In my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, I have chased and brought countless criminals to justice, operated undercover, worked as SWAT commander and now proudly serve as sheriff to the 1.8 million residents of Broward. Yet all that pales in comparison to my most challenging and rewarding job: father to my triplets, Blair, Brett and Blake. As any parent can attest, our children are our most prized treasures. From the instant you first lock eyes with your newborns to the moment they pack up to go to college or set out to begin their careers, our most important job is ensuring the safety and security of our children. While we share in the exhilaration of their successes, we also live in constant worry about their well-being as they ride the roller coaster ups and downs all children face daily as they come of age. Sadly, despite our best efforts as parents, some of our children struggle to overcome these obstacles. The enormous pressures they face lead some to tragically take their own lives. As a parent, we often choose to believe that these types of tragedies can never happen to us. The startling statistics, however, say otherwise. Each year in the United States, thousands of teens commit suicide and many more attempt to take their lives. In fact, suicide is a leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. A recent survey showed one in six high school students seriously considered taking their own lives, and one in 13 reported attempting suicide. These alarming statistics are even more troubling considering suicides and attempted suicides are on the rise. There are a wide range of reasons why teens attempt to take their lives. These include depression, bullying, drug abuse, eating disorders, break ups and general insecurities. Aside from the normal challenges of growing up, our children now must also contend with new technology including social media, which exponentially magnifies exposure from just a handful of people to potentially dozens if not hundreds or thousands. As we all know, the internet can be a tool for good, but can also lead to hatred, intolerance and indecency. Recently, this reared its ugly head in the form of a new, dangerous and potentially deadly “game,” the Blue Whale Challenge. The game encourages individuals to complete 50 self-harming challenges with the final task requiring that individual to commit suicide. Reports claim it is responsible for the deaths of 130 teens in Russia, but these have not been verified. Elsewhere online, bullying runs rampant. Parents must remain vigilant about what their children do online. While it may be difficult for us to understand why our sons or daughters would take their own lives or what motivates them to do so, there are steps we can take to prevent teen suicide. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs; talk openly and candidly with your children; and know how to react and where to go for professional help if needed. If a loved one is harming themself or if you believe he/she is in immediate danger, call 911. For more questions and answers, call dial 2-1-1 for Broward 2-1-1. Through education and awareness, we all can help prevent teen suicide. Sheriff Scott Israel
A terrifying opioid epidemic is sweeping the nation—infecting our neighborhoods, poisoning our families and filling our morgues. Nationwide, nearly 33,000 people lost their lives to opioids in 2016—more than died in auto accidents or homicides. Sadly, Broward is not immune from the devastating crisis, which knows no bounds and impacts individuals across nearly all demographic and socioeconomic categories. The numbers are alarming. In 2016, opioids claimed 582 lives in Broward—nearly two each day. And the death toll from this deadly menace is rising all the time. By the end of the year, deaths attributed to this threat will likely exceed 1,000 in Broward alone. The dramatic uptick is largely the product of cheaply-made synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which are used as replacements for heroin. For instance, fentanyl is many times more potent than heroin, while carfentanil is up to 1,000 times more potent than heroin, and a very small dose can sedate a 13,000 pound elephant (while the same minuscule dose can easily kill a person). In more than 30 years of working in law enforcement, I have personally witnessed the horrific damage drugs can inflict on individuals, families and communities. The drugs may change over the years, but the overall narcotics problem remains. While this public health emergency is historic and its impact far reaching, the Broward Sheriff’s Office is doing all we can to make a difference and end this deadly drug plague. BSO is a member of the Community Action Team, comprised of law enforcement, treatment providers, epidemiologists, first responders, physicians, the Broward Medical Association, Broward Health, Memorial Health, United Way and many others. The team has developed a three-pronged attack at ending this epidemic via a combination of enforcement, education and intervention. While BSO drug detectives and deputies are working at a feverish pace to enforce drug laws and arresting those responsible for selling these dangerous drugs, we are also educating the public through town hall meetings and community forums. Education campaigns also continue in middle and high schools, PTAs and community organizations. In addition, BSO has acquired funding to outfit hundreds of additional deputies, along with first responders from fire rescue, with the anti-narcotic overdose drug Narcan. That move will no doubt save lives. This war on opioids is not our first fight to end a drug epidemic gripping Broward. We’ve been here before and we’ve had much success. When the highly-dangerous, imported, designer drug Flakka suddenly appeared on the scene a few years ago and became an out-of-control local plague, we met it head on. Within months, we effectively stamped out the deadly drug from Broward’s streets. I am hopeful we will have similar success in the battle against opioids. If you know someone struggling with these dangerous drugs, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Call 2-1-1. The opioid crisis is very real and very deadly. But, together, BSO and our community partners are committed to ending this alarming epidemic and saving lives. Sheriff Scott Israel
Everyone deserves a second chance. As individuals, we undoubtedly will make mistakes. It’s how we learn from those mistakes and move forward that determine our resolve and shape the remainder of our lives. Yet for individuals attempting to re-enter society after a stint in prison, those second chances are fraught with countless pitfalls, complex obstacles and troubling temptations. Each year, the State of Florida releases nearly 2,500 felony inmates who return to Broward. Most come from disadvantaged backgrounds and communities, and many are severely undereducated—some reading at just a sixth grade level. With few skills and often without solid family support, nearly two out of every three will reoffend, leading to a vicious cycle of incarceration and resulting in repeated victimization, strained family relationships, damaged communities and increased costs for taxpayers. As Sheriff, I understand the importance of removing these barriers. Recently, the Broward Sheriff’s Office launched the ground-breaking inmate re-entry portal. In partnership with the Florida Department of Corrections and the Broward Re-Entry Coalition, the portal provides released inmates with quick, easy and effective access to community services, including potential housing, employment, transportation and health care, needed to ease the transition back into society. By providing these services, we are helping reduce crime by preventing the re-arrest of released inmates by as much as 50 percent, while assisting offenders in supporting their families, paying taxes and becoming productive, law-abiding citizens. It also has the added impact of saving money for taxpayers, who shell out a staggering $118 per day to keep each offender incarcerated. Simply put, the program bolsters public safety, saves dollars and makes sense. It is already producing results. Take Carlos H., for example. Carlos has been part of the program since February, after serving 3 ½ years in prison. He’s been in this position of transition before, only to find himself quickly reoffending. With the help of the program, Carlos has received assistance in putting food on his table, a place to sleep, transportation access and gainful employment. More importantly, Carlos believes the portal is giving him his best chance at turning his life around. “I can’t tell you enough what this is doing for me,” Carlos says. “I love everything about it. By the grace of God, I feel like it’s giving me the best chance of coming back into society and succeeding. I feel blessed.”The portal is the latest tool in BSO’s progressive community policing model. Over the past three years, BSO has instituted forward-thinking initiatives that have successfully tackled the most pressing law enforcement issues in the county. Since becoming Sheriff in 2013, violent crime is down 18 percent and burglaries have plummeted 42 percent. While I’m proud of these achievements, I have long maintained BSO is much more than just a law enforcement agency; we are part of the community. Though enforcing the law and catching bad guys will always remain a major part of what we do every day, I have made it a priority to change BSO’s culture from reactive to proactive. I believe we can prevent some crimes from occurring through progressive public safety and social service initiatives. The portal is the logical next step in the evolution of law enforcement at BSO—and one that will continue to make Broward safer and more united. Sheriff Scott Israel
For nearly 40 years, I’ve personally witnessed Broward grow into the enormous economic engine, tourism hotspot and all-around great place to live that it is today. This tremendous growth and prosperity, no doubt, was fueled by its residents—a vibrant melting pot of diverse people, cultures and communities.
Historically, public safety agencies often failed to adequately resemble the diverse communities they protected, and they struggled to connect with them. This has been an issue nationwide. When law enforcement fails to mirror its diverse communities, it can often cause a breakdown in trust—especially in the aftermath of tragic incidents.
When I first took office in 2013, I directed a significant cultural change within the Broward Sheriff’s Office to prioritize diversity within our ranks. To serve the citizens of Broward to the best of our abilities, we must look like the citizens we police. We must ensure that the deputies on the street protecting our community are also protecting their own community.
Today, the percentage of minorities employed in sworn positions at BSO is proudly greater than the percentage of minorities in Broward County's population as a whole. And that diversity is growing throughout every corner of the agency. BSO has boosted the percentage of black employees by three percent, including law enforcement deputies, where they had been underrepresented in the past. And fire rescue, traditionally nationwide one of the least racially-diverse public safety services, is also becoming more diverse. A majority of the new firefighters hired in the last four years have been a combination of minorities and women. And, impressively, minorities hold senior command positions today – reaching to the highest ranks – throughout BSO.
BSO also proudly employs many strong, dedicated women throughout the agency in sworn and non-sworn positions alike. They play a vital role in all aspects, and their presence at times brings a different and welcome perspective to public safety. We also recognize and celebrate the positive impact of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender personnel within our ranks and appreciate their many contributions to our agency’s successes.
We have diversified BSO by creating a dedicated recruitment team that reaches out to minority communities, including participation in job fairs, in the schools and through other proactive outreach opportunities. We have made great strides and will continue to do so through our hiring process. But make no mistake. Each of these men and women have earned their positions through their hard work and dedication. I will always base personnel decisions on the qualifications of the individual and the skills he or she brings to the job. When you hire or promote the best person for the right position, diversity happens naturally.
There is still work to be done, but I am thrilled at how far we have come. Today, BSO is more inclusive than ever before, and our diverse workforce is building bridges across our multicultural community that is leading to a safer and smarter Broward County.
Sheriff Scott Israel
The Broward Sheriff’s Office is thriving; violent crime has plummeted since 2012, morale is up and transparency and accountability have never been greater. Yet our successes are not ours alone. Thanks to our Uniting Broward initiative, citizens from all walks of life are playing a critical role in keeping our communities safe by providing vital input, innovative ideas and key support. Together, we’re building bridges and opening up new channels of dialogue through this progressive and ground-breaking program, which actively unites Broward’s diverse communities together by better understanding the special things that make us different. By uniting neighbors to work together, we can find local solutions to local issues and achieve public safety goals.
Our county’s 1.8 million residents are comprised of people from many races, religions and cultures, each with different needs. I realize there is no one-size-fits-all approach to public safety, especially in a minority-majority county like ours. That is why I have made it one of my top priorities to bridge the gap between communities and law enforcement by earning your trust and extending the lines of communication.
My message to you: I hear you loud and clear and your opinions matter. With the community’s input, we have made significant strides in reshaping the mission of BSO as an agency determined to be proactive rather than reactive. BSO has proven this by implementing high-profile initiatives, such as the progressive body-worn camera and civil citation programs.
Yet equally important is Uniting Broward—an initiative that has already led to a transformational shift in community policing and has provided a voice to the once voiceless. Since becoming sheriff, I have made it a point to be front and center, interacting with members of the community and listening to their concerns firsthand. In addition, BSO has played an active role in scores of community events for important organizations that share ideas and information for Broward’s varied communities.
We have also forged strong partnerships with the vast and diverse communities of faith through our Department of Community Outreach and the chaplain’s office. As a member of a blended family of Jewish and Christian faiths, religion plays an important role in my life. While the beliefs of various religions may differ, I know they all strive to strengthen society and humanity. I have learned through my attendance at many different religious services and secular events, what matters to each community and how best to respond.
The spirit of inclusion also runs deep throughout the agency. While we hire and promote our hardworking men and women based on their talents and abilities, we encourage ethnic pride, religious heritage and cultural inclusiveness. We also recognize and celebrate the positive impact of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Join me as we celebrate diversity, safety and security at the Uniting Broward event from 10 a.m. - 3p.m. June 11 at Miramar Regional Park. The event is an exciting opportunity for law enforcement and residents to listen understand and build connections. The celebration will include demonstrations from the Aviation Unit, K-9, SWAT Team, Fire Rescue, Bomb Squad and Police Athletic League Boxing Program. BSO is much more than a law enforcement agency; we’re part of the community. By working together to teach, inspire and motivate each other, we all do our part in Uniting Broward.
For more than three years, I have had the honor of serving as your sheriff. All of our efforts here at the Broward Sheriff’s Office are aimed at continually improving public safety services and enhancing the quality of life for all Broward County residents. As sheriff, the responsibility to keep communities safe falls squarely on my shoulders—and it’s a task I do not take lightly. Under my leadership, our dedicated sworn and civilian professionals have done an amazing job and helped launch groundbreaking initiatives that make a real difference. Our agency’s accomplishments are vast and grow every day. Since taking office in 2013, violent crime has plummeted, thanks in part to the Violence Intervention Proactive Enforcement Response (VIPER) Unit, a crime-fighting initiative that targets Broward County’s most dangerous violent criminals. Burglaries have also taken a significant dive since our 2014 creation of the Burglary Apprehension Team (BAT) to combat the rash of residential burglaries. In total, Broward County crime rates are at the lowest point in decades. Though it’s important to rid our neighborhoods of dangerous felons, I am also mindful we need to distinguish those from young people who make an isolated mistake and others who are wrestling with substance abuse and mental health issues. Through the Civil Citation Program, we have made positive strides in cutting the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline by keeping countless young people out of our jails and courtrooms by offering in-school alternatives to criminal arrests. We have made significant inroads with our Homeless Outreach Initiative, which connects the homeless to appropriate social services while treating them with dignity and respect instead of arresting them. I have also worked tirelessly to bring transparency and build community trust further in BSO with our proactive body worn camera initiative. Our program was recently expanded to set us on course ultimately to equip all uniformed law enforcement deputies with body cameras. It will serve three important purposes: help protect good deputies from false accusations, gather evidence to support our arrests and protect the public from the isolated instances of officer misconduct. Despite our agency’s achievements, this is hardly a time to take a victory lap. That is why I’m seeking county funding of a training salary for 40 police cadet positions. BSO never paid a cadet salary in the past, and this is making us uncompetitive in recruiting new deputies. We must never forget that the hardworking and dedicated men and women in uniform are the backbone of this agency and responsible for the community’s safety, and BSO needs to continue to recruit the best to wear our gold star. Sadly, in today’s climate of national distrust, it is not easy being a law enforcement official. As a result, there has been a significant drop in the number of prospective law enforcement candidates. In order to recruit top-tier individuals, BSO—like most other agencies—must start paying a cadet’s salary while they go through the academy. The small investment per cadet is well worth the cost.
We encourage the county to use creative funding approaches that do not require any increase in the property tax millage rates. The county has rainy-day funds set aside in other accounts, including non-essential reserves, that we hope they will consider using for these public safety needs. I am a staunch proponent of saving tax dollars, but savings lives must always take priority. So while we celebrate our successes at BSO, I promise we will not rest on our laurels. Together, we can—and we must—build upon our strong foundation to ensure a safer and more prosperous future for all of us. Sheriff Scott Israel
Few occasions in our lives produce more lasting memories than our high school proms. The pomp and pageantry is unforgettable as we bid farewell to more than a decade of schooling and the treasured friendships forged throughout our childhood. It culminates in a night of fun and frivolity before we embark on the next journey in our lives.
As a father of triplets, I witnessed that joy and excitement just a couple years ago as my sons and daughter headed out to their high school proms. The excitement I felt for them as they basked in the enthusiasm of prom night, however, was masked somewhat by my own worry. As a father and law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, I have the unique experience and unfortunate perspective of personally witnessing the darker side of prom season. Far too often, happy times can turn tragic — often the result of someone intoxicated getting behind the wheel of a car.
Here are some sad and sobering facts:
Instead of celebrating the occasion responsibly, many teens use it as an excuse to get intoxicated. A recent study found that more than 40 percent of teens said it was likely they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol on prom night. To make matters worse, many teens drink in excess. According to a separate study, more than 50 percent of teens admitted to drinking four or more alcoholic beverages during prom night.
Keeping our kids safe has always been a priority. That is why, as prom season kicks into high gear, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and a host of community partners team up to raise awareness in the battle to eliminate drunk driving. We want to see our teens enjoy a safe and memorable prom season.
Each year, BSO presents important programs to warn and inform teens of the serious consequences of impaired driving. One such program is Prom Promise, where Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue firefighters/paramedics conduct a vehicle crash scenario of what happens when someone is involved in a crash. The presentation can be quite intense and real — but it reinforces the dangers and potentially fatal consequences of drinking and driving.
We also work closely with the Meagan Napier Foundation, created and run by the mother of a teen killed by a drunk driver. Renee Napier, whose daughter Meagan and her friend Lisa Dickson were killed in a 2002 car accident, co-presents with Eric Smallridge, the drunk driver responsible for taking their lives. Renee and Eric share the story of heart-wrenching tragedy and the painful aftermath on all the participants. BSO also continues to be a proud supporter of other community organizations devoted to stamping out drunk driving, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Our young sons and daughters should dance, have fun and make lasting memories this prom season. But, above all, they should also be safe. Parents: please speak with your children. Remind them to protect their futures by making good choices – before a night to remember turns into one we’d all like to forget.
"911; what is your emergency?" These are words you never want to hear, but for our E-911 call takers, they are all too familiar. BSO’s call takers and dispatchers are the first of the first responders, responsible not only for receiving incoming emergency calls, but also for assessing the importance of an emergency and dispatching the appropriate resources and personnel to an incident. In 2015, we handled 2.5 million calls from our community through our three regional E-911 centers. That is almost 7,000 calls that we receive each and every day. During each call, the men and women behind the calm voices on the other end of the phone line are tasked with getting as much pertinent information from the caller as possible while directing emergency services to a scene that could be dangerous for everyone involved. The call taker is quickly trying to figure out the who, what, when, where and why of a situation. They know that the more information our law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency personnel have when they arrive on the scene, the quicker they can assess a situation and take appropriate action. All medical calls are dictated by specific National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch protocols. Every one of our almost 500 call takers is also specially trained to relay these important medical instructions in the critical time when emergency services are on their way. This training is necessary to talk callers through any conceivable emergency including those requiring CPR, helping the caller recognize the strength and severity of a stroke or seizure and sometimes even relaying labor and delivery instructions for births. Although these are extraordinary events in a person’s life, they are daily occurrences that our operators handle. Our call takers know that seconds can make the difference between life and death. When I became sheriff, I mandated that our operators receive a specialized Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) course. CIT training was developed to provide a more intelligent, more effective and safer approach to mental health crises. This training gives our operators the tools they need to determine if a call involves a mental health concern and the steps they can take to help defuse the situation. The operator can also determine if one of our many CIT-trained deputies needs to be dispatched to help assist in a more careful, understanding manner. Our mission at BSO is to provide the best possible communications services not only to the deputies, firefighters and paramedics we serve, but also to the residents and visitors who may need us at any hour. Too often, the efforts of emergency call takers and dispatchers are taken for granted, but in many instances, they are the unseen heroes of our agency. In April we honor public safety telecommunicators, and I wanted to highlight these professional and dedicated men and women. They work tirelessly as the critical link between our community and emergency services. Sheriff Scott Israel
As young children, many of us dream of becoming police officers or firefighters. I remember spending many a childhood afternoon and weekend imitating public safety professionals. With toy handcuffs at the ready or a small garden hose standing in as a fire hose, my friends and I role-played for hours as we rushed to help those in need. We chased down the bad guys who needed to be brought to “justice.” For me, that childhood passion translated into a long and fruitful career in law enforcement. For nearly four decades, I’ve had the good fortune of performing challenging, yet rewarding, work where I’ve made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of people with whom I’ve come into contact. Yet, while law enforcement officers and firefighters are the public face of public safety, there are many other positions that are less visible but no less important. The Broward Sheriff’s Office is looking for more good men and women to join our team in the critically-important positions of E911 Communications operators, detention deputies and Child Protective Investigations Section (CPIS) investigators. Communications operators are the lifeline between the community and first responders. These unsung heroes do far more than just answer 911 phone calls – they are the quarterbacks of public safety. They offer lifesaving instructions and provide a calming presence while obtaining the critical information necessary to direct emergency response teams to where they need to go. These workers undergo months of intensive training to learn the ins and outs of public safety – and their impact is immeasurable. The same can be said of our detention deputies. Each day, these men and women are charged not only with maintaining order and discipline among detainees in our jails – the 12th largest jail system in the nation – but also ensuring the safety and security of the detainees, the public and other fellow law enforcement and detention personnel. As rehabilitation is a top priority at BSO, detention deputies also have the unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of detainees because of their close and frequent interactions with them. Finally, BSO’s CPIS investigators dedicate their careers to ensuring our community’s children are safer and more secure. These professionals investigate allegations of child abuse, abandonment or neglect – and work with families for the protection of their children. They also provide assistance to improve parenting capacities and strengthen families with a focus on enhancing child safety. All three of these positions at BSO are tremendously rewarding careers. BSO also offers competitive salaries, an outstanding work environment and amazing benefits, including low-cost medical insurance, retirement pension and generous vacation leave. At BSO, you also have the opportunity to work for the largest fully-accredited public safety agency and one of the most respected in the country. With that comes bountiful opportunities for advancement. Don’t settle for a job – embark on a career. Come join us at BSO and make a difference in your community. Explore these and many other opportunities – and apply online – at jobs.sheriff.org.
As sheriff of Broward County, I have worked to bring transparency and accountability to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. It is an imperative element needed to maintain community trust. Body-worn cameras are a key to providing this public accountability.
It is important that you see the many great things our deputies do right day in and day out, but the few times we make mistakes and do things wrong, we must also be accountable. There is no better way of seeing what actually happened than a visual record of an incident. The public and law enforcement officers have a right to see and hear what goes on in the street when we do our jobs.
On my orders, BSO has already begun the process of implementing body cameras for our uniformed road patrol deputies. The use of this technology will protect good deputies from false accusations, build evidence to increase conviction rates for the criminals we arrest and help protect the public from the isolated instances of officer misconduct. Recording the interactions between our deputies and community members will help improve officer safety, strengthen trust and transparency and better document incidents and crimes.
The results from law enforcement agencies around the country that use body cameras are encouraging. These agencies saw a drop in use-of-force incidents. The best example is the Oakland Police Department in California, which has 800 body cameras in use – the most of any U.S. police force as of this writing. Since the deployment of body cameras, the department has seen a sharp decline in attacks on officers and officer-involved shootings. At the same time, arrests in Oakland have stayed consistent with past numbers, dismissing a belief that the body cameras cause law enforcement officers to hesitate when they see something wrong occurring. Other departments with body cameras have posted similar positive results.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office currently has nearly 100 body cameras in use where they can be most effective. We are currently equipping road patrol deputies, who have the most interaction with the public. We are already in the process of widening this safety campaign to acquire more body cameras. It is my intention for all uniformed deputies agency wide to wear them while on duty.
There will be only two kinds of law enforcement agencies in the future: those that start using body cameras reactively because something terrible happened and those that use them because they proactively realize the great benefit of the devices. WE ARE PROACTIVE. Hesitation to use body cameras could only serve to erode the solid trust we have built within our community.
I believe body cameras are a win-win for our hard working deputies and for all residents of Broward County.
How many more innocent lives must perish before our legislators pass meaningful and common sense gun legislation? How many more tragic attacks like those at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Sandy Hook Elementary and the Pulse nightclub need to occur before rational thought prevails? Broward mourns five more lives lost in a tragic mass shooting – especially as this one occurred in our own backyard. It should be clear to everyone that dangerous individuals like alleged airport shooter Esteban Santiago, who clearly demonstrated signs of mental illness, should never have been allowed to own a gun. In fact, any person suffering from certain disqualifying mental illness should not be able to buy, possess or carry any type of firearm – period. The same applies to convicted felons and individuals who are on the federal government’s terrorist “no-fly” list. We shouldn't be allowing people in these narrow categories to buy or carry firearms. The statistics are telling. In just the last 12 months alone, 76 innocent victims died and scores more were injured due to U.S. mass shootings. Yet unbelievably, some argue arming more individuals is the solution. That goes for some legislators in Tallahassee, who appear more concerned about passing laws written by the gun lobbyists that would allow guns into classrooms and government meetings. That dangerous line of thinking will only lead to further violence and bloodshed. As Sheriff of one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, I understand public safety better than gun industry lobbyists and those elected officials who help advance their agenda. I can say with certainty that more guns are not the answer. Imagine the chaos if everyone at the airport was armed with a firearm. Countless individuals would certainly have been caught in the wild crossfire and hit by stray bullets. One study which examined New York’s annual firearms discharge reports showed police officers hit their targets 34 percent of the time. The hit ratio was even lower at other agencies. If law enforcement officers who carry guns daily and regularly train are successful at hitting their targets at that rate, it is clear that ordinary citizens would be significantly less accurate. It would also make the job of law enforcement far more difficult and divert them from the real threat. In such a stressful and chaotic situation, with shots being fired in all directions, how could we expect law enforcement to recognize the good guys from the bad ones? The men and women of the Broward Sheriff's Office, local and federal law enforcement agencies and first responders did a phenomenal job rushing into a dangerous and chaotic situation. These heroes put their lives at risk to protect residents and visitors alike. We shouldn’t make it even more dangerous for them. Let me be clear: gun control isn’t about restricting freedom or taking firearms legally obtained by law-abiding citizens. Instead, it is about common sense laws that help identify people with a history of criminal convictions, violence, certain high-risk mental illnesses or are on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. For years, I have been on the forefront in demanding common sense gun legislation, including closing the gun show loophole, reinstating the assault weapons ban and fighting against open carry laws. It’s time our elected officials in Tallahassee and Washington finally do the same and tackle this life-threatening issue once and for all.
With more than 350 mass shootings in the United States in 2015, gun violence weighs heavily in everyone’s thoughts. Having more guns brandished openly on our streets is not the answer, yet that is exactly what will happen if a very dangerous bill passes in Tallahassee this year.
The “open carry” bill would further weaken Florida’s already permissive gun laws by allowing concealed weapon permit holders to carry their guns openly and visibly virtually anywhere. This “Wild West” open carry proposal would make Florida a more dangerous and menacing place, not a safer place. That is why the Florida Sheriffs’ Association voted overwhelmingly to oppose this reckless proposal.
The U.S. Supreme Court has solidly recognized second amendment constitutional rights; but, as the Court has repeatedly made clear, these second amendment rights are not absolute. Reasonable restrictions are not only constitutionally allowed but are essential to protect public safety.
Our laws already allow gun purchase rights and gun possession rights without the need of a permit in our homes, vehicles and the great outdoors. Public carrying of a gun is also allowed by existing law, but requires a permit based upon a background check and training. A person with the permit may legally carry a gun in public in a concealed manner. Defeating the open carry proposal would do nothing to curtail any existing gun rights in Florida.
Even those openly carrying a firearm can end up less safe than before. Carrying a firearm openly can make you a target of hardened criminals who will try to steal your gun and possibly use it on you or even follow you home and break in to steal it when you’re not there. Those criminals might be deterred from trying to steal a trained law enforcement officer’s gun, but many will not hesitate to try to take one from a civilian.
Respected studies, including one from Yale University, found that right-to-carry laws have little or no effect on reducing crime. In fact, the studies found that aggravated assaults increased.
Black Friday 2015 gun purchases sadly set a new record in our state, with almost 15,000 people buying guns. This unsettling number is up nearly 2,000 from 2013. Gun control isn’t about restricting freedom or taking firearms legally obtained by law-abiding citizens. Instead, it is about common sense laws that help identify people with a history of violence or mental illness or who are on the FBI’s Terrorist Watchlist.
I hope our elected officials in Tallahassee listen to the concern of Florida’s sheriffs – Democrats and Republicans alike – because we understand public safety better than gun industry lobbyists. I plan to testify in Tallahassee against this bill as well as against the “College Carry” bill to allow guns on school grounds. I invite you to join me in letting your legislators know your opinion.
Thank you, Broward! I am extremely humbled and grateful for your support and overwhelming vote of confidence. On January 3, I will take the oath of office for my second term as Sheriff. This distinct honor is more than a personal victory for me — it’s a victory for all the amazing men and women of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and for those in our community who support our public safety mission. When I first took office four years ago, I promised to bring fresh ideas to BSO. The ways of the past – where our young sons and daughters were sent to jail for minor infractions, and produced soaring crime rates – was not acceptable. As head of the nation’s largest fully-accredited Sheriff’s agency, BSO is expected to set an example for other law enforcement agencies around the country to follow. Through effective and innovative programs, BSO delivered on these promises—and I’m extremely proud that our dedicated sworn and civilian personnel are a shining example of everything law enforcement should strive to be. Each day, BSO makes a real difference in all of our diverse communities. Crime is at historic lows, our children are given every opportunity to succeed and Broward is safer and more united than ever before. But we cannot be content to rest upon our current successes. As we move forward into the new year and my second term as Sheriff, we also begin writing a new chapter. The successes of the past four years laid a solid foundation and serve as a launching pad for bigger and better things to come. In the coming months, BSO will roll out numerous initiatives and programs focused on both ensuring the safety of all Broward’s residents, while also taking steps to improve their quality of life. These initiatives will tackle pressing problems with common-sense solutions. As you may know, helping children mature into successful adults is my highest priority. The civil citation and P.R.O.M.I.S.E. programs are huge successes, and I believe an expansion of these programs can produce even more significant results. We must also continue to help those suffering from mental health issues. These are not problem people, but people with problems. We are working on multiple programs to provide them with the assistance they need and deserve. Addressing this issue is a great way we can reduce the growing number of incidents of violence and prevent them from happening here. Mental illness isn’t a crime, and incarceration shouldn’t be the solution. Changes within BSO will also continue to progress. Our proactive body-worn camera initiative will expand so that all uniformed law enforcement deputies will be equipped with body cameras by the end of 2017. The program is our most visible commitment to providing transparency and enhancing community trust. And, finally, BSO will continue to become more reflective of our multicultural county. Thanks again for your continued support, and I look forward to unveiling more exciting programs to make Broward an even better place to live. From all of us at BSO, my best wishes for a happy, healthy and blessed new year. Sheriff Scott Israel
Burglary is one of the most disturbing, traumatizing crimes, and many will be a victim at least once in a lifetime. Anyone, in any neighborhood, can be the victim of a burglary. Burglars these days are not just looking for valuable items, but are often also seeking personal information that can lead to identity theft and fraud. Last January, following six months of investigation and surveillance, BSO’s Burglary Apprehension Team (BAT) arrested the suspected ringleader and a group of his accomplices from a large burglary gang responsible for over 100 residential break-ins throughout Broward County. The gang liked to kick down the front doors of homes – typically in broad daylight when they believed the owner was out – and quickly steal jewelry, electronics, personal information and anything else of value.Unfortunately for these dangerous criminals, our innovative BAT shut them down. This arrest was just one of many early successes since I created the unit in 2014. Most recently, BAT helped apprehend the teenager responsible for a rash of dozens of car smash-and-grab burglaries plaguing Oakland Park. Since BAT was created, the team helped reduce burglaries in our community by 31% in 2014 (the highest rate of decline statewide) – and we’ve seen an additional 16% drop already in January - September 2015. In just 17 months since being launched, the BAT made 203 felony and misdemeanor arrests for numerous crimes including burglary, dealing in stolen property, grand theft, grand theft auto and active warrants for armed kidnapping, lewd and lascivious molestation and other violent crimes. BAT also recovered more than $21,000 in cash and seized stolen guns from the hands of criminals. The priority of BAT is to identify and arrest those responsible for residential burglaries in Broward County, which most often occur when people are at work or school. The team’s tactics are generally the surveillance of burglary “hot spots” and known or suspected burglars, plus the use of cutting-edge law enforcement technology. The team consists of eight detectives from assorted BSO districts and a BSO sergeant assigned to our countywide regional services. On most days, at least one or two municipal police officers join our BSO detectives to help apprehend suspects who operate across the borders of various local cities when committing their burglaries. The BAT works closely with detectives from many local police departments, including Wilton Manors, Plantation, Margate and Coral Springs. This joint effort has solved burglaries that occurred across Broward County. BAT has also joined forces with the Boca Raton Police Department and the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office to form a multi-jurisdictional burglary task force. The pooling of law enforcement investigators is a vital part of the teamwork that makes BAT so effective. Crooks don’t hesitate to cross city or county borders, so neither does the BAT. You may not see a “BAT signal” in the sky, but this specialized unit is working around the clock to stop burglars and protect your home. BAT’s proactive tactics help stop break-ins before they occur, making Broward County a safer place for all of us.
Aretha Franklin said it best when she sang about the importance of being shown a little respect. We all know the foundation of a strong relationship is built on this important quality. It's even more important when it comes to law enforcement and how we interact with people in all the diverse communities we serve.
That's why I'm thrilled to announce that the Broward Sheriff's Office is launching the Respect Campaign. Beginning this month, and running throughout the year, our Respect Campaign will highlight all the ways BSO's dedicated men and women in law enforcement, detention, fire rescue and civilian positions build stronger community connections and the many ways we work to get even better.
Throughout the year, we will share stories through our social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as on our website at www.sheriff.org, showcasing the interactions and people who make a huge difference in ways both big and small.
Stories that highlight BSO's respect for our profession and respect for the communities we protect. The people who go above and beyond. And the daily interactions with our community's children – and the acts of compassion that go a long way – in ensuring the safety and well-being for all.
We're also taking the opportunity to look at how we can improve and become even more responsive to the needs of Broward County's two million residents and many visitors. As part of the effort, we developed a new internal training video that stresses the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect – and how it produces lasting, positive benefits. We're also seeking feedback from members of our community to help us get even better. After all, listening—truly listening—to others and using their views as meaningful guidance is one of the most sincere forms of respect.
This Respect Campaign is the next advancement in our Uniting Broward initiative, BSO's key community outreach effort which actively unites Broward's vibrant and diverse community groups across racial, religious, ethnic, cultural and sexual orientation boundaries, to make Broward a better and safer place to live, work and raise a family.
As a law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, I quickly learned that treating everyone with the kindness and respect they deserve produces massive results. That's why I've made community policing a cornerstone of my belief system and have made it a priority during my time at BSO.
Far too often we focus only on the small number of bad people, when we should also be focused on the 99 percent who are good people. These are the people that can and will make a difference, and help us make Broward even safer. If you treat people with respect, they are more likely to approach law enforcement with tips or seeking help for a problem before it spirals out of control and becomes a public safety issue.
So to quote Aretha Franklin, I'm excited for you to find out what a little respect means to me … and to BSO.
Providing top-quality service to the residents of Broward County is one of the top priorities of the Broward Sheriff's Office. Whether it's a prompt response to a 911 emergency call or the many ways our first responders go above and beyond to provide helpful support, we are constantly striving to make the lives of those we serve better, safer and easier.
As part of our ongoing efforts, BSO is launching a much-improved sheriff.org. At BSO, we are always at the forefront of emerging trends and technologies. That is why we were one of the first public safety agencies in the nation to maintain a true online presence. Through the last two decades, many residents have come to rely on sheriff.org and our online social media pages for a variety of services and resources. Now, we are getting even better!
With many improvements, the new sheriff.org is keeping a lot of the features you love, but we redesigned the website to make it cleaner to navigate and easier on the eye – and we added a plethora of beautiful photographs. More importantly, we are making it far more user-friendly and easier to find what's important to you.
With one click, visitors to our website can do everything from requesting a report, to filing a commendation or complaint. You can also visit our crime mapping feature that allows you to track where crimes are occurring nearby (and keep tabs on registered sex offenders and predators living in your neighborhood). We are also making it far easier to find information about your local BSO district offices, civil procedures and our jails.
Looking for a job? Look no further than the top of the homepage to discover all the amazing opportunities available at BSO and even apply online from the comforts of your own home. And, yes, we are hiring.
Our commitment to connect better with the diverse communities we serve continues through our webpage, where we added features intended to unite and strengthen Broward. Now, users can easily keep on top of upcoming BSO events, such as shred-a-thons and grocery giveaways that visitors might not otherwise know about. You can find our calendar of events featured prominently on our homepage. We also added a tab on the website where you can read about BSO's signature community outreach initiatives, including Uniting Broward, body-worn cameras, community policing and civil citations.
Of course, protecting our communities and keeping us safe remains our primary mission. Through our new community resources link, we are constantly adding educational brochures and information on a variety of public safety topics, including how best to protect yourself from identity theft, sexual assault, burglary and bullying. You can also find vital public safety tips and messages in the featured video section on our homepage.
I am thrilled at all the amazing improvements we are making online and invite you all to visit and explore our improved sheriff.org website.
In August, BSO had the great honor of hosting the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) International Conference. This opportunity to share and exchange best practices for mental health treatment with police departments around the world was a testament to how far we've come as an agency.
Since police officers are typically the first responders to psychiatric emergencies, I made it a priority that our deputies receive training to handle mental health incidents more capably.
If someone falls and breaks a bone, the next step is immediately clear: a trip to the emergency room. If someone suffers a psychotic break, a solution is not as easily prescribed.
We were recently called to the home of a 25-year-old man who had become enraged and verbally aggressive, threatening his mother. She had retreated to her vehicle and locked the doors. The son followed, pulling the driver's side handle repeatedly with force, breaking it off. He then started punching the car window. Fearing for her safety, the mother drove to the community gatehouse and implored the security guard to call 9-1-1.
Sadly, the mother knew the routine. She supplied the necessary information - location of the house, details of the incident, the age and height of her son and what he was wearing. She also communicated that her son had been diagnosed with psychotic behavioral issues, was not being medicated and may have been carrying a knife. The mother suggested he needed to be Baker Acted, a process under Florida law which allows an individual to be taken to a medical facility for involuntary examination and initial treatment.
Fortunately, the mother also knew to specifically ask for a CIT-trained deputy to interact with her son.
BSO's CIT deputies receive specialized training, which helps them identify and more effectively engage an individual suffering a mental health crisis. Based on the nationally recognized "Memphis Model," the course was established nearly 30 years ago following the death of a man with mental illness who charged police with a knife. The model provides a more intelligent, compassionate and safer approach to these types of incidents. One of the keys is de-escalation. In situations where moods and actions can shift and escalate quickly and unpredictably, the first few moments of verbal contact are critical to calming individuals.
Our 9-1-1 operators, who also take a CIT course, quickly assess incoming calls and determine the emergency response required. In this case, Deputy Jeffrey Smith, a CIT-trained, 34-year veteran of the Broward Sheriff's Office, was dispatched.
Initiating conversation, he immediately noticed the young man was confused, incoherent and rambling. Deputy Smith recognized the signs and symptoms of mental illness and knew professional treatment was required.
"You talk to people in an upset state as best as you can without getting hands-on," Deputy Smith says, who engaged the young man verbally for over a half hour before getting him safely out to a vehicle.
On the ride to the hospital, they continued the conversation, exemplifying the good rapport and positive relationship the two established on scene and reinforcing why CIT-trained law enforcement professionals like Deputy Smith are essential to effective policing. If this was in a community without CIT-trained police officers, the young man might have been confronted by an officer who did not know how best to approach the situation. It may have escalated, possibly ending in arrest or something far worse.
Since taking office more than four years ago, I directed that every one of our deputies become CIT-trained. Before I took office, there were only 173 active deputies with this specialized training in our entire agency. Today, roughly 700 of our active deputies are CIT-trained. And, within the next few years, we will reach our goal of having all BSO deputies complete the CIT training program. This will better allow us to serve those in our community who struggle every day with mental illness.
The unimaginable horrors of the 9/11 terror attacks remain as painful today as they did that fateful Tuesday morning 16 years ago. None of us will ever forget where we were as the chaos and carnage unfolded—and nearly 3,000 innocent souls perished—before our eyes. The heinous assault forever altered the course of history and our lives.
Yet we rose from the ashes and smoldering remains a stronger nation—a nation which courageously channeled its fear, anguish and anger into constructive action that has produced positive results for our country and at home here in Broward County.
Though we can never and should never claim victory in the war against terror, Broward is safer today as a result of the efforts by the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Since 2001, BSO has undergone transformational changes and has forged a strong spirit of cooperation with numerous law enforcement entities. Today, we’re working smarter and training harder as part of our relentless mission to keep residents and visitors out of harm’s way. After all, if you’re not prepared, you’re prepared to fail.The efforts begin with the work our dedicated men and women perform each day, including individuals who serve in various roles and perform critical tasks as part of BSO’s Homeland Security Unit. This specialized unit includes Intelligence, the Bomb Squad and the Covert Electronic Surveillance Unit, and is a vital component to combatting terrorism.
This unit’s importance was seen in January during the shooting at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood international Airport. Within 30 minutes, our Homeland Security Unit knew the attacker’s identity and gathered a dossier of information about him and his possible motives and affiliations.
In addition, BSO has dedicated personnel assigned to the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (SFJTTF). The task force, comprised of local, state and federal authorities, helps protect our nation by serving as valuable conduits for sharing vital homeland security information and countering domestic terrorism.
With increased interagency communication and bolstered investigative prowess, numerous potential terror attacks have been thwarted. In 2012, the SFJTTF arrested two brothers from Oakland Park who planned on carrying out bombing attacks in New York. BSO and the task force were also critical in halting a potential bombing at an Aventura synagogue last year.
However, our work is far from over. While BSO and law enforcement agencies throughout the country have had incredible success in preventing another 9/11-style attack, there are still challenges ahead. Chief amongst those is the ever-changing face of terrorism.
As we’ve seen from the attacks at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, today’s attacks are largely perpetrated by individuals or small groups with no known ties to established terror groups. These home-grown killers will use any means necessary to inflict as much death and destruction as they can. Many are self-radicalized through the internet—which makes it difficult to spot early warning signs. In essence, the internet is law enforcement’s biggest challenge to combatting terror.
To counter that challenge, we need the assistance of members of the community. Please, always remain vigilant and alert. If you see something, say something. Together, we are stronger in our fight against terror.
When I talk with residents in the community, I’m often asked if the Broward Sheriff’s Office has been able to make real improvements to keep our county and its 1.8 million residents safer and more secure. The short answer: Absolutely yes! When I became Sheriff in January 2013, Broward was in the midst of a public safety crisis. Crime had soared to unacceptable highs; our homeless and mentally ill were being treated as criminals; we were sending far too many kids to jail; and we had an agency that both failed to resemble our diverse community and struggled to connect with it. What a difference almost four years of hard work and innovative ideas can make. Thanks to BSO’s amazing sworn and civilian personnel and the agency’s progressive law enforcement initiatives, violent crime in Broward has plummeted to its lowest levels in decades. We’ve reversed the long trend of rising crime by performing exceptional police work while incorporating new proactive approaches to crime fighting, including intelligence-led policing. Our Violence Intervention Proactive Enforcement Response (VIPER) Unit, a crime-fighting initiative that targets Broward County’s most dangerous violent criminals, and the Burglary Apprehension Team (BAT), which targets criminals who break into homes and vehicles, are two highly successful examples. Since 2012, violent offenses are down 18 percent while burglaries have plunged a stunning 42 percent because of these two initiatives. BSO has also been quick in confronting unforeseen, new law enforcement challenges. When the highly-dangerous designer drug Flakka suddenly appeared and became an out-of-control scourge in Broward, we met it head on. Within months, we effectively stamped out the deadly drug from Broward’s streets. Yet, while a strong response is warranted during certain circumstances, I am also mindful there is no one-size-fits-all approach to public safety. Through the Juvenile Civil Citation Program and P.R.O.M.I.S.E. Program, thousands of students have been kept in the classroom and out of the courtroom – avoiding criminal records while being given a chance to turn their lives around. We have also made dramatic strides with our Homeless Outreach Initiative, which connects the homeless to appropriate social services – treating them with dignity and respect instead of arrests and costly jail space. BSO has also diligently worked to bring transparency and build community trust by embracing a community policing model where law enforcement and members of Broward’s diverse communities work hand in hand to improve public safety services and make their own neighborhoods safer. Amazingly, we have accomplished far more by working with far less. As good stewards of taxpayer dollars, we have become more streamlined, smarter and efficient in tackling the public safety issues confronting us. In the years to come, I vow to continue to advance the mission and goals of BSO. My top priorities include: the expansion of our body-worn camera program so all deputies are equipped with the technology; the further development of the Civil Citation Program; and increased fraud protections for senior citizens. The past four years have brought about huge successes, and I am excited for what BSO has in store for the future. Sheriff Scott Israel
Shortly after I was elected Sheriff, I was invited to a local Boys and Girls Club to learn about the club and the children it serves. During that visit, I began playing basketball and closely interacting with one particular boy. As that Friday afternoon began to wind down, I noticed the counselors collecting backpacks and then handing them back out to some kids in the gym. One of those was the youngster with whom I was playing basketball. I soon learned his backpack was loaded with food so he would not go the full weekend without a decent meal. The food was the club’s way to help these kids make it through the hardest of times. I was both moved and motivated by this gesture – and it reignited my mission to bring meaningful community policing to the Broward Sheriff’s Office to help those in need. Community policing is a cornerstone of my law enforcement belief system. I learned from my late father and mentor, Sonny Israel – a life-long law enforcement officer, that the best way to protect the public is to build mutual trust and respect by treating people as friends and neighbors. Fighting crime isn’t only about catching bad guys. It starts by working hand in hand with the community as partners to prevent good kids from turning to a life of crime. Each day, our hard-working deputies interact with our diverse community and listen to their concerns firsthand. In addition, BSO plays an active role in scores of community events for important organizations that help Broward’s varied communities. These interactions are exciting opportunities for law enforcement and residents to listen, understand and build connections to help find customized local solutions to local problems. We work diligently to build community bridges that hadn’t existed in the past. Our Community Outreach Team – a program recommended by the United States Department of Justice policing studies – helps us build dynamic relationships with all those we serve. Our programs help connect the homeless and mentally ill to the social services they need. Our “Uniting Broward” initiative is already creating a transformational shift in community policing. And BSO also participates in countless neighborhood events, ranging from food giveaways to youth sports programs. The results are an amazing success. Today, community members are more at ease and bring matters to our attention – instead of waiting for them to escalate. And community policing, combined with intelligence-led policing, has caused Broward’s crime rates to plummet to the lowest rates in decades. Furthermore, a recent countywide poll indicated Broward residents personally have good experiences with law enforcement. The most important number: 85% of Broward residents said they have never had an “unpleasant experience” with law enforcement. To advance our community policing objectives further, BSO recently launched a new internal system to capture and analyze community policing efforts. With this new tool, we can now quantify the frequency of our community policing efforts and measure the positive impacts in the daily encounters that don’t involve any arrests or tickets. While I am proud of our community policing achievements, we are still constantly working on ways to get even better, and I am confident we will see more success for many years to come. Sheriff Scott Israel
Most of us have been touched in our lives by someone struggling with mental health illness or substance abuse issues. The deep personal pain of watching helplessly as our closest family members and friends spiral out of control is devastating. The fact is that nearly one in six young Americans will struggle with mental illness in their lifetime. As I often say, these are people with problems, not problem people. These illnesses and/or addictions are a disease, not an indication of someone’s worth in our society. In fact, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill both suffered from what is now today called clinical depression. Sadly, those suffering – often silently – can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Too frequently, the criminal justice system treated these individuals as criminals and locked them in jail – often for relatively minor offenses. My experience has shown that arresting a person with mental health issues does not address the problem. Instead, it adds to the problems the individual is already facing. Mental illness is not a crime, and incarceration – the most expensive social service option – is the least effective solution. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, addressing this issue is paramount, and diverting certain non-violent individuals into treatment (instead of incarceration) is our key objective. Already, we made great strides in tackling this public safety concern through proactive community policing, including increasing the number of deputies with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. CIT provides a non-violent solution focused upon de-escalating and assisting, not arresting. Recently, the community received a massive boost to the tune of a nearly $22 million grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families to establish a comprehensive system of behavioral health care via a new, specialized Centralized Receiving Facility. In partnership with Henderson Behavioral Health and other behavioral health providers, the facility will provide law enforcement officials with a one-stop assessment center for individuals they encounter exhibiting signs of mental illness or experiencing a crisis that requires mental health evaluation, intervention, and treatment. It will assist in determining if certain individuals can be successfully diverted from arrest, incarceration and criminal prosecution. Staffed 24/7/365 by human services professionals specializing in security, mental health, substance abuse, homeless services and case management, the center will focus on properly assessing individuals and linking them with appropriate, proven community providers for the help they need. BSO will remain in direct contact with these individuals and chart their progress through a continuum of care. We hope to deploy several centers strategically throughout the county in the coming months. It’s a win-win for both those struggling with mental illness and the community as a whole. The center will help increase behavioral health programming and services to at-risk individuals in a community setting – not behind bars. It will also have the added benefit of driving down the rearrest rate – leading to increased public safety gains – while reducing our jail population, where taxpayers shell out nearly $120 per day to keep each prisoner incarcerated. Individuals suffering from mental health illness deserve our support in helping them overcome their difficult situation – and I am excited for what this initiative will bring. Sheriff Scott Israel
Each holiday season, I reflect on the year past and give thanks for all life has provided. I am blessed with a brilliant, caring and beautiful wife, amazing and thoughtful children and good health. I also wake up every day humbled and grateful to serve the good people of Broward in the greatest job in the world. For many, however, the holidays are far from joyous. Sadly, many in our county struggle with day-to-day needs and are unable to put food on their tables – let alone buy gifts for their kids. No child should spend Christmas hungry. No parent should have to explain to their children why they didn’t receive a gift for Hanukkah. This holiday season, as in years past, the Broward Sheriff’s Office is doing its part through a variety of events and causes to provide a helping hand to lighten the burden, bring some joy and provide some hope for those struggling. One of our flagship events is “Bytes for Champions,” where school-aged children, chosen by their school resource deputy, will receive a tablet computer. The cause both awards deserving children and provides an educational component. We also distribute hundreds of turkey dinners to upwards of 2,000 people in need who would otherwise go without. We couldn’t do this without the support of numerous partners, including both the Broward Sheriff's Advisory Council and the Sheriff's Foundation of Broward County. These two incredible non-profit organizations provide year-round support to public safety in Broward and also to our community as a whole. While December may be the season of giving, our commitment to Broward’s communities extends year-round at BSO. Partnering up with a variety of altruistic businesses and charities – which defrays the cost to taxpayers – BSO hosts or sponsors a multitude of events ranging from grocery giveaways to charitable causes benefitting children with special needs. During one recent event, BSO and 25 Broward middle school students embarked on a four-hour fishing excursion as part of BSO’s “Cops and Kids United” initiative, a program created to build positive interactions between children and law enforcement. Why do we do this? As Sheriff, it is my job to ensure the safety of all Broward residents. I know the best way to protect Broward is not only to catch bad guys who committed a crime, but to prevent crime from occurring in the first place. Helping to relieve the stresses of hopelessness, frustration and despair is part of the solution. Proactive policies, such as community policing, strike at the heart of the problem before it spirals out of control. Troubled individuals are far more likely to steer clear of crime when their basic needs for food, shelter and treatment are met. The men and women of BSO give their time and devote their lives to ensure the betterment of our community. We’re not just here to protect you from danger and respond to life-threatening emergencies. Our jobs, our mission and our commitment lie in how we can make the lives of all Broward residents better. Like I always say: BSO is much more than just a law enforcement agency -- we’re part of the community. To all my friends and neighbors: Have a healthy, happy and safe holiday season. Sheriff Scott Israel
Fifteen years ago this month, our country endured the unimaginable. The terror attacks of 9/11 were an assault on each and every one of us—and forever changed the way we go about our lives. As we remember the nearly 3,000 innocent souls who perished that fateful day, we also must look toward the future and closer to home. While law enforcement agencies throughout the country have had incredible success in preventing another 9/11 and large-scale attack from occurring at American landmarks, we continue to face mounting security concerns at our soft targets—especially our vital houses of worship and lively community centers. Sadly, these important institutions, because of their very welcoming and open-door nature, face special security risks each and every day. These foundations of a civil and enlightened society have tragically become targets for individuals and groups who are intent on seeking to inflict harm, either because they are fueled by hate or suffering from mental illness. From the deplorable church shooting in Charleston, S.C., to the relentless threats against synagogues and mosques, to the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, heinous attacks of terror and hate have become far too common. In light of these recent events, the Broward Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with the Anti-Defamation League, hosted its Annual Security Conference last month to combat the rash of attacks and threats proactively. By working closely together with BSO and security experts, these important houses of worship and community centers can better protect their institutions and congregations. The exchange of information with the community is an integral aspect of our security goals. The best defense in keeping us safe is a good offense. By providing practical security information, attendees are empowered with the knowledge necessary to keep their institutions secure. By understanding that security is an ongoing commitment and something on the forefront of their minds at all times, institutions can better balance their openness with safety. At this year’s conference, scores of law enforcement officers and representatives from dozens of synagogues, churches, mosques, and other religious institutions and community centers came out to learn how to build a culture of security 24/7. BSO officials and private security professionals also provided vital security information, including preparing for an active shooter situation, and critical safety recommendations to keep all citizens safe. Securing religious institutions and community centers is not a new concern for me. From the moment I became Sheriff, my number one priority has been aimed at keeping our diverse communities safe. In recent years, the Annual Security Conference, originally aimed at Jewish synagogues to address safety concerns during the high holy days, has grown to encompass all religions and walks of life. As always, I urge the community to remain vigilant. If you see something out of the ordinary, say something so BSO can respond to it. Remember, you are not alone. We are all united in this quest for peace. Sheriff Scott Israel
As a father, I am incredibly proud to see my children grow into upstanding young adults. Fortunately, they have been blessed with the smarts, athleticism, social graces and opportunities that led them down a path to success. As Sheriff, I play a special role in protecting, encouraging and helping not only my children, but all Broward children. These fine young men and women are the next generation of teachers, lawyers, doctors, law enforcement officers and leaders. And they deserve every opportunity to succeed. One of my greatest passions in life is working with children. As a high school and youth league football coach for many years, I witnessed the boys and girls I coached mature and grow. I also saw them make a fair share of mistakes. That’s part of growing up, too. The lessons we learn from our mistakes when we are young help build the strong moral character of our adulthood, but for many, youthful indiscretions have created far-reaching consequences that can destroy future opportunities. Since becoming Sheriff in 2013, it has been a cornerstone of my administration to ensure the positive development of many of our county’s youth. I made a commitment to the public that BSO will work tirelessly to keep kids out of jail. Through the Civil Citation program – which allows eligible juveniles to be placed into a diversion program instead of facing criminal arrest – we have produced remarkable results in breaking the “school house to jail house” pipeline. Instead of a permanent arrest record, which could severely limit opportunities later in life, a youth who commits an eligible misdemeanor gets a second chance to lead a productive life through the non-criminal, civil citation process. The program has been a massive success with only 5% of youth returning to crime. It also has the added bonus of saving millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on juvenile criminal justice system operations. To further the effort of keeping children in schools and out of jail, BSO joined with the School Board and State Attorney as charter partners in the innovative PROMISE (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support and Education) Program agreement. PROMISE offers alternatives to arrests and suspensions through school counseling sessions and interventions. Routine, minor misconduct matters (fist fight, caught using marijuana, etc.) that were handled years ago as in-school disciplinary matters are once again being successfully handled that way again – without needlessly turning minor in-school teen misconduct into formal police criminal incidents. Since instituting PROMISE, school-related arrests have plummeted. In most instances, a student may receive up to four chances to complete the program and learn from a wrongdoing before the school turns the matter over to law enforcement. These students won’t have a criminal record and will have another chance to go on to lead productive lives. I’m often asked how many chances I am going to give these kids. My answer: however many it takes until they get it right. Putting vulnerable adolescents in jail only teaches them to become career criminals. These programs, by contrast, help keep their records clean, teach them responsibility and give them a second chance for a better life. I am proud that BSO has made a difference for our youth with innovative programs and partnerships. Our success should always be measured by how many children we keep out of jail, not how many we lock up. Sheriff Scott Israel
When disaster strikes, the Broward Sheriff's Office is ready, willing and able to lend a helping hand to those in need at a moment's notice—no matter where it occurs. From the heart of Broward to the people in need in the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico, BSO was there to assist in whatever manner was needed during this deadly and catastrophic 2017 hurricane season.
Ensuring the safety and security of Broward residents and visitors is always BSO's top priority, even in the face of battering winds and flooding rains. The hardworking men and women of this agency gave all they had to keep Broward safe this hurricane season. However, we also answered the call for help from our neighbors and friends who were in desperate need of assistance. We didn't do this because we had to. We did because it's the right thing to do. Public safety is about helping out those in need, even if disaster doesn't touch us personally. And as this devastating hurricane season showed, there were many far less fortunate than us here in Broward that required the kindness and assistance of outside help.
In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Irma in September, BSO sent a unit of BSO deputies, specialists and communications equipment to Monroe County, where some of the worst damage from the hurricane occurred. The Communications on Wheels (COW) vehicle we set up there allowed first responders in the Keys to coordinate their relief efforts and assist the storm-weary residents of Monroe County.
Our civilian dispatchers also answered the call for help. Monroe County, from the Everglades to Key West, received some of Irma's nastiest winds and weather and needed a lot of help recovering. They asked for dispatchers to help field some of the emergency calls they were receiving, and we sent some of our finest.
Seventeen of our fire rescue personnel also made the trip to the Florida Keys to assist residents, whose way of life forever changed because of the storm. In one instance, a weakened and thirsty Key Deer was given a second lease on life, thanks to a member of BSO Fire Rescue who hand-fed the animal four bottles of water and helped it recover. BSO also sent a contingent of fire rescue personnel to Puerto Rico to assist local authorities in handling the devastation caused by powerful Hurricane Maria.
None of this would have been possible, however, had it not been for the amazing residents of Broward. I am so incredibly proud of you. I was amazed by your incredible acts of kindness and selflessness, and impressed by how you followed the direction of public safety professionals to the best of your abilities, keeping your families safe during the worst of it. Property and possessions are replaceable; lives are not. Your response made Broward safer and allowed us to help those in dire need elsewhere.
Here's hoping for a quiet final month in the tropics. But know we are ready to assist anyone who needs us at the drop of a dime. When people are in trouble, we try to help. We are BSO, and that's what we do.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, a time where we shine an important spotlight on the developmental disability that affects many in this country and around the world. Though the exact causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are still uncertain, doctors, experts and activists are feverishly working on raising awareness and aiding in research, diagnosis and treatment of the complex disorder.
At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we are always working on providing special attention to individuals with ASD and other special needs by instituting proactive programs and initiatives—and undergoing special training aimed at assisting this special population.
One of my personal favorite programs is the Autism in Flight program, which provides a full airport experience in a relaxed setting for individuals about to embark on their first flight. Children and their families check in, go through security, walk the terminal to their gate, board a jetBlue plane and experience a “take-off.” It truly is a special experience.
BSO is also in the community at other special events. During the annual Autism Awareness Day, people affected with autism are given an opportunity to learn about the resources available to them, meet with our first responders in full uniform and see their emergency vehicles and equipment in a non-threatening environment. We’re also huge supporters and participants in the annual Surfers for Autism event, where hundreds of children with autism and developmental delays receive the chance to surf in a safe and secure environment.
Yet BSO’s support for this community goes even further. I’m thrilled to have supported historic legislation my good friends Ellen Kleinert and husband Jerry Cohn tirelessly worked to get passed into Florida law: the Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act. It is named after Kleinert’s autistic son and is the first of its kind in the country. The law requires a mental health expert be present during police interviews of developmentally disabled victims, witnesses or suspects. It also makes it easier for authorities to know who may need such assistance by creating a voluntary new designation on state identification cards.
Finally, I’m excited to share one of BSO’s biggest and most innovative initiatives. In our ongoing efforts to provide better service and help keep individuals with special needs safer, we recently launched the BSO Special Needs Program. It gives parents or caregivers of individuals with special needs an opportunity to opt in to the program by voluntarily providing biographical information, including a description of the individual’s diagnosis and behavior, which will be captured to improve interactions with first responders.
The program will help 911 communications operators convey the critical information to the responding deputy so they can respond more effectively and efficiently. This information can help dispel any concern should the person seem aloof, uncooperative or even in crisis—leading to more positive outcomes. The program is currently in a pilot phase but will ultimately be rolled out countywide.
If you’d like to learn more about our efforts, please visit us on our community resource page at sheriff.org.
This month, the Broward Sheriff’s Office Annual Awards Ceremony will honor more than 100 deputies, firefighters and civilian employees who faced great danger, saved lives and performed exceptional acts last year. These extraordinary men and women are the best and bravest in their fields and exemplify the risks willingly shouldered by those working in public safety.
Heroic acts are often a part of the job. Without hesitation, these award recipients place their lives at great risk day in and day out to ensure the betterment of our community, but they do far more than just protect the public from danger. They work tirelessly to make Broward a better place to live. They are the moral fiber of this county. They protect us. They keep us safe. They help us.
Without a doubt, this ceremony is one of my favorite annual events. It is an opportunity to celebrate exemplary achievements and heroic efforts. But, equally important, it is also a chance to acknowledge that hard work and selflessness does not go unnoticed. Far too often around our nation, news reports focus on the negative stories – the few bad apples – and not the vast majority of great people that do an amazing job daily. Stories about individual misdeeds typically get airtime. However, the unglamorous, quiet – yet important – efforts we do daily, like helping a homeless person, or finding an Alzheimer’s patient who was lost, or calming a panicked person who is calling 9-1-1 desperately in need of help, or saving a heart attack victim, never merit news coverage. Yet those small daily deeds make meaningful differences in so many real lives.
As a former high school football coach, I see those who work in public safety as being like an offensive lineman. Much like an offensive lineman works the trenches to ensure the safety of the quarterback and are key cogs in a functioning offense, so too are the public safety officials who put everything on the line to safeguard our communities and ensure a prosperous society. Both, however, often are only noticed when there’s a breakdown – not for their countless successes they achieve.
So while it is important to celebrate the achievements of the men and women of BSO and reinforce their importance to the agency and community, it is also equally important for us to share their heroic and inspiring stories with the public. It is only through the mutual respect and better understanding of our job and the people behind our badges that we as a community can build upon these successes.
It is an absolute honor to work with such an unselfish and giving community who dedicate their lives to keep our communities safe, and I’m excited to honor their achievements. I invite you all to join me in the celebration of BSO’s best and to meet the real men and women who make BSO the finest public safety agency in the nation.
For more information about the event, please visit us online at sheriff.org. I hope to see you there.