BROWARD COUNTY, APRIL 4, 2020 – Broward Sheriff Office deputies are becoming ill and dying from the COVID-19 virus because Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony has failed to provide the employees with adequate protective equipment and training, said Al Pollock, a 40-year Broward Sheriff’s Office veteran and candidate for Broward Sheriff in the 2020 election.
Less than half of BSO employees have received personal protective equipment (PPE) that will help prevent infection by the coronavirus, and very few detention employees have received PPE, said Pollock, who retired as a BSO colonel in 2017.
“BSO leadership, particularly Sheriff Tony, has been in a state of denial since COVID-19 has entered Broward County and infected thousands of people, including BSO employees,” Pollock said. “While lifting weights at a BSO gym to show how healthy he is, Sheriff Tony has endangered the lives of BSO employees by not being proactive about providing them with the protection that they need.”
Thus far, one deputy has died from COVID-19, and at least 12 BSO detention employees and 17 other BSO employees are infected by the virus.
“Some of these infections occurred while BSO deputies were on duty, and could have been prevented had proper health and safety procedures been developed and implemented, and PPE equipment fully distributed,” Pollock said. “For example, one deputy was infected when two virus-infected maximum-security inmates were transferred into the medium-security section at the Broward County jail in Fort Lauderdale. The deputies who conducted the transfer were issued only one mask earlier that week. In addition, the infected inmates were allowed to mingle with the medium-security inmates for an hour before being isolated in individual cells. This is a travesty. Lack of proper protocols and PPE gear needlessly exposed dozens of inmates and deputies to the virus.”
Pollock says that procedures are not in place to protect deputies and inmates from the virus, a process that should have been started in January.
“The deputies who have been infected are told to go home on their own time, which impacts any earned overtime pay while depleting their sick leave bank,” Pollock said. “BSO will not let them be eligible for workers compensation pay. The deputies have put their lives on the line, but BSO leadership is not taking care of them as they deserve.”
Although the current sheriff has claimed that he is protecting his staff, he has failed:
· Deputies were told at roll-call meetings by command staff about COVID-19 only during the first week of March and did not answer specific questions about how BSO employees would be protected.
· BSO personnel were not issued personal protective equipment until weeks into the epidemic. Even today, deputies do not have enough PPE equipment for daily changes and are forced to reuse potentially virus-laden masks each day.
· Front-line deputies and fire-rescue personnel received minimal or no training to protect themselves against the virus when working with the public.
· Detention employees are now afraid to come to work because they are concerned that they will be exposed to the virus by inmates and other BSO personnel.
“We need to not only take care of our BSO employees, but ensure that they are protected and healthy when they are interacting with the public,” Pollock said. “A crisis always tests an organization’s leadership. The current BSO leadership has not been effective in its response to the COVID-19 epidemic – a clear and present danger to BSO employees and the public – and has diminished the law enforcement and fire-rescue agency’s ability to effectively protect and serve.”