The troubled tenure of Sheriff Scott Israel

Particularly for those who oppose gun control, Sheriff Israel has become a handy scapegoat—the conservative columnist Michael Graham argued that he could supplant Nancy Pelosi as the G.O.P.’s “favorite Democrat to vilify.” But, even among those who agree with Israel on guns, criticism has grown. The crime rate in Broward County dropped during Israel’s first term, and he won reëlection handily in 2016. But, during the last two weeks, in conversations with multiple former colleagues and associates of Sheriff Israel, I was told again and again that, since taking office, Israel has failed to engage sufficiently in the essential if unglamorous work of overseeing law enforcement in a large and complex U.S. county, and that he was overly focussed on the politics of prolonging his tenure. (Israel’s public-information officer, when presented with a list of claims made by people I’ve spoken to, described them as “shameful, baseless, and patently false.”) Those concerns have deepened since the Stoneman Douglas shooting. Jeff Bell, president of the Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies Association and a deputy, who has been with the B.S.O. for twenty-two years, said, “We feel like we’ve been deserted. A ship at sea, just drifting. No sense of direction whatsoever.” A former senior employee of the B.S.O., who asked not to be named, told me, of Israel, “If he survives this, morale will never be the same. And it’s already as bad as it’s ever been.”