Update: We've heard from the event organizers that Israel changed his response after this story was published, and will try to attend the debate for half an hour tonight, from 6:30 to 7 p.m.
Tonight, the Broward Dream Defenders and Black Lives Matter Alliance Broward will host an unscripted debate between the candidates for county sheriff. The event will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the African-American Research Library in Fort Lauderdale. It will include an opportunity for audience members to ask questions.
One contender, however, will be noticeably absent: Scott Israel, the
In response to an inquiry from New Times, Amy Rose, Israel’s campaign manager, confirmed he would not be attending and said she had informed the organizers.
“Unfortunately, we have to address these candidate forums in the order in which they are received and we had already committed to two other events for tomorrow evening,” she wrote in an email.
Rogers is certain she never received a response. In any case, it’s too bad Israel won’t be at the debate to take questions tonight because the black community has every reason to demand answers. Here are some highlights from his four-year tenure leading the BSO:
- The department was accused of using tinted windows as an excuse to pull over African American drivers, and a 23-year-old black man who was the subject of one such stop ended up with a 60-year prison sentence.
- The ACLU found black residents were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for possessing marijuana and were cited for seat belt violations twice as frequently as whites.
- Officers allegedly beat up and tased an unarmed black man, then charged him with resisting arrest.
- According to an ongoing legal battle, the BSO’s VIPER unit hired “amorous” women as confidential informants to target young black men and pressure them into committing crimes.
- Jermaine McBean, a 33-year-old African American computer engineer, was fatally shot by a BSO deputy while walking home with an air gun balanced on his shoulders. His family has yet to receive an apology.
“There’s a certain population that still doesn’t trust the BSO, whether it’s because they’re being brutalized or harassed on the street, or because they’re still concerned that the BSO killed someone,” Rogers says.
Ironically, back in 2012, Israel defeated his rival Al Lamberti in part because he campaigned heavily in the black community. Those votes might be harder to get this time around: He’s being challenged by Willie Jones, a former cop who founded the Fort Lauderdale Black Police Officer’s Association and wants to improve relationships between the community and the police.
Still, it’s entirely possible that Israel isn’t making the debate a priority because he thinks the race is already in the bag. According to his campaign’s most recent filings, he’s already raised $362,574.98. In comparison, Jones has only raised $81,156.25.
Another reason Israel might not want to take part is that the last community forum he attended didn’t go very well. According to the Sun-Sentinel, a man lashed out at him during the Black on Black Crime Solutions Panel this past weekend, telling him, “I'm scared out here because I might get killed by one of you crackers,” before he was removed from the room.