Once again, the appointed sheriff of Broward County is attempting to use the tragedies in our communities and country for political gain. In a recent letter to the Sun-Sentinel, Gregory Tony asks other sheriff candidates to sign a law enforcement behavior oath. This transparently political move is more noise from an inexperienced former police sergeant who had served in a modest-sized department before being appointed to lead and operate the 5,400-employee Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Unlike state and national laws, oaths have little meaning. While they can be a feel-good gesture by the appointed sheriff, it does not meaningfully address the real situations that are occurring in our communities today.
Here is my pledge to all citizens of Broward County: I will fairly enforce the laws of the State of Florida.
Excessive force policies are written in the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and are codified by state law.
I will enforce them.
If there are enhancements to policing laws by the Florida Legislature, I will amend Broward Sheriff Office’s policies to reflect them, and I will enforce them.
Rather than lead, Tony is attempting to mislead us into thinking that there are not policies already in place to address community concerns about police behavior. In fact, there are.
For example, civilians from our communities have served and will continue to serve on the BSO review board, which has been an integral part of the Broward Sheriff’s Office for many years. We will continue to have a review board for as long as I am sheriff. Tony’s hollow efforts to convince the Broward citizens that this board is a new idea is pure fiction and reflects his decades’ behavior of lies, omissions and misinformation.
His thirst for political power is also compounding the internal problems at BSO.
By publicly commenting on active investigations, Tony is not only ethically wrong, but he has violated BSO policies.
His “fired the bad cops” political advertisements are one of the most egregious violations of good leadership, and the Constitutional right to due process – innocent until proven guilty. This is a right – not an oath. It is a basic premise that U.S. citizens hold dear, and that even the newest law enforcement officer knows – innocent
until proven guilty. Only a callous and an unethical person would step on another’s rights to further their political ambitions. We, as peacekeepers, cannot ignore the guidance of this basic legal principle, or we will lose our way.
By failing to provide due process and increasing the possibility of a biased trial, Tony will ultimately cost Broward County taxpayers and citizens more for in legal fees resulting from appeals and any awarded damages.
Tony has falsely made reform and change a theme of his campaign by:
Disciplining or dismissing deputies accused of using excessive force. This is an unlawful act. Accusations of a crime are not an adjudication of guilt. If complaints are made against deputies, the BSO process provides for removing accused employees from interacting with the public while a thorough and proper investigation is conducted, and until a conclusion is reached. Deputies fired for police brutality have been decertified by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). FDLE, not the Broward Sheriff’s Office, has the ultimate authority over the certification of all law enforcement officers in Florida. As sheriff, I will personally monitor the status of police brutality cases.
Having a diverse BSO executive command staff is important for the agency. However, cultural, ethnic and skin color quotas to achieve this do not ensure the best candidates. As an African American, a retired BSO colonel, and a father and grandfather of African Americans, I assure you that the Tony’s policy of diversity based on superficial qualifications is a rookie’s mistake. His appointees have diminished the respect and leadership of BSO’s command staff. Having an experienced and a diverse command staff that can thoughtfully contribute to the agency’s betterment does make a difference. People of color will be in my command staff because of the qualifications they hold and the experiences they have had in making the agency better and the communities they serve safer.
Standing with citizens of Broward County who peacefully protest for racial causes and other injustices in the past and present is not unusual. However, using the recent protests for political deflection and gain is horrific and downright wrong. Broward Sheriff’s Office employees and I have, and will continue to be sympathetic to peaceful protests until the righteous social issues of principle are resolved. This is nothing new.
Requiring racial equity and bias training for law enforcement. This is already a BSO policy. Proposing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars of the county’s and taxpayers’ money to hire an organization to provide racial equity and bias training is political grand standing. Long before Tony was appointed, all BSO employees were required to have recurring and current climate sensitivity training. We will continue this training and logically enhance it where necessary.
Saying he will use $250,000 annually from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund (LETF) for the BSO’s Youth Development Program is pure politics. Since 2010, $5.8 million in LETF funds, an average of $580,000 annually, have been allocated for youth development through various community-based and BSO programs prior to Tony. He is not proposing anything new.
The LETF results from cash seizures from people suspect of illegal activities, such as drug dealing. In Broward County, most of the cash seizures are from street-level drug dealers, the majority of whom are black youths. When these individuals are convicted, their confiscated funds are put into the LETF to be invested in community programs through grants that prevent youths from engaging in illegal activities. Ironically, the bulk of the continued funding for the LETF program depends on BSO’s anti-drug dealing policing, and targeting street dealers.
Instead, I propose is an effectiveness assessment of the use of past LETF grants, as well as establishing a standard for expected results by all recipient organizations. In addition, all grant recipients will agree to provide a year-end accounting of LETF fund expenditures, along with outcome results before receiving future funds.
Finally, as your next Broward County sheriff, I pledge to continue to serve and protect you and the community as I have for 40 years. I will be honest and forthright about BSO’s operations, intentions, internal policing and community support, and will not use the agency and its people for political gain. That is my promise; not an oath.