TALLAHASSEE, FL — With Florida’s new governor promising to lead with "purpose and conviction," one of the first acts of Republican Ron DeSantis may be to remove or suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel over his handling of the Parkland tragedy, according to the president of the union that represents hundreds of Broward deputies.
"If a local official is neglectful of required duties I will remove that official," DeSantis promised to applause Tuesday after being sworn in as Florida’s 46th governor. See also Ron DeSantis Sworn In As Florida’s 46th Governor
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Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, told Patch he believes DeSantis was referring to Israel when he spoke those words.
"If they can’t hold their oath, then he will remove them from office. That’s a big indication for Scott Israel," explained Bell, who attended the inauguration in Tallahassee and was preparing to attend the inaugural ball when he spoke with Patch.
Israel’s office did not immediately comment on reports that the sheriff was making preparations to leave office. The sheriff’s office released a photo of Israel Tuesday signing an agreement with the School Board of Broward County to for the first time give BSO deputies access to live feeds from school security cameras.
"Real-time video feeds from schools would greatly assist in a more effective, directed police response," the sheriff’s office said.
Bell said there have been multiple signs that Israel is preparing for his removal from office.
"There’s several people at the public safety building of rank that have reported back that the sheriff has told them that he expects to be removed, so to prepare for his removal," said Bell, whose members overwhelmingly approved a vote of no confidence with respect to the sheriff two months after the tragedy.
The no confidence vote was 534 to 92 against the sheriff, but Israel insisted at the time that the vote was "inconsequential" and reflected only a small percentage of his 5,400 employees.
During the gubernatorial campaign, DeSantis said he would suspend Israel, but then backed off slightly, issuing a more general statement that he would hold all officeholders accountable.
"We must never turn a blind eye to those who represent a danger to our schools and communities," DeSantis also said in Tuesday’s inaugural speech. "We cannot sacrifice the safety of our people at the altar of social experimentation."
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission unanimously approved a 446-page report last week on the horrific school shooting that is critical of the Broward County sheriff’s deputies who failed to confront the shooter and of Israel, whose office did not at the time have a policy requiring them to rush the three-story freshman building where the shooting happened.
Israel has said that he has done nothing to warrant removal. He recently made public new guidance that requires Broward Sheriff’s deputies to "eliminate the threat" before all else when they arrive at the scene of an active shooter.
Bell also told Patch he was told that a high-ranking member of Israel’s staff had resigned and that Israel appeared to be in the process of moving out of his headquarters.
"I got a phone call that they witnessed boxes being moved out of the public safety building," Bell explained. "They saw a box with some of Scott Israel’s personal belongings being loaded up into the back of a truck today."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel signs an agreement with the School Board of Broward County to give his deputies access to live feeds from school security cameras. Photo courtesy Broward Sheriff’s Office.