Florida Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran sent an open letter to Gov. Rick Scott yesterday, signed by an additional 73 members of the Florida House, calling on Scott to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for “incompetence and dereliction of duty” related to his agency’s handling of the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Israel has come under sharp criticism for not only the behavior of his deputies on the day of the shooting — witnesses reported that the school resource officer Scot Peterson and an additional three Broward deputies, all armed, waited outside during the shooting and did not enter the school — but also for the failure to take any action in response to multiple, specific complaints they received about the shooter.
As the letter notes, Scott has the power to suspend a sheriff for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty [or] incompetence,” pursuant to Article IV, Section 7 of the Florida Constitution.
Today I sent the following letter to @FLGovScott Asking that he suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for incompetence and dereliction of duty. I was honored to be joined by 73 Republican colleagues. You can read the letter attached here. pic.twitter.com/exZVwGQ3DR
— Richard Corcoran (@richardcorcoran) February 25, 2018
The letter goes on to list “repeated warning signs about the violent, erratic, threatening, and antisocial behavior” that was reported directly to the Broward Sheriff’s office over the years about the shooter, but failed to elicit any response. Multiple paragraphs of the letter describe these reports, repeatedly ending with the damning “Nothing was done.”
Israel is also criticized for failing to provide “state-of-the-art active shooter tactical training,” contributing to Peterson’s decision to remain outside the school instead of entering to engage and disrupt the shooter.
“As a result of Sheriff Israel’s failures, students and teachers died,” the letter states plainly, ending with a call for Scott to suspend him.
Many of the 73 state representatives who signed the letter also shared it on their social media, with additional comments.
“Every leader of a law enforcement agency is responsible to drive the culture and rules of engagement of that agency which, along with other things like training, proper equipment, etc., lead to a process which will keep the citizens of their jurisdiction safe,” wrote Rep. Scott Plakon, a Republican representing the Longwood area north of Orlando.
Israel had “failed at virtually every level,” continued Plakon, and that if this history of failures weren’t enough cause for his suspension, “I can’t imagine what would be.”
Scott so far has declined to suspend Israel, instead ordering an immediate investigation into the shooting by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). In a written statement provided to Politico, Scott said that he understood the concerns voiced by the legislators but wanted to hear the results of the investigation before moving forward:
I have asked for FDLE to immediately investigate the law enforcement response and will continue to review this matter as more facts come out. There must be an independent investigation and that is why I asked the FDLE Commissioner to immediately start this process.
I have spoken to Speaker Corcoran about his request and I understand his concerns. I have spoken to the Speaker regularly since the shooting, and like me, he wants the families to have answers and for there to be full accountability. That’s what the victims and their families deserve.
Israel has remained defiant, stating that he will not resign and insisting that he has showed “amazing leadership.”
Corcoran discussed the letter on CNN earlier today, calling the situation a “systemic failing” of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and describing the chronology of the events.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.
[Cross-posted at The Capitolist.]