The national profile of Broward Sheriff’s Office Sheriff Scott Israel may have risen sharply in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, but the triumphs and missteps of the longtime South Florida cop have been well-documented over the past 10 years.
So have Israel’s strong connections to Parkland. The sheriff now lives in Davie but previously resided in Parkland with his wife, Susan. He is the father of triplets, Brett, Blake and Blair, who all attended Stoneman Douglas. Brett was once the starting quarterback for the school’s football team, even playing under slain assistant football coach Aaron Feis, as did his brothers. Blake, who now attends Palm Beach Atlantic University, was a midfielder in lacrosse at Stoneman. Israel, 61, also coached football at Stoneman Douglas and North Broward Preparatory Academy, and has been the head coach of the Coral Springs Chargers Tackle Football Team. In 2008, he won a Brian Piccolo Coach of the Year award.
Born in New York, Israel is the son of a New York homicide detective. He began his career as a patrol officer for the Fort Lauderdale police department in 1979, later working narcotics in the 1980s and 1990s, when crime was rampant. Israel has been the subject of 10 internal affairs complaints, mainly for excessive force, although he was cleared in all of them. He served a stint as a SWAT commander and was North Bay Village chief of police from 2004 to 2008, but left to run for sheriff in 2008 and 2012. Israel eventually won in 2012, and easily won re-election in 2016.
Israel has historically been vocal concerning gun violence, opposing open-carry legislation and one law that would allow concealed weapons on campuses. He began implementing body cameras for his deputies in 2016. This week, Israel announced that deputies guarding Broward County Schools will now carry rifle, including AR-15s.
On Thursday, the Sun-Sentinel reported that a police officer assigned to Stoneman Douglas resigned after failing to enter the Parkland school as a gunman opened fire and killed 17 students and faculty. Israel said Deputy Scot Peterson should have “went in. Addressed the killer. Killed the killer.” The sheriff placed two other deputies under investigation for their handling of possible warnings about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz.
This isn’t the first time Israel’s agency has encountered trouble over its response to a mass shooting. Months after the Greater Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport shooting, a 2017 Sun-Sentinel investigation revealed that Israel’s Broward Sheriff’s Office failed to “seize control and set up an effective command system” at the airport. BSO “erred from the very beginning in controlling the shooting scene in the baggage claim area of Terminal 2, where five people died and six others were wounded.” The reason, cited in a 99-page draft report by the agency itself, mentioned the sheriff’s office’s aging radio system, which garbled communications among officers, forcing police to improvise with “hand signals, runners and cellphones.”
Israel has also been scrutinized for his relationship with political operative Roger Stone. A Fort Lauderdale resident who built his career on smearing political enemies, Stone had a hand in the political campaigns of Richard Nixon, John McCain and Donald Trump. While backing then sheriff Al Lamberti in 2011, Stone told the Sun-Sentinel that “Scott Israel is an unqualified punk, a racist and a thief.”
One year later, Stone switched sides, helping Israel defeat Lamberti in the 2012 sheriff’s race. Since then, Israel “added to BSO’s payroll Stone’s book-writing partner, Stone’s book publicist and Stone’s long-time executive assistant,” and even had “Stone’s stepson transferred to detective.”
Citing mud slinging between Israel and Lamberti during the 2012 race, the Sun-Sentinel’s Editorial Board endorsed no one in that year’s primary for Broward County Sheriff. The Editorial Board backed Israel for his 2016 re-election as sheriff, writing that burglaries and violent crimes in BSO-patrolled areas were “way down” in the sheriff’s first term.
As Israel significantly trailed Lamberti in the 2012 race, the Sun-Sentinel reported that a late infusion of attack-ad cash from former Aerosmith guitarist Richie Supa, of Plantation, and Massachusetts construction magnate Robert Pereira helped tip the election in Israel’s favor. According to the same story, Pereira alone gave $245,000 to groups supporting Israel.
Israel also came under scrutiny in 2015 after a Broward grand jury indicted Deputy Peter Peraza in the 2013 slaying of Jermaine McBean, who was shot dead by the office in his apartment complex for toting an air rifle in public. Peraza became the first cop charged in an on-duty shooting in Broward since 1980, and public trust waned in the Broward Sheriff’s Office, prompting Israel to tell the Sun-Sentinel, “It’s a tough time to be a cop.”
After much speculation over the sheriff’s religious affiliations, Israel told the Sun-Sentinel in 2016 that he is Jewish and “attends the Parkland Chabad from time to time.” Israel leaned heavily on his faith during the 2016 campaign, saying this in one campaign ad flier: “My late father Sonny Israel fought in the Korean War and became a police officer because he believed in the call from the Talmud.” This came after multiple public speeches from Israel laced with Scriptural references, comments about “church pews” and his reluctance to discuss his spiritual beliefs.