(PARKLAND, Fla.) — More than 500 deputies in Florida have voted that they no longer have confidence in the sheriff who presided over the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 students and staff.
Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, said Thursday that out of 628 votes, 534 Broward County deputies cast a ballot to say they “no longer have confidence” in Sheriff Scott Israel. Ninety-four people voted for Israel, Bell said.
The union called for the vote over sheriff’s office’s response to the Parkland shooting as well as Israel’s response to the criticism of him in the wake of the shooting, ABC Fort Lauderdale affiliate WLPG reported.
“These members have displayed great courage to come forward and vote under the threat of retaliation,” Bell said.
The association represents about 1,300 deputies and sergeants who “put their lives on the line every day,” according to its president.
Bell said it is now time for the sheriff to start listening to both members of his office as well as the leaders of Broward County.
The association president took issue over Israel’s leadership, policies and his handling of the budget. He also accused Israel of “taking care” of his family and friends by hiring them as “command staff at top levels” and attempting to “skirt the laws that are in place within the state of Florida.”
“He fails to listen to the people,” Bell said.
After the results of the vote were announced, Israel released a statement saying that he “will not be distracted” by the union vote.
“I am accountable to the citizens of Broward County,” Israel said. “My job is to continue to do the job I was elected to do, which is to ensure the safety of Broward County’s 1.9 million residents.”
In his statement, Israel repeated a sentiment he expressed while to reporters shortly before the results of the vote were announced, which is that the vote was “designed to extort a 6.5 percent pay raise from this agency.”
Bell responded to Israel’s comments by calling the sheriff a “complete liar.”
“This has never been abut a contract,” Bell said. “This has been about his longstanding policies.”
Bell said that the only thing that he and Israel agree on is that on the day of the Parkland shooting, school resource deputy Scott Peterson “needed to go into the building to save more lives.”
More than a week after the shooting, Israel announced that Peterson “did nothing” as he stayed outside the school as shots rang out for more than four minutes. However, Bell said Peterson wasn’t a “coward” and merely “froze.”
The association will be taking the issue up with lawmakers in Tallahassee, where they will ask Gov. Rick Scott to “do his job” and re-evaluate Israel’s position within the sheriff’s office, Bell said.
Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.