The outspoken Broward County Sheriff battling calls to resign in the wake of the Florida high school shooting is described by former colleagues and associates in a new report as being a “hothead” who never talked in detail about crime and appeared more concerned with “putting his picture on the side of trucks.”
The claims about Sheriff Scott Israel published in the New Yorker on Friday come a day after the Broward County Sheriff’s Office released a 27-minute video of a former deputy standing outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 as the mass shooting unfolded.
“He’d say, ‘I’m the most visible sheriff ever,’” former commander Sam Frusterio told the magazine when recalling his decades-long tenure at the South Florida police department. “I’d be visible, too, if I never came in the office. The guy didn’t spend twenty hours a week there.”
Israel was elected to the position in 2012 after a failed bid four years earlier. He previously was the chief of police for North Bay Village in Miami-Dade County -- and a Republican.
But in order to run in Broward, a Democratic stronghold, Israel switched parties. Yet he still had a lot of work to do to get in election shape, according to a former campaign manager who led the first bid.
“He wasn’t a brain guy,” Judith Stern told the New Yorker. “He was a cop who was generally liked by other cops. So we made sure to surround him with real law-enforcement pros, to educate him.”
Israel’s public information officer told the magazine the claims brought forward by Frusterio, Stern and others are “shameful, baseless, and patently false.”
Frusterio, who also served as campaign treasurer, said as the initial effort to elect Israel went on “I realized this guy was power-hungry and didn’t care who he stepped on or what he did to get there.”
He claimed Israel – as sheriff of the county – would never talk in detail about crime.
“We had monthly crime meetings with the district folks, but Israel never sat in and talked to us about it -- not a burglary, not a robbery -- never,” Frusterio told the New Yorker. “He wanted to make sure we had all the parades and block parties covered. Even during hurricane season, the guy never sat us down and said, ‘Okay, where are we with the hurricane plan?’”
A current Broward deputy told the magazine he also couldn’t recall “ever hearing Israel talk in detail about crime” and Frusterio says he “was more interested in branding."
Other people who worked in the office said Israel was a “hothead” who would like to shout.
“We all felt like we were walking on eggshells with Israel, because you never knew what mood you were going to get,” Phyllis Massey Lind, a former Broward executive assistant under Israel, told the New Yorker.
The Florida House of Representatives has approved a probe into how Israel and the Broward Sheriff’s Office handled the events before and after the shooting, which left 17 dead.
Prosecutors this week filed a notice of intent to seek the death penalty for shooter Nikolas Cruz.