Law and Legal

Deputies Overwhelmingly Vote NO CONFIDENCE in Sheriff Scott Israel

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(Screenshot ABC Local 10 News)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The vote of no confidence came crashing down on Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel Thursday afternoon. The highly confrontational vote did not go his way.

One union representing about 1300 deputies and sergeants had 628 members cast a vote. They voted 534 – 94 that they did not have confidence in Israel, sending a strong message to the BSO leader, reported CBS Miami.

“Deputies and sergeants cast their ballots to say ‘Sheriff, we no longer have confidence in your leadership’,” announced union BSO Deputies Association President Jeff Bell.

Sheriff Scott Israel
Deputy Jeff Bell, president, Broward County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. (Screenshot ABC Local 10 News)

The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, which is a chapter of the International Union of Police Associations, kicked off the voting last Friday. It’s the second largest union at BSO representing more than a thousand road patrol deputies.

The vote closed at 2:00 p.m. Thursday. Bell said the vote is significant.

“The time now is for the Sheriff to listen to his membership and listen to the residents of Broward County. We ask you to start changing your policies that are absolutely failing, we ask you to change your leadership to something that somewhat resembling amazing,” said Bell.

Although the vote has no legal bearing, the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, with the union, vows to ask Gov. Rick Scott to remove Israel from office, according Bell.

Yet, Israel called the vote “inconsequential” and claimed it was the direct result of denying deputies a sought after pay increase.

The union also said the sheriff’s handling of the Parkland school shooting enraged the rank and file, including an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Jake Tapper during which Israel boasted of his “amazing leadership.”

At Scott’s request, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting as well as the law enforcement response, reported WTRV.

“Gov. Scott believes that people must be held accountable for the reported failures in response to the school shooting in Parkland, which is why he immediately called for a full and systematic FDLE investigation into the matter,” spokesman John Tupps said in a statement.

“Once that investigation is complete, and we have all the facts, the appropriate steps will be taken to hold people accountable.”

According to Florida statute, Gov. Scott has the power to suspend the sheriff for things like “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty” and “may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension.” The actual power to remove the sheriff from office is in the hands of the state Senate.

Eleven days after the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran and 73 other Republican representatives sent a letter to Scott, asking him to suspend the sheriff for what they called his “incompetence and neglect of duty.”

The lawmakers also cited the failure of Scott and his deputies to enter the school building to stop the shooter, and their failure to act on warning signs about the shooter for years.

“Gov. Scott is absolutely disgusted the BSO deputy did not rush into the school to save these victims,” Tupps said in Thursday’s statement.

Bell said it was his union’s first vote of no confidence against a sheriff.

Prior to the vote results, Sheriff Israel downplayed the results and said it would have little impact.

“You have to remember this is one small portion of a union. The largest union of this agency staunchly supports us,” said Sheriff Israel, who spoke before the vote results were released.

“The vote is really and truly inconsequential. My focus, as it’s always been, is going to be on protecting Broward County, serving our community,” said Sheriff Israel.

no confidence
Sheriff Scott Israel. (Broward County Sheriff’s Office)

Israel said he believes the whole “no confidence” vote centers around one thing, contract negotiations. He cited a letter that he received from the union president in 2016 commending his “strong leadership, morals and commitment to the community and law enforcement.”

“In fact the union boss, who asked for this vote of no confidence, wrote me a beautiful letter about a year and a half ago actually endorsing me for sheriff, talking about my leadership and moral. And what’s changed since then?  One thing, I denied them a 6.5 percent raise,” explained Israel.

Bell said the historic move isn’t about the pay raise.

“The sheriff is a complete LIAR, with capital letters on that.  This has never been about a contract, this has been about his longstanding bad policies, his failure of leadership,” said Bell.

Bell said the aggressive move is the accumulation of dysfunction in the office of Sheriff, which has been piling up for years. Nevertheless, he said it was Israel’s handling of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that is a major component of the no-confidence campaign. The union leader said Israel should not have placed the full blame on Deputy Scot Peterson, the school’s resource officer.

Florida School Massacre
On February 14, 2018, a mass shooting occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed and seventeen more were wounded. (Photo courtesy forulaone)

Damaging video shows Peterson remained outside after investigators say a former student opened fire Feb. 14 inside the three-story freshman building with an AR-15. Israel said shortly after the shooting that Peterson should have rushed into the building to confront and kill the homicidal suspect. Peterson retired rather than accept an unpaid suspension.

Moreover, Israel wasn’t alone in his criticism of Peterson. Bell also had issue with his fellow deputy, but said Israel should not have publicly singled him out.

Bell believed the deputy should have been placed on paid leave until an investigation into his conduct was completed. He said only deputies accused of crimes are placed on unpaid leave, something Peterson has not been accused of.

Bell emphasized that contract negotiations played no role in calling for the vote. Furthermore, he said there are other issues besides the shooting, including Israel’s policies on arresting juveniles, promoting the Promise program—something that has come under critical scrutiny—and a lack of training.

Bell also said that even though the vote was taken on a secret ballot there were attempts to prevent deputies from voting on the issue. This will lead to more conflict.

The union boss said they plan to file at least two grievances citing instances where BSO supervisors tried to suppress this vote. A BSO spokesperson said they have no evidence of that.

Sheriff Israel responded to the vote with this statement via Twitter.

“I am accountable to the citizens of Broward County. My job is to continue to do the job I was elected to do, which is to ensure the safety of Broward County’s 1.9 million residents. I will not be distracted from my duties by this inconsequential IUPA union vote, which was designed to extort a 6.5 percent pay raise from this agency. Those who purportedly voted in this straw ballot reflect only a small number of the 5,400 BSO employees. The unions representing the vast majority of our employees solidly support the leadership of this agency.”

Since the no confidence vote campaign against Israel started last week, two other unions — The Federation Of Public Employees and Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #53 — have written letters of support for the sheriff.

“As your largest union, we support you and have confidence in how you are running this large complex agency,” said the letter from the public employees’ union, which claims to represent 2,500 Broward Sheriff’s Office employees.

While the no confidence vote against Israel is symbolic, Bell said it represents the collective voice of the rank and file deputies, and he plans to use that voice to pressure the governor to act.

Bell said Scott’s failure to remove Israel would mean he “agrees the sheriff is an amazing leader.”

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