The INSIDER Column:01.17.19

DeSantis: Setting an Impossible Standard?

Ron DeSantis has been governor for almost two weeks.  It was a great start and that start could be tough for future governors to match in week one.  When the Tampa Bay Times Buzz dubs you the WINNER OF THE WEEK as a Republican governor, you’ve done something.  The Buzz referenced DeSantis as having a better, more consequential week than any governor in memory.  It could be a bar to which future governors might aspire.

It’s the other standard the governor has set that has me concerned.  Last Friday DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.  I agree with the suspension and believe Israel to be an incompetent political hack.  That said, I am not the one suspending him and my beliefs are not the issue.  The issue is what DeSantis can prove as criteria for the suspension and whether or not it will hold.

In a statement released by the governor reasons for the suspension included poor leadership, failing to protect people in both the Fort Lauderdale Airport shooting and the same during the shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.  The statement goes on to say that those incidents are evidence of repeated incompetence and neglect of duty.

I believe the governor to be walking on dangerous ground if those are his sole reasons for the suspension.  Poor leadership is a subjective opinion that will differ from person to person.  Failing to protect people is a bridge too far when it comes to the sheriff’s actual responsibilities.  If this is the standard then be prepared to remove sixty-six other sheriffs from office.  Protecting people is not a duty, as nice as it would be to think so.  

Showing that the sheriff failed to adequately train and prepare his people for response to such incidents would be a better cause.  Ignoring previously noted security lapses in areas where his personnel were responsible for security would be another.  But keeping people safe is not within the realm of responsibility of this sheriff or any other.

By its very nature law enforcement is reactionary.  Having a department well trained in the latest tactics and techniques for response to active shooters is essential.  It appears Israel, and potentially his command staff, were lacking on this front.  News reports in the wake of the shooting strongly hint at that.  The special commission report to the governor and legislature should have this evidence.  This would be something on which the governor could hang his hat.

Many people welcomed this action by Governor DeSantis.  So do I, but only if it holds and is based on reasonable conclusions derived from evidence that will substantiate the suspension and replacement of a sheriff who is easy to dislike, but like any other, deserves solid evidence before overturning the will of the people who elected him. 

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