In a direct blow to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Senate special master tasked with considering the suspension of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has concluded the embattled cop should be reinstated.
In a report released this afternoon, Special Master Dudley Goodlette found that, though Israel and his agency were far from blameless in the disastrous response to two recent mass shootings, there was not sufficient evidence to support his removal from office.
In January, only a few days after he became governor, DeSantis suspended Israel for "incompetence" and "neglect of duty" in his role overseeing the response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre and a 2017 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
A former state lawmaker, Goodlette was chosen by Senate President Bill Galvano to handle Israel's appeal of his suspension. Under the state's constitution, the Florida Senate must decide whether to affirm DeSantis' decision to suspend Israel. They are set to do so during a special session next month.
Israel's role in the botched response to the two major shootings has been the subject of much scrutiny over the past few months. In January, an investigative commission released a 500-page report about the Parkland massacre, lambasting Broward County deputies for failing to confront shooter Nikolas Cruz. The report found that Israel's cops were improperly trained in their response to the mass shooter, with multiple deputies, including the school's resource officer, failing to approach Cruz. Worse still, the report suggested BSO employees obfuscated facts during the commission's investigation.
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Broward County will hold a sheriff's election next year. Even if the Florida Senate ultimately decides to uphold his suspension, Israel, a Democrat, could challenge current Sheriff Gregory Tony, who was appointed in January by DeSantis, in a primary.
Israel's record running the nation’s largest accredited sheriff's office was far from spotless before the Parkland and airport shootings. Under his watch, BSO faced multiple lawsuits over allegations of unprovoked abuse and violence. In 2015, a whistleblower claimed BSO was trumping up DNA evidence to make it seem more useful than it actually was.
Neither Israel nor DeSantis immediately responded to requests for comment from New Times.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.