It is something of a staple with Hollywood horror movies: Each sequel has to involve the elimination of the grotesque monster in growingly dramatic terms, only to find a way for him to resurface improbably to justify the remake. In similar fashion, we here in South Florida have witnessed the perpetual reemergence of deposed Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
Well, here he comes again.
On Monday, Israel, 63, who was elected in 2012 and reelected in 2016, submitted paperwork to run in 2020 for the post Gov. Ron DeSantis removed him from as soon as he took office.
“We as a team are going to run one way or another for a third term, so this was going to happen, anyway,” Israel said. “I want to get back to working with the incredible men and women of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. I want to get back to my communities.”
The news is both perplexing, and not at all surprising. Every step of his gradually dissolving career, Israel has fought against harsh realities. Each time the professional rebuke he has received is mounting in stature, yet he has steadfastly refused to acknowledge both the seriousness of the vocational punishment and the stark lack of demand for his reinstatement.
Israel's latest announcement to run for his old position not only has voters' heads shaking, it arrives with a curious dose of horrible timing. The Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission has just returned a vote to strip the Broward Sheriff’s Office of its official accreditation. It was not a labored decision; the vote to discredit his force was unanimous.
The Accreditation Commission cited mistakes Broward County officers made not only during last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, but also during the 2017 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. Both attacks combined left 22 people dead.
It is equal parts pathetic and hilarious that the man wants to reclaim his leadership role after leading his department into a professional abyss.
Israel may have been forgiven gaffes during the airport shooting, but his downfall was rather swift thereafter. Immediately after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day 2018, he rose to high prominence in the community after his appearance on a panel at the CNN-hosted town hall. It took little time following for issues to emerge. In the ensuing investigation into the past of the shooter, it was discovered that Israel’s Sheriff's Office staff paid numerous visits on service calls to the home of Nikolas Cruz. His department’s lack of proper action meant the background check of Cruz revealed no conflict with authorities.
Once the day of the shooting became vetted in the media, it was discovered his deputies were severely lax in their actions on the fateful afternoon. Even following this revelation, Israel was resolute that he was above criticism. In a now-infamous CNN interview, he declared himself “an amazing leader.” He then proceeded to exhibit far less than amazing leadership.
In the days after the shooting BSO deputies were posted on school property in Parkland, and we learned those supposedly patrolling had in fact been sleeping at their post. This allowed Cruz’s brother to come onto the campus, deepening anxieties in the community and at MSDHS. Then Gov. Rick Scott moved out the BSO and installed state troopers to take over.
Later we found out that amid myriad problems detailed in his BSO departments instead of looking to repair the issues Israel focuses on repairing his public image. A major crisis management public relations firm was hired to restore gravitas to Israel’s name. This cynical maneuver deepened the distrust in the community -- and in his own force.
With growing calls from the public for his ouster Israel faced another challenge from a different angle. The BSO deputies' union returned a vote of no-confidence in its leader. Even this failed to deter his resolve to remain in office. News reports detailed how he worked with Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie to lower arrest statistics by simply refusing to make arrests. Then last fall, a bipartisan commission that studied all the accounts and influences on the shooting found plenty of problems with the BSO surrounding the events.
Still Israel would not budge. It took DeSantis' election to finally see retribution arrive. Parkland families were more than relieved to see the ouster, but the former sheriff only dug his heels in deeper. He pledged and then followed up on his promise to take to the courts to combat the governor’s decision.
Numerous decisions and appeals returned the same result. In his desperate last-ditch plea, Israel testified to the Florida Senate that he should not have been fired. He pointed out that previous Gov. Scott had called for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation.
What resulted was this: Of the eight officers nicknamed the “cowards of Broward” for their failure to respond to the emergency, four have been fired, three will remain on duty, and former school-resource officer Scot Peterson, Israel's deputy who was on the scene that day, has been arrested for child neglect, culpable negligence, and perjury.
Yet, Scott Israel will run for sheriff again.
Like those manufactured Hollywood scripts that invent new ways for the villain to return, Scott Israel keeps looking for another avenue to return. It really is time for the final curtain to fall on this unlamented hero and a movie nobody ever wants to see remade.
Brad Slager, a Fort Lauderdale freelance writer, wrote this story exclusively for Sunshine State News. He writes on politics and the industry and his stories appear in such publications as RedState and The Federalist.