his personnel file suggested the slightest inability to not only perform the duties of a sworn deputy, but the additional duties and responsibilities of a school resource officer,” Kuehne said during his opening statement.

The hearing process had previously begun back in February, but was postponed when Israel filed a lawsuit pushing for a reversal of his suspension.

Goodlette pushed to delay the Senate review until the conclusion of Israel’s court challenge. In a fast-tracked decision, the Florida Supreme Court eventually ruled against Israel.

“I’ve been called some names in my time,” Israel said near the end of his testimony Tuesday. “But in my 63 years on earth, I’ve never been called ‘incompetent,’ and I’ve never been called ‘negligent.’

“I’m a hardworking, studious person who cares deeply about the community, and I know how incredibly serious it is. These hearings are about taking my livelihood away from me. But incompetent or negligent? No, sir.”

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


  • Alex King

    June 20, 2019 at 10:08 am

    Scott Israel, in my opinion, and also in the opinion of most citizens, is clearly “incompetent and negligent.” The reasons are too voluminous to even outline in this post. He is the author of the BSO policy and procedure directive that, at the time of the MSD HS Parkland shooting, read deputies “may” confront the active shooter, instead of “shall” confront the shooter. At the time, Israel justified it by saying he didn’t want to order a “suicide mission.” SRO Scott Peterson cowered outside for over 40 minutes while Cruz slaughtered students and staff with loud rifle gunfire. Now that Peterson been charged criminally, I would expect his lawyers to defend him by arguing that he was just following Israel’s policy. After the shooting, Israel corrected his inane policy by changing it to deputies “shall” confront the active shooter. Israel never disciplined any of his employees for their actions and inaction during the Parkland debacle. By the way, where was he during the shooting and when did he respond? Israel was responsible for the escape of the juvenile murder defendant from the Broward County Courthouse due to inadequate courtroom security-with civilian bailiffs guarding the murder inmate instead of armed Deputy Sheriffs. If anyone doubts Israel was incompetent and is incompetent, to ever “lead” BSO again, please view the CNN interview where he touts his “amazing leadership.” This is his last hurrah, and hopefully he slinks quietly into the night.

    • M.janson

      June 20, 2019 at 11:46 am

      How many other killing at school lost there job Parkland
      Isn’t the only school this happen


    July 1, 2019 at 5:58 pm

    I am far from a Scott Israel supporter, but there is an element of hypocrisy here. The DCF Office of Inspector General has made several gross missteps with their investigative decisions. Their poor decision making and lack of follow through on their corrective action plans has put many foster children at risk, but they have been able to quietly stay out of the spotlight. It is quite clear if the Governor held his own DCF staff to the same standard as Scott Israel, the Chief of Investigations would have been replaced by now.

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