As thousands of students across the country walked out of class Friday demanding tougher gun control laws, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was facing an unprecedented no-confidence vote by police union members.
Israel was hailed as a hero in the immediate aftermath of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that claimed 17 lives. He appeared repeatedly for media briefings and demagogued shamelessly during the CNN town hall in front of a cheering anti-gun mob.
As more facts about his conduct have come out, Sheriff Do-nothing has battled calls to resign from politicians, activists, conservative media, and others due to his department’s dereliction of duty. Since his disastrous interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Israel has refrained from making public comments about his department’s response.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association launched an electronic poll Friday night, asking its members about their confidence in Israel. In-person voting begins on Monday and the poll ends next Thursday night.
The vote is just a straw poll that won’t directly affect Israel’s job status, the Miami Herald reported, but Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association President Jeff Bell said “a vote of no-confidence would send a strong signal of discontent in the ranks to Israel over the handling of Parkland as well as other issues.”
“This has never been done in the history of BSO. So, is it symbolic more than anything? Yes, it is,” said Bell. “However it will send a strong message. He’s gone off the radar. We’re like a ship out at sea with no power right now.”
Israel, for his part, strongly denounced the vote, calling it “unfortunate and appalling” and a union tactic to get pay raises.
Bell said Friday that Israel’s handling of the school shooting was “a major component of the no-confidence campaign,” and that Israel should not have put the full blame on Deputy Scot Peterson, the school’s resource officer.
It quickly came to light that the Broward deputy assigned to protect the school, Scot Peterson, did not storm the building to confront the killer, but remained outside and even gave incorrect information to other arriving deputies. The union does not represent Peterson, because he chose not to join. However, Bell said morale at the sheriff’s office “has been absolutely crushed.”
Bell said Israel has refused to take responsibility for the disastrous performance at the school, where several other arriving deputies also stayed outside or took cover behind cars, unsure of where the gunfire was coming from. “The sheriff still blames one person,” Bell said, referring to Peterson. “As an agency we’ve not taken any responsibility for this.”
The sheriff, a commander on the scene and street-level deputies have been pilloried nationally by the media and the public for their seeming cowardice or incompetence in responding to the assault by Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student.
The deputies association said in a statement that they scheduled the no-confidence vote after “many instances of suspected malfeasance, misfeasance, failure to maintain fiduciary responsibility by the Sheriff, failure to properly investigate possible criminal conduct by members of his senior command staff and the lack of leadership that has crushed morale through the agency.”