Before I begin this message, I want to take a moment to remember a beloved member of the Broward Sheriff’s Office family, Communications Operator III Nikima Thompson, who sadly lost her brave battle with COVID-19 on May 4. Nikima was a dedicated 16-year veteran of BSO and the first communications operator to die in the line of duty in Florida. We pay tribute to her sacrifice and honor her service to this community. She is survived by her mother, Geraldine Wilson, who is also battling COVID-19; her father, Herman Wilson; her sister, Gina Stewart; and her four children, Aran Jr., Isaiah, Justin and Heaven. Rest in peace, Nikima. You are greatly missed.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to major disruptions in our traditional way of life and resulted in tremendous hardships for many. For the past several months, we have confronted this unprecedented challenge. As we navigate these uncertain times, we do so having learned the power and value of community and the virtues of working together for a common good.
It has been truly remarkable to see the Broward community step up and come together as one. Friends and strangers alike have united, largely by staying apart, to help slow the spread of this deadly virus and protect the most vulnerable among us. The men and women of BSO share in that commitment. We play a unique and critical role in combatting this crisis. We are not only ensuring the safety of the public, but we are also extending our assistance beyond calls for service to provide support for the overall wellbeing of Broward County.
Let me tell you some ways BSO is meeting community needs:
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
Deputy Bennett, 39, embodied what a law enforcement officer should be, serving BSO and Broward citizens for more than 12 years. His courage, professionalism and a fierce commitment to doing what is right radiated in everything he did. A graduate of Deerfield Beach High School, Shannon joined BSO on June 6, 2007 as a detention deputy. His brother, Darren, had joined BSO as a detention deputy five years prior and supported Shannon’s efforts throughout his early days at the agency. With a desire to further his career in public safety, Shannon became cross certified, and in 2013, he was reassigned to the Department of Law Enforcement and served as a road patrol deputy for nearly six years in Lauderdale Lakes.
In January 2019, Shannon returned to the very city in which he grew up. He was assigned to the BSO Deerfield Beach District as a beloved school resource officer at Deerfield Beach Elementary School.
Shannon considered BSO his second family. With the friendship, support and guidance of his coworkers, He confidently served as an openly gay deputy and used his platform to help bridge the gap between the LGBTQ community and law enforcement. For seven years, Shannon worked and walked in the Stonewall Parade. I had the pleasure of working directly with him on future projects related to integrating and uniting our agency with the LGBTQ community, both internally and externally. He was a consummate professional who desired to see BSO continue to move forward.
Shannon leaves behind a family for whom he cared deeply. He is survived by his fiancé, Jonathan Frey; his mother, Barbara Bennett and his brother, Darren, who left BSO in 2013 and is currently a campus pastor for Calvary Chapel North Miami.
When it is once again safe for the community to be together, BSO, along with his family, will host a memorial service in honor of his life and service. We hope you will join us.
Shannon’s death also serves as a somber reminder that this deadly virus knows no bounds. While we practice social distancing and follow stay at home orders as a community, our first responders bravely serve on the front lines, knowing that they put themselves at increased risk each day to keep us all safe. Please pray our men and women continue to return home safely.
As we continue our fight against the coronavirus, remember: we are all in this together! Let’s continue to follow the current guidelines until we overcome the threat of this deadly disease and resume our normal lifestyles. In the meantime, please be safe.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in Broward County, throughout the United States and around the world. We have had to make drastic changes in the way we interact with others.
We each have a social responsibility to do our part to stop the spread of and combat this deadly disease. Though we are all hopefully practicing social distancing, this pandemic has brought us closer. As a community, we are resolved to help each other and provide assistance where it’s needed.
While the crisis is new to us, our training, preparedness and level of service remains strong at the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Our first responders are equipped with personal protective equipment and are prepared to respond to any and all incidents in a safe and effective manner.
We are also working with our community partners to direct valuable assistance to where it is needed most. BSO is connecting with community-based organizations to help meet the needs of senior citizens in our community to reduce their exposure to the COVID-19 virus.
We understand you may have many questions and concerns. Those needing non-emergency assistance should call 954-764-4357 (HELP). We have also created a dedicated resource to communicate important information to you: www.sheriff.org/SheriffTony. In the event of an emergency, please dial 911. Our Communications personnel are prepared and ready to help you.
How we, as a community, deal with the COVID-19 pandemic today will determine how we live tomorrow. There are important measures you can take to help during this crisis:
There is no easy answer or quick fix to this crisis, but
remember: we are all in this together!
My aunt was a police officer for the city of Philadelphia. I didn't know it then, but she was a trailblazer: a proud woman in a job historically carried out by men. There have been many brave women in law enforcement who have paved the way toward progress, and we are still moving forward.
The Broward Sheriff's Office employs many women who have dedicated their lives to making a significant impact both on and off duty. I am proud of these women and the countless contributions they make to our communities every day.
As we celebrate National Women's History Month, I'd like to introduce just a few of the women who serve within BSO.
Colonel Nichole Anderson is a woman of many firsts. The Fort Lauderdale native graduated from Dillard High School in the top 10 percent of her class and has been a fixture in our community ever since. She joined BSO in 1996 and rose through the ranks. In 2011, she became the first African-American female district chief. In 2018, she became the first female BSO law enforcement deputy to attend and graduate from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia - graduating from the 274th session. In January 2019, I had the distinct pleasure of promoting her as the agency's first ever female colonel and, most recently, she was promoted to serve as the undersheriff, which marks the first time a female has held this position in the agency's 105-year history. Colonel Anderson's commitment to selfless service and integrity allowed her to succeed in what was traditionally a male-dominated profession. It's an honor to have her serve as second in command.
It's also an honor to work with individuals such as
Deputy Kelli Covet. Along with her trusted canine partner,
Macie, the dynamic duo have dedicated countless hours to search for and locate missing and endangered people, including children and the elderly. Aside from being a certified bloodhound, in June 2019, K9 Macie became the agency's first ever certified therapy dog. The work Deputy Covet and K9 Macie do each and every day makes a significant difference in the lives of people throughout the community. Aside from their daily first-responder duties, they regularly attend countywide events to build lasting connections with the community and assist people who may be experiencing crisis, tragedy, trauma or who are having a difficult time in life.
Detention Deputy Judie Nance is a women with a variety of hidden talents. Her daily responsibilities are to provide for the care, custody and control of inmates in our jail system; however, in her spare time, she is an author. Her first children's book, "Short and Virtuous Bed-time Stories for Children," helps parents introduce children to the essentials of good moral character: responsibility, courage, honesty, perseverance, faith and friendship. Her second book, "Enlightened," teaches young girls to stand up for what is right. Both in and outside of work, Deputy Nance demonstrates compassion and commitment for all that she does.
Fire Prevention Officer (FPO) Cindy Taffel is the epitome of determination and perseverance. She loves her job, but she also loves to express herself through food. A three-time cancer survivor, Cindy understands that life is too short not to do what you love. She not only loves cooking, but is an award-winning prodigy. With no formal training, Cindy took home the World Food Championship in seafood and later won the $15,000 prize on the Food Network show Cooks vs. Cons, where she beat out a formally-trained chef. FPO Taffle is an inspiration to us all.
Claudine Carter Pereira, the director of the BSO Crime Lab, proves you can be and do anything you want if you put your mind to it. The 21-year year BSO veteran leads an internationally-accredited crime lab that processes approximately 25,000 cases each year. But she's known to her co-workers as the "Forensic Ballerina." A former professional dancer with both a ballet and modern contemporary company, Director Pereira studied at the premier Joffrey Ballet in New York City. When's she's not helping solve cases or dancing on her own, she serves as a dance instructor to local children and adults.
As you can see, BSO is comprised of some very unique, talented women. I want to thank all the women of BSO for their service and dedication to keeping our communities safe. Their special talents both in and outside of work are truly commendable. We all owe a debt of gratitude for everything they do.
Happy New Year!
January marks my one-year anniversary as your sheriff. The leadership of the Broward Sheriff’s Office has made a lot of changes that we sincerely believe will increase the safety for all of Broward County. During the past year, we have implemented many new initiatives that we trust are addressing important public safety needs and the needs of our communities.
Now it is time for your feedback. We don’t want to know how
WE are doing. We want to know how
YOU are doing. Do you feel safer? Have our new initiatives helped you? Do you believe your children are safer in school? How have our deputies assisted you? What is important to you that we may not be addressing? Tell us everything - we want to know.
Open communication with our communities is important to our success. We welcome your feedback and encourage you to send us your comments to
Since taking command of this organization, I have demonstrated my commitment to being transparent. We value your input, and I firmly believe that together we will work toward meeting all the needs of this community.
What a year it has been for the Broward Sheriff's Office. When I took command of this organization, I pledged to put public safety first. I am proud of the improvements we have made and the initiatives we have implemented toward our mission of providing high quality services to Broward County. Here are some highlights:
SCHOOL SAFETY: We have worked diligently to improve the safety of our schools.
We have launched the Real Time Crime Center, which gives us the ability to monitor surveillance cameras across all Broward County Public Schools. We have expanded the Guardian Program and developed an active shooter training curriculum and video. We have provided Bleeding Control Kits to all road patrol deputies as well as public schools.
TRAINING AND PREPAREDNESS: Our training division and course curriculums reflect today's public safety priorities.
We have reallocated one million dollars to increase the manpower of our training division. We are the first agency in the state of Florida to have a nationally-certified active shooter training unit, and in collaboration with our federal partners, we have certified instructors in Active Shooter and Basic Tactical Medical Response, FBI ALERRT Program and Incident Command Structure. We have invested $500,000 toward enhanced Racial Equity and Cultural Diversity Training and increased the number of deputies trained in crisis intervention. For the first time in BSO history, construction for a state-of-the-art Regional Training Center is underway which will provide for more intensive, frequent training to address today's public safety challenges.
PROMOTIONS: Our agency's leaders are experienced and are a better reflection of the communities we serve.
I understand firsthand the importance of diversity in public safety. We have the most diverse command staff in the agency's 104-year history. I believe experience is a priceless resource, and I have promoted more than 200 employees from within the organization.
COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS: We have implemented progressive community policing initiatives and are listening to your needs.
Our countywide Neighborhood Support Team is designed to make law enforcement more visible and reduce fear in our communities. We are focusing on collaboration and engagement from all community stakeholders to unify efforts to meet community needs.
LAW ENFORCEMENT TRUST FUND (LETF): Accountability and distribution of funds will be more fair and equitable.
We have increased the opportunity and expansion of funds provided to support nonprofit organizations through the LETF.
INVESTING IN OUR FUTURE: We have expanded youth programs and opportunities to further develop the ambition of our young people.
We have established the Bureau of Recruiting to ensure we are hiring the most diverse, qualified personnel. We have developed the BSO Legacy Program, which provides scholarships, sponsorships and internship opportunities. The program's objective focuses on helping minority students reach their goal of a career in public safety.
I am proud of the work we have accomplished thus far and am excited about what's to come. The men and women of this organization are committed to their duties and embrace their responsibilities as public safety professionals.
As your sheriff, I am humbled at the outpouring of support from all of Broward's communities. As we move forward, we will continue to listen to your needs, demonstrate transparency and maintain accountability while never losing sight of our public safety mission.
If you'd like to learn more about our new initiatives, visit us online at www.sheriff.org/SheriffTony.
From our BSO family to yours, have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.
At the Broward Sheriff's Office, we've come so far since the first African American, Deputy James Primous, joined the ranks in 1951. We've made great strides in diversifying the agency at every level to reflect Broward's vibrant melting pot.
As a person who has experienced inequality firsthand, I understand the importance of diversity in public safety. In order to serve Broward citizens to the best of our abilities, we must mirror our communities. Failure to do so — a problem public safety agencies have historically faced — often leads to avoidable consequences, including a lack of understanding, communication and, ultimately, distrust.
I believe what makes us different as individuals make us more complete as a whole. And I am committed to making our entire agency more reflective of Broward County. I have increased the hiring of minority deputies and firefighters, two areas where minorities have been underrepresented in the past. Today, more than 60 percent of the agency is comprised of minorities — greater than the percentage of Broward as a whole. More than 40 percent are African American; in addition, nearly 20 percent are Hispanic. BSO also proudly employs many strong, dedicated women — who have made up more than half of our recent promotions — and people from a diverse set of religious beliefs and sexual orientations throughout the agency.
We're accomplishing all this through a variety of means, from greater outreach to communities that have been underrepresented in the past to the creation of new initiatives, mentorship and scholarship programs that reach our youth and promote careers in public safety.
BSO now has the most diverse command staff in the agency's 104-year history. Recently, I had the distinct honor of promoting Colonel Nichole Anderson as the first African American and the first woman to serve as undersheriff in the agency. I have also had the pleasure of naming BSO's first two colonels of Cuban descent, Colonel Oscar Llerena and Colonel James Reyes.
Make no mistake, however. These leaders are not in their positions because of the color of their skin, gender, religion or sexual identity. They were promoted because of their qualifications. Collectively, they have devoted decades of selfless and dignified service to BSO and the citizens of this great county.
When I became sheriff, I promised to do what was best for the agency and bring forth the best personnel to keep our communities safe. We have so many talented people in this agency, and so many are worthy of positions of leadership. What I have done is simply level the playing field for everyone and provide qualified individuals an opportunity to rise to the top.
As always, we are looking for good men and women to join our team. If you think you have what it takes, visit us at jobs.sheriff.org.
When time is of the essence and lives are on the line, it is the job of law enforcement to respond to an incident quickly, decisively and effectively. With the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School tragedy still weighing heavily on our minds, Broward residents are unfortunately all too aware that any delay in action can cost lives.
Since taking leadership of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, my team and I developed and implemented proactive public safety initiatives to keep our schools safe. Our efforts have proven to be pivotal in strengthening our school security.
Our mission is far from complete. We are always striving to improve and stay at the forefront of emerging technology — utilizing every resource available and maximizing its impact. Recently, we launched the brand new, state-of-the-art Real Time Crime Center (RTCC) — a powerful crime fighting and crime prevention center that is safeguarding our schools.
The RTCC gives us the ability to monitor real life situations in real time, Today, BSO has direct access to live video feeds, monitoring nearly 10,000 cameras in more than 260 public schools and administrative buildings, with plans in the works with Broward County Public Schools to add several thousand more in the near future. Should an incident arise, we begin working a case as soon as it’s reported — saving valuable time. It has the capability of protecting lives and preventing incidents of mass violence.
The center is equipped with cutting-edge technology that allows us to identify and investigate potentially dangerous threats to our community better and take swift and effective action to neutralize the threat and mitigate damage. Because of the RTCC, we can obtain critical information and relay it to the responding deputies within minutes or even seconds — far less time and much more accurate than in the past.
Originally housed in a 350 square foot office space at the Public Safety Building, the new RTCC operates in a 2,600 square foot area. It has a 40-foot front-video wall, a 16-foot side-video wall and 20 workstations for RTCC personnel. The estimated total cost for the RTCC is $2 million. It is being paid for by reappropriating funds within our budget and acquiring grants.
Since January, the RTCC has conducted roughly 150 drills within Broward County Public Schools to test the camera system. RTCC personnel have also monitored and given tactical guidance to officers at the scene of numerous incidents within the schools, including lockdowns for crimes happening on and off school property.
Though focused right now on our schools, we are seeking to expand into partnerships with private businesses, houses of worship and anyone interested in protecting their community. If you would like to participate, please visit us at https://www.sheriff.org/Documents/RTCCvideoShareInterestForm.pdf.
Service Equals RewardSheriff Gregory Tony
I have dedicated my career in law enforcement to making a positive impact on the lives of the citizens in the community. Now, as sheriff, it is the foundation of how I run the Broward Sheriff’s Office. I have seen how small interactions with the public achieve huge safety results, so I have directed our deputies to get out of their squad cars, walk the streets and connect with people. These interactions go a long way toward building trust and respect, raising awareness and bridging any gaps that may exist. When we are more visible and hands-on, people feel more comfortable sharing concerns, providing helpful tips and ultimately contributing to a safer and brighter future for all.
With this in mind, BSO is ready to take community policing to the next level. I’m excited to announce the launch of the Neighborhood Support Teams (NST), an innovative new initiative focused on further strengthening law enforcement and community relationships.
The NST, which will be comprised of law enforcement representatives, will work with various members of the community to develop a strong network of representation and involvement. This includes leaders, business stakeholders, faith-based institutions, school board officials, activists, mental health professionals, social workers, residents, youth groups and high school students.
These individuals and groups are the eyes and ears of their neighborhoods. They have the pulse of the community, understand their strengths and weaknesses and provide an intimate perspective on the needs of their area beyond routine calls for service.
The NST’s responsibilities are far-reaching and extend to every corner of the county. Our representatives will host monthly meetings with stakeholders to maintain engagement and continue to foster positive working relationships. In addition, they will play an active role in various community events, experiences and partnerships.
Teams will provide numerous educational opportunities, including hosting public safety seminars and cultural diversity discussions, and providing education on other important topics, such as civilian rights pertaining to policing encounters and civilian active shooter response protocols.
They will also help connect varied groups, including veterans, the elderly, individuals suffering from mental health problems and those struggling to put food on their table, with vital resources to help provide them with the assistance they need. And we are focusing on our youth through back-to-school initiatives and mentorship opportunities.
To learn more about Neighborhood Support Teams, please visit us at sheriff.org/nst.
Public safety has always been my highest priority. In the eight months since becoming your sheriff, the Broward Sheriff’s Office has worked hard to address one of the greatest concerns of Broward County – school safety.
BSO deputies have undergone intensive training in preparation for any public safety threat. We are working together with the school system to ensure our schools are a safe place to learn for every child in every school. We have made changes, but we will not rest on our accomplishments; we will continue to find better ways to protect our schools.
In response to the recommendations of the MSD Commission, we introduced new proactive initiatives throughout BSO. We forged federal partnership agreements with the FBI, FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security training divisions, focusing on active shooter and rapid response training. We have established a Threat Management Division and improved the way we gather intelligence and respond to potential threats. We now have cutting-edge technology to identify and investigate potentially dangerous threats to our community. An extension of that division is the Real Time Crime Center (RTCC), which allows for real-time monitoring and analysis of important investigative information during a critical incident. We also have direct access to video surveillance systems that monitor nearly 10,000 cameras in all Broward County schools.
Recently, BSO partnered with SaferWatch, an innovative mobile app that allows users to report non-emergency incidents and crime tips in real time directly to BSO. The app covers more than 440 public, charter and private schools in Broward County and gives students, parents and teachers the ability to submit photos, videos, audio files or text messages anonymously. The information is immediately sent to BSO for appropriate action. It also provides our law enforcement districts with the ability to communicate important real-time information directly with residents. Whether it’s a crime prevention tip, safety alert, traffic advisory or other important information, SaferWatch alerts will be sent directly to your mobile device for immediate notification. I encourage all of our residents to download the free SaferWatch app and subscribe to the BSO district closest to them. Download the app at BrowardAlerts.com.
As the new school year approaches, I want to remind our community of some basic safety tips. When driving, approach all crosswalks in and around school areas with caution, and do not text on your cellphone – it’s the law. Observe the posted school zone speed limit. When walking or riding a bike to school, map out the safest route in advance, and always remember to use a crosswalk. For more back-to-school safety tips, please visit sheriff.org/community.
Although we have accomplished much these last eight months, we are just getting started. I will never lose sight of our mission: to keep our community – especially our schools – safe.
Few days in the year stir up more excitement and pride than Independence Day. The pageantry, parades, flags and fireworks symbolize deep-rooted patriotism for our nation, the sacrifices made to maintain our values and the pride we have in being Americans.
But, at the heart of it all are the patriots who made it possible. From the founding of this great nation 243 years ago, our strong and vibrant American fabric has been woven by the courageous men and women who took bold actions and immense risks to do what was right, not merely what was popular. Many lost their lives in pursuit of the American dream, and today we stand tall as a nation thanks to their sacrifices.
I love this country — and all the opportunities it has afforded me. I grew up in the birthplace of our nation, a short distance from Independence Hall in Philadelphia where our Founding Fathers signed two of the most important documents in U.S. history — the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution. These individuals placed their lives on the line so that they, and future generations of Americans, could pursue the noble ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
I am living proof of the American dream. In what other nation in the world could a poor black kid from the inner city defy the odds at every turn and one day hold the honor of serving as sheriff for one of the largest and greatest public safety agencies in the nation?
I owe a debt of gratitude — we all do — to those who came before us and fought for our freedoms. On Independence Day, we honor the men and women in uniform that valiantly put themselves in harm’s way, many making the ultimate sacrifice, to protect our American way of life. We also recognize those who committed themselves to justice and equality: individuals, such as civil rights leaders Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony, who patriotically pursued equal rights at a time of great civil discord and whose actions are a testament to the American spirit. We must also give thanks to the everyday men and women — the mothers, fathers, teachers, mentors, factory technicians and fast food workers, who keep our country moving forward.
Patriotism resides in all of us. On this Independence Day, let’s not only honor the sacrifices of those who came before us, but also look inside ourselves as we carry the torch for future generations. Our patriotism is not what we show on the outside; it’s what lies inside each of us: the love of country, dedication to greatness, commitment to equality and pursuit of justice for all. Let us all strive to do what is right, not what is easy or popular. Our nation was founded on these patriotic ideals, and it is up to us to continue that legacy.
Service Equals Reward.
As sheriff, I hold an important responsibility to protect our community’s children and encourage their positive development. The incredible people I meet around Broward leave me optimistic about our county’s future.
I also know many potential obstacles await our next generation at every turn — and how even one small mistake could derail these young people from achieving their full potential. No one should have their future destroyed because of a minor, youthful indiscretion. Kids make mistakes and bad choices. It is part of growing up. Learning from those mistakes is what allows children to grow into productive members of society.
For many, however, these minor indiscretions create far-reaching consequences that can amount to a life sentence of lost opportunities. This stark reality is even clearer in struggling working-class communities and communities of color, which are historically disproportionally impacted.
As sheriff, I am promoting restorative justice programs that provide individuals who commit a minor offense with a second chance at leading a productive life. Instead of a permanent arrest record, which could severely limit opportunities in adulthood, a youth who commits a minor offense would enter a restorative justice program. These programs hold the offender to account, provide them with the assistance they need and teach them the discipline, structure, dignity and responsibility necessary to become productive citizens.
These programs are a proven success, showing significantly lower recidivism rates among participants. They also save millions of dollars that would otherwise be spent on less effective juvenile criminal justice system operations. But these programs are not a mere slap on the wrist. Individuals who commit non-minor offenses and repeat offenders know they will feel the full force of the law.
Our efforts are also focused on proactive measures to keep kids from committing crimes in the first place. I was raised largely by my mother in inner-city Philadelphia and understand both the detriment of not having mentors and of how many in minority communities distrust law enforcement. At BSO, we are tackling both issues through a host of bold initiatives.
First, we are expanding our Law Enforcement Explorers Program, which exposes teenagers to positive values and role models. I will also be introducing the BSO Internship Initiative for individuals interested in a career in public safety. Too often, community members interact with deputies only at the worst of times. This program allows for a better understanding of our goals and mission — and allows us better insights into the communities we protect. In addition, because many struggle to pay for school, BSO is developing a criminal justice scholarship program to ease the financial burden. These scholarships are an investment in the future of law enforcement and our communities.
Finally, I am reexamining how the money seized from the proceeds of criminal activity is distributed to community-based nonprofit organizations to support important local programs. Programs that benefit from this Law Enforcement Trust Fund are vital to our mission of connecting with youth and providing programs, mentorships and assistance to them. In the past, distribution was woefully inequitable, with a select few organizations receiving the bulk of the money. I don’t believe in playing favorites, and we will work to ensure that all qualified organizations receive a fair opportunity to compete for funds and that the money will be distributed equitably to the most deserving.
I am humbled by the important role the Sheriff plays in the lives of our county’s children, and I pledge to do my all to ensure their future success.
As your sheriff, my number one priority will always be to keep our community safe. In a short time, we have made significant changes toward restructuring the agency and directing our efforts toward providing the highest level of public safety service the Broward County community expects and deserves. We have begun by implementing smart personnel changes, instituting a variety of significant training measures, introducing new crime-fighting initiatives, maximizing transparency and encouraging communication.
For years, I’ve kept a now tattered and coffee-stained note affixed to my computer monitor. It serves as a daily reminder for why I devoted my career to public service and how to conduct my life in general.
It’s a simple message. Just two words. But these small words had massive and profound impact on my life and are the guiding principle for every decision I make and for every action I take. The message: “SERVICE = REWARD.”
Far too often, we put attaining the reward ahead of service. We work because we want a new TV, a nicer car or a bigger house. We forget the higher purpose. To live the fullest and most productive life, we must each focus on providing the best possible service to others ahead of all else. The rewards will come later — often when we least expect it.
These words have been a driving force since I was a little boy growing up in inner-city Philadelphia. My mother largely raised me by herself — my father left when I was young — and she worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. Surrounded by gangs and drugs, I quickly understood I needed to work hard and stay on the straight and narrow to pave a path to success.
That led me after high school to move to Tallahassee with just $500 to my name, but with the dream of playing football at Florida State University under legendary coach Bobby Bowden. People doubted me at every turn. But I worked hard, proved the doubters wrong and achieved my dream.
After graduating from FSU with a degree in criminology, I put my belief in service into practice. In 2005, I became a police officer with the Coral Springs Police Department. From my first day on the job, I focused on providing the type of diligent and selfless service the residents deserved. That dedication helped me break through the color barrier to become that agency’s first black sergeant.
In 2016, I left the department and took a risk to focus full-time on a higher cause. All too aware of the numerous active shooter attacks in the US and mass bombing tragedies throughout the world, I relocated and formed a company to provide both the public and private sector with active shooter and mass casualty training. I’m proud of the work we performed and had planned to be there for years to come.
That all changed last year on February 14, with the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I headed back down to Broward from my new home in South Carolina to assist the families and community affected by the mass shooting. I sat through every MSD Commission hearing and studied all their reports to determine what went wrong and, most importantly, to find ways to prevent this type of tragedy from ever occurring again.
Because of that experience, I was honored and humbled when the governor afforded me this incredible opportunity to help protect the 1.9 million residents of Broward County. As sheriff, I’m here to serve. My pledge to you is simple and clear: I will always provide you with the best leadership and service I can. The reward will come in the form of a safer Broward.
Sincerely, Sheriff Gregory Tony
But first, February 14 marks the anniversary of the devastating mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Countless lives were forever shattered on that fateful day. Families and friends are still grieving and cry out for justice. Some have actively taken on the task of getting laws changed. I am truly heartened by how our community and its citizens have banded together to comfort one another and channeled that emotion into action.
No family, no community, no one should ever have to endure the pain of another Parkland tragedy. As your sheriff, I vow to make the safety of our schools and community my top priority—and I intend to hit the ground running. In the coming weeks and months, I will introduce new policies, initiatives and training to BSO.
I know that to prevent this from ever happening again, we must be proactive. We must harden our schools. We must have highly-trained armed school resource officers ready to protect innocent lives. We must have an efficient and reliable radio system. We must keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. We must make every school campus in Broward County free from the threat of violence. We must restore the feeling of safety for every student, parent and citizen of Broward County.
To the families of those who lost their lives – Alyssa Alhadeff, Martin Duque Anguiano, Scott Beigel, Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Christopher Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Cara Loughran, Gina Montalto, Joaquin Oliver, Alaina Petty, Meadow Pollack, Helena Ramsay, Alexander Schachter, Carmen Schentrup, Peter Wang, – we will never forget.
To the victims who were wounded and survived, and to all the families, friends and community members affected by this terrible tragedy, we will never forget.
At the Broward Sheriff's Office…we will never forget.