By Travis Fedschun
Published July 01, 2019
The largest sheriff's office in Florida sustained another blow after it was revealed Monday that a state panel last week voted to revoke the law enforcement accreditation of the controversial department in the wake of mishandling two major mass shootings in its jurisdiction.
The Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation voted 13-0 on Wednesday to strip the Broward County Sheriff's Office of the accreditation, citing the missteps from the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018 that killed 17 people and the 2017 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting, according to a recording of the meeting obtained by the Miami Herald.
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said the law enforcement agencies are supposed to prove that proper standards and regulations are in place, in addition to personnel that are following those rules.
“During the rating period of the time we’re talking in question here, there were substantial periods where they were not in compliance with how they performed in the field,” Ramsay said in the audio obtained by the Herald. “As a result we saw the catastrophic loss of life and injuries and what transpired because of lack of following procedures and things in place.”
Last week, Sheriff Gregory Tony said that deputies Edward Eason and Josh Stambaugh were fired as a result of an internal affairs investigation for their inaction following the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting.
A state investigative commission found that Stambaugh was working an off-duty shift at a nearby school when he responded to reports of shots fired at the school. He got out of his truck, put on his bulletproof vest and took cover for about five minutes after hearing the shots, according to body camera footage. He then drove to a nearby highway instead of going toward the school.
In Eason's case, the report reveals he provided inconsistent and conflicting statements to investigators. It also shows that instead of responding to the gunshots at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, he went to nearby Westglades Middle to lock it down. Eason, however, "never transmitted his actions," and took 19 minutes to check the doors of the middle school to see if it was locked down.
Eason was also faulted for not writing an official report after receiving a tip in February 2016 that the shooting suspect, Nikolas Cruz, was making threats on social media to shoot up a school. Tips to the FBI about Cruz also were not followed up, a separate investigation has found.
Two other deputies were fired earlier this month for neglect of duty in connection to the February 2018 shooting. One of those was school resource officer Scot Peterson, who was also arrested on charges of child neglect, culpable negligence and perjury. Peterson's lawyer has said he will fight the charges. The sheriff said no action was taken on three other deputies who were involved in the investigation.
Scott Israel, the sheriff at the time, was removed from office by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for similar reasons. He is appealing that decision before the state Senate.
The loss of accreditation isn't expected to affect the department's overall operations, but is a further blow to the agency, according to the Herald. The title allows law enforcement agencies to standardize practices and defend themselves against lawsuits if they are using validated procedures. There are over 200 standards that agencies in Florida must do to maintain accreditation.
Records obtained by the Herald said the department initially was reviewed in December 2018 and May 2019 an assessment team and was "favorably reviewed. The commission, however, ultimately voted against that recommendation.
The sheriff's office had not yet commented on the state panel's vote.
Fox News' Tyler Olson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.