DeSantis says he expects the Florida Senate to back his decision removing the Broward sheriff

One Year Anniversary Parkland tragedy
Sheena Billups prepares to lay flowers in a memorial at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, one year after the mass shooting on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Getty Images photo by Joe Raedle

Despite a report saying the former Broward County sheriff should be reinstated, Gov. Ron DeSantis says he expects the Florida Senate to back his removal of Scott Israel from the post because of his role in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in 2018.

The Republican-led Florida Senate is scheduled to hold a rare special session beginning Oct. 21 to decide the Democratic sheriff’s fate.

As one of his first acts in office last January, the Republican governor removed Israel from his elected office, accusing him of “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” in actions related to the February 2018 mass shooting at the Broward high school that killed 17 students and staff.

But a special master who reviewed the case in preparation for the state Senate hearing has recommended that Israel, who was first elected in 2012, be reinstated as the Broward sheriff.

Former Republican state Rep. Dudley Goodlette, a lawyer who served as the special master, concluded Israel and his department were “not blameless” in the Stoneman Douglas tragedy.

“That said, the evidence offered has not demonstrated that Sheriff Israel should be removed from office based on this incident,” Goodlette wrote in his report. “While the governor has offered a plethora of criticism, he has not shown that Sheriff Israel’s policies, procedures, or trainings on active shooter situations were inconsistent with Florida law enforcement standards.”

During a press conference about higher teacher pay in Broward County on Monday, DeSantis insisted: “The decision I made was the right decision.”

“There was clearly a failure of leadership by the sheriff,” DeSantis said.

He said he expects families who lost members in the Stoneman Douglas shooting to attend the Senate session.

DeSantis said senators he has talked to understand Goodlette’s report is “advisory” and that they also “understand that there’s a lot of mistakes in that report.”

“We’re going to be showing why it was the right decision,” DeSantis said. “So, I’m confident that the Senate will vote to sustain what I did.”

“But, you know, at the end of the day, you’ve got to do the right thing,” he said. “And if other people don’t want to do the right thing, that’s up to them. But I’m confident that it will work out.”

DeSantis also said that mistakes made in Broward County related to the shooting “are in the process of being corrected and I think probably that sheriff’s department is going in a better direction now.”

DeSantis appointed Sheriff Gregory Tony to replace Israel.

The governor said that public safety “ultimately is the most important thing.”

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