Former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel resigns as Opa-locka Police Chief after a year

Opa-locka Police Chief Scott Israel officially announced his resignation on Friday, just a year after taking office.

Israel — who was Broward County sheriff during the 2018 mass shooting at a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and was ousted from his post by Gov. Ron DeSantis for criticizing the law enforcement response — said told a press conference that he has decided to leave the department on his own terms and wants to spend time with his family.

“Thank you for the opportunity to serve in this role,” Israel wrote in a May 25 resignation letter. “It has been an absolute honor to serve the citizens of the City of Opa-locka. I am proud of the accomplishments and improvements the Police Department has made during my tenure. I have made this difficult decision in the best interests of my family.

The last day of Israel will be July 1. Opa-locka Police Captain Kenneth D. Ottley will become acting police chief as the city conducts a nationwide search to replace Israel. A former Marine, Ottley worked for the Miami-Dade Police Department for 32 years before retiring. He joined the Opa-locka Police Department in July 2022.

At Friday’s presser, Israel called the decision bittersweet and thanked his family and the city for supporting him. “We’ve taken this police department in the right direction,” he said. “We treat people with dignity and respect. We don’t racially profile, we drive around with our windows rolled down, listening to what the community has to say. We are disciplined, we follow rules and regulations.

Acting City Manager of Opa-locka, Darvin Williams, says that under Israel’s leadership, the city’s crime rate has dropped by 30% in the past 12 months and their crime rate is the lowest for a decade.

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“One of the things that Chief Israel and I connected on was community policing,” Williams said. It was important for a predominantly African American and Latino city to have a police chief who understood the importance of having the community connect with our police. And it has been proven with great results.

Opa-locka, a city with a history of turnover and turmoil in its police department, hired Israel as its police chief in May 2022.

The Opa-locka Police Department—much like the city government as a whole—has experienced scandals among rank-and-file officers and mismanagement in the hierarchy for years. The central city of Miami-Dade has been under state surveillance since a 2016 FBI investigation into public corruption. More than half a dozen people have been convicted in the investigation, including a city commissioner, two senior administrators and a lobbyist.

Before joining the police department, Israel had a long tenure in Fort Lauderdale and a short stint in North Bay Village before becoming sheriff of Broward County. Israel was sheriff during the February 14, 2018 mass shooting in Parkland.

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In 2019, DeSantis removed him from office after a state-appointed panel found that Israel’s lack of leadership likely contributed to deputies not facing gunman Nikolas Cruz during the shooting, in which 17 students and staff died and 17 others were injured.

Israel said his resignation had nothing to do with the trial of former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson, who is on trial in federal court over allegations he failed to confront Cruz during of the shooting. Peterson faces seven counts of criminal child neglect, according to The Associated Press.

Although Israel has said it is not looking for new opportunities, it is open to any that come its way. “People make plans, but God is responsible,” he said.

Miami Herald staff writers Grethel Aguila and Jay Weaver contributed to this report.

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