By Francisco Alvarado, Floridabulldog.org
Scott Israel is out as chief of the Opa-locka Police Department, with some speculation that he may be planning to run again for Broward sheriff next year.
On Thursday, the 67-year-old law enforcement honcho said he resigned as the city’s top police official but gave no reason why he quit the long-troubled city in a brief phone call with Florida Bulldog.
“There were no issues,” Israel said. “I want to do something else.”
Israel, who was removed as Broward’s sheriff by the Florida Senate following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school massacre in 2018, declined further comment.
Opa-locka’s interim city manager Darvin Williams did not immediately respond to a phone message and an email seeking comment about Israel’s resignation, and who might be tapped to replace Israel as head of a police department with a troubled history of officers engaging in misconduct and malfeasance.
Attempts to reach Opa-locka’s elected officials, including Mayor John Taylor Jr, were blocked by Opa-locka Assistant City Clerk Chris Weills. He said all press inquiries for and official statements by the mayor and city commissioners are routed through the city manager’s office.
PRESS CONFERENCE FRIDAY
The city manager plans to hold a press conference on Friday announcing Israel’s retirement, according to an Opa-locka press release.
Israel’s departure comes three weeks after he completed his one-year anniversary as Opa-locka’s police chief. In a May 10 interview with CBS News Miami, Israel reflected on changing the attitude of the small police force during his first 12 months on the job.
“I’m a happy police chief,” Israel told the news station. “I saw a police force that was talented, but, in some cases, misguided.”
Israel, a former Fort Lauderdale police officer, said he frequently attended community meetings to repair the relationship between cops and the city of some 16,000 residents, according to CBS News Miami. The Opa-locka Police Department has roughly four dozen sworn police officers and about 20 civilian employees.
Among his reforms, Israel said he directed rank-and-file officers to give out civil citations to juveniles caught committing criminal misdemeanors.
In May of last year, Williams hired Israel after reviewing a dozen candidates who applied for police chief. Israel replaced then-acting police chief Michael Steel. At the time, Israel said he would “work very hard, very honorably, and together, with the citizens of Opa-locka, we will do great things.”
SUSPENDED AND REMOVED AFTER PARKLAND
Twice elected as Broward Sheriff, Scott Israel was suspended from his previous job by Gov. Ron DeSantis in early 2019 based on a state-appointed panel’s findings that a lack of leadership was a contributing factor in county deputies not initially confronting mass shooter Nikolas Cruz during his Valentine’s Day rampage in 2018 at Stoneman Douglas. Cruz killed 17 students and school staffers, and seriously injured another 17 people.
Israel stepped down in Opa-Locka at a time he could play a key role in the criminal trial of Scot Peterson, the former BSO schools resource officer facing 11 felony charges including seven counts of child neglect for failing to engage Cruz during his killing spree at Stoneman Douglas. Israel is expected to testify against Peterson, who retired from BSO and has pleaded not guilty. Jury selection in the trial got underway on Wednesday.
In 2020, Israel lost a heated election to Gregory Tony, whom DeSantis appointed as his replacement. Prior to his first election in Broward in 2013, Israel served as police chief in North Bay Village from 2004 to 2008.
The Opa-locka Police Department has been rocked by turmoil and turnover in recent years. In 2020, an assessment report by the Miami-Dade Police Department concluded Opa-locka’s cop force was plagued by widespread low morale, poor managerial leadership, officers who abuse sick leave, inadequate policies and procedures, a deteriorating evidence room and broken-down squad cars discarded by other law enforcement agencies.
Two months after the report’s release, then-police chief James Dobson was fired due to a lack of progress in implementing reforms and lowering the city’s soaring crime rate.
In October 2021, Dobson’s replacement Steve Barreira resigned six months into his tenure following an incident involving a police captain tasering a sergeant during an argument.
Last year, Opa-locka Police Lt. Sergio Miguel Perez was arrested for using excessive force against a 19-year-old man. The investigation was done by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement at Israel’s request.
More recently, Opa-locka Police Sgt. Johane Hendrik Taylor was arrested in March on domestic violence charges. Taylor, the brother of Opa-locka’s mayor, allegedly abused his wife for years, according to press reports.