MIAMI, Florida – The Florida Senate’s 25-15 vote on Wednesday to remove Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office has received condemnation from Caribbean-American residents in the tri-county area, including many Broward residents who did not vote to elect Israel.
Israel, who was first elected as Broward sheriff in 2013, was suspended by incoming Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in January. Prior to his suspension, Israel had been under sharp criticism mainly by parents, relatives and friends of the victims that were killed and injured in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings on Valentine’s Day, 2018.
DeSantis made the decision to suspend Israel for what he described as Israel’s incompetence and dereliction of duty as Broward Sheriff related to the Parkland shootings. After Wednesday’s vote, DeSantis reiterated the sheriff’s incompetence regarding Parkland and the deadly shooting of victims at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport in 2017.
The vote was primarily along party lines, with the majority voting to dismiss Israel being Republicans, and those voting to reinstate him, Democrats.
“It’s sad the decision to remove the sheriff is based not on anything he directly did that resulted in the of killing all those people. His removal was the determined vengeance of privileged folk who lost their loved ones. These are the same people who were determined to remove Broward School Superintendent Robert Runcie from office, but failed. If justice is meted out based on emotion, there’s no justice,” said Karl Langley, a former Broward teacher.
Eda Bright, a Methodist church deaconess of Plantation said, “It’s unfair. I am not a fan of Scott Israel but I hate to see people made scapegoats just to satisfy the pain others are feeling. I’ll always sympathize with the parents who lost children at Parkland, but when these tragedies happen, we should seek comfort and strength through holy prayer, not by seeking vengeance at all cost.”
Florida Senators Gary Farmer and Perry Thurston representing Broward County were among Democrats who voted to reinstate Israel, while acknowledging it was easy to be emotionally moved by the complaints of the grieving parents of the Parkland victims. “We are a nation founded on laws, and we as legislators can’t base or decisions on emotion.”
Thurston, an African-American who remained steadfast in his support for the sheriff, said he believed most of Broward voters wanted Israel to be reinstated.
Thurston attracted the ire of some of the many Parkland parents and relatives present at Wednesday’s Senate debate. A relative took a photo of Thurston reclining in his Senate chair with eyes closed and posted it on Twitter, with a message claiming the senator was sleeping “and doesn’t care about the future of public safety in Broward County.” Thurston denied he was asleep, but was in deep thought thinking about his pending debate speech.
Democratic Senators Lauren Brook and Oscar Braynon II who also represent parts of Broward County also voted to reinstate Israel.
Senator Annette Taddeo, a Democratic representing Miami, was among the few Democrats who voted to remove Israel. Taddeo said after the vote her decision was based on the voices and grief of the Parkland parents.
But Senator Tom Lee, Republican from Brandon was an odd Republican who voted to reinstate Israel. Like many South Florida residents, he regarded the voting to remove Israel was unfair and a decision that sets a bad precedent for future county sheriffs who could be dismissed because of the action of a deputy.
According to the Sun Sentinel, reacting to the Senate vote, Israel called the process “a sham, and a farce.” He is however confident to be reelected in the 2020 general election which he says he’ll be contesting.
Caribbean-American Andrew Smalling, former police chief of the City of Lauderhill, has also announced his candidacy for the position of Broward Sheriff in the 2020 elections.