Israel 'confident' he'll win re-election as Broward County sheriff

Suspended sheriff defends position during 'This Week in South Florida'

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. - Suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said he expects to win re-election next year.

Israel spoke about his plans to pursue his former position during an appearance Sunday on "This Week in South Florida" with co-hosts Michael Putney and Glenna Milberg.

"I feel very confident we'll win and we'll be put back in place," Israel said.

Israel, who last week formally filed for re-election in 2020, was suspended by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January. DeSantis appointed former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony to fill the position.

During Israel's Florida Senate hearing last month, DeSantis' attorney argued that Israel was responsible for the actions and inactions of his deputies during the mass shootings at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2017 and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year.

DeSantis cited "neglect of duty and incompetence" in his executive order suspending Israel.

"Responsibility doesn't mean you can control the actions of 6,000 people, any more than I can control the actions of a horrific killer," Israel said, a reference to Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz.

Israel pointed out that DeSantis' attorney "couldn't even bring one witness" to testify during his Senate hearing.

Furthering his argument, Israel said, is that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement "went out and they arrested (former school resource Deputy) Scot Peterson."

Scot Peterson, a former school resource deputy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is charged with seven counts of child neglect, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.

Peterson was suspended by Israel shortly after the Parkland school shooting. Surveillance video showed Peterson never entered the building to confront the shooter.

Tony later fired Peterson and three other deputies, citing neglect of duty, after an internal affairs investigation into the February 2018 shooting that left 17 people dead and 17 others wounded.

The shooting was just 13 months after the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting that left five people dead.

While those two incidents may have been enough for DeSantis to feel they warranted Israel's suspension, Israel contends DeSantis was just fulfilling a campaign promise.

"This was just a false narrative that was politically motivated," Israel, who is a Democrat, said of DeSantis, who is a Republican. "He made this decision in March, one month after Stoneman Douglas, before he read any report, while a sitting Republican governor (Rick Scott) never chose to do anything."

Israel said Peterson was hired by the Broward Sheriff's Office in 1992 -- well before Israel became sheriff.

"It wasn't a training issue and it wasn't a policy issue," Israel said. "It was about courage, and you can't control the human element."

Israel refuted that Coral Springs police officers were the first to enter the building.

"That's incorrect as well," he said. "We went in with the Coral Springs Police Department. We went in together."

Israel also felt it was important to mention the recommendations made by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Commission.

"The report never speaks about removing me," he said. "It never talks about incompetence or misfeasance."

As for the BSO's active-shooter training policies, Israel said it met the "industry standard," despite recent remarks from Tony to the contrary.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony speaks during an appearance on "This Week in South Florida" in May.

"I guess he's running for office, so what's he supposed to say?" Israel said. "I've been disappointed by a few of the remarks he's made, but, you know, that'll come out campaign time."

Israel said he welcomes a debate with Tony and believes he would be vindicated if his Senate hearing were structured like a criminal trial. A special master appointed by the Republican Senate president will likely make a determination on whether Israel should be reinstated by September. 

"If my hearing in Tallahassee, Glenna, was a trial, a judge would direct the verdict of acquittal," Israel said. "There's just nothing there."

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