Treats, ghouls and spine-chilling fun are just a few reasons why Halloween is one of the most anticipated times of year for kids. Unfortunately, Halloween can also be the most dangerous time of year for children. Nearly 4,000 Halloween-related injuries occur every year, including falling accidents, poisoning, burns and motor accidents. Although the festivities can be fun, we want to remind you of these important safety tips to help prevent real horrors from occurring.
When Children Are Trick-Or-Treating:
If Giving Out Treats:
Follow these cautionary steps to avoid a setback, and enjoy the fun of Halloween. If you are looking for a safe alternative to traditional trick-or-treating, attend an outdoor Halloween event in a controlled environment with your kids. As a reminder, don’t hesitate to report any suspicious activity. If you see something, say something.
Have a safe, enjoyable and happy Halloween!
Service Equals Reward Sheriff Gregory Tony
How can we better prepare? It is the question every public safety professional asks and the motivation behind everything we do. Better preparation allows for the best possible response to any incident. Often the incidents or disasters we prepare for are unplanned, happening with little to no warning. However, by training for the unexpected, we remain ready to respond.
While preparation is the foundation of public safety agencies, I can’t stress enough how important it is for the public to be prepared. As we observe National Preparedness Month, I recommend creating an actionable plan and setting it in motion. The four weeks of September provide an excellent opportunity to focus on the various aspects of preparedness to help keep you and your loved ones safe.
Week One – Make A Hurricane Plan
In South Florida, it is never the wrong time to prepare for a hurricane. Gather drinking water, batteries, sanitation products and anything you and your family might need to weather a storm. Be sure there are enough supplies to last at least five days. If staying at home is not an option, know in advance where you will stay during a hurricane. For information about emergency evacuation, transportation and shelter locations, visit www.broward.org/hurricane.
Week Two – Create A Home Emergency Plan
When an emergency happens at home, ensure all family members know what to do and where to go. Create a communication plan so everyone can keep in contact. Create an evacuation plan and designate a meeting area. Take into consideration the ages and unique needs of each family member and pet. Ensure the items that may help you in an emergency, such as a fire extinguisher or smoke alarm, are working.
Week Three – Secure Your Sensitive Documents And Valuables
With a comprehensive plan in place, you can now focus on protecting sensitive documents and valuables. First, collect the documents you would need to help identify family members in the event of an emergency. Keep these and other important, sensitive documents, such as insurance papers, at home in a fireproof and waterproof box or safe.
Week Four – Teach Your Loved Ones About Preparedness Finally, review your plans with family members. Practice evacuation drills. Take courses together to learn survival skills. BSO offers free bleeding control and CPR courses. Sign up for one at
If each of us takes the time to prepare and stay prepared, it makes our whole community safer.
On a final note, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It was a day that changed everyone’s lives. I often still think of the brave first responders who started that morning like any other and rushed into the Twin Towers and Pentagon to do what they are expected to do on any given day. By continuing to honor them and all the innocent lives lost, we are keeping alive a stark reminder of the sacrifices our first responders make to protect others.
Let us not allow 9/11 to become just another date on the calendar. #NeverForget
Service Equals RewardSheriff Gregory Tony
Students will soon be back in school learning face to face, which may bring apprehension, excitement or a combination of both. I never take education lightly, and I am grateful that, despite the struggles I have faced to get to where I am today, education kept me on that road to success. Education shapes children's lives, which is why it is vital to continue to ensure our children are safe and feel safe in their learning environment. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind as your children head back to in-person learning.
Bullying is an issue that needs to be addressed. According to the National Bullying Prevention Center, one out of every five students reports being bullied. Your children have or will come in contact with bullying, either by experiencing it or witnessing it. Before it happens, it is important to advise your children neither to ignore it nor encourage it. Whether or not your child is a victim or a witness, they must understand the importance of reporting it.
In the age of technology, cyberbullying is a new way to bully someone. Fifteen percent of students were bullied online or through text message. It is essential to remind your children to think before they post, comment or share. Advise them never to share inappropriate photos, videos or messages about themselves or other people. Keep your children safe by advising them to keep their accounts private and never give out personal information. Always keep close tabs on what your children are doing on their electronic devices and accounts.
An unsafe environment in or out of school can affect an individual in many ways. Be aware of warning signs:
These could be signs that someone is being bullied. If you notice any changes, it is crucial to step in and help. Report every incident of bullying or suspicious behavior.
Ensure your children are aware of these resources and feel safe talking to you or a teacher:
The safety of your children, both physical and mental, is paramount to their future success. Make communicating with your children a priority. Create a safe place at home to talk to them about bullying either at school or online.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
Water sports, outdoor events and cookouts are just a few reasons why summer in South Florida is my favorite time of year. Whether enjoying some fun in the sun, on land or in the water, follow these safety reminders so you and your loved ones can beat the heat safely.
Heat-related illnesses are of great concern, especially as temperatures rise. Remember to hydrate.
Common symptoms of heat exhaustion may include excessive sweating, pale and moist skin, muscle cramps, dizziness, rapid heart rate, nausea or vomiting. If you experience any symptoms of heat-related illnesses, seek shade or go indoors and hydrate with water. If symptoms are severe or worsen, seek medical attention quickly or call 911.
Heat-related tragedies are avoidable! As outdoor temperatures rise, the temperatures inside your vehicle can be more than 50 degrees hotter. Remember:
Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death for children ages one to five. When you are in or around water, follow these important safety reminders to keep your family safe:
I want to share with you some valuable resources. The Broward Sheriff’s Office Fire Rescue Public Education Unit offers free virtual CPR classes. Sign up online at https://bsofirerescuepubliceducation.as.me/. Take advantage of a free swim coupon from SWIM Central to help offset the cost of swim lessons for children ages six months to five years. Coupons are available online at https://watersmartbroward.org/programs/kids-swim-coupon/ for all Broward County residents.
Traveling this summer? Keep vacation photos and plans private until you return. Posting on social media or letting others know you will be away may give potential burglars an opening to break into your home. Also, take advantage of BSO's Vacation Watch Program to help keep an eye on your home while you are away. This FREE program offers residents the opportunity to have their home checked on by a deputy, community service aide or volunteer. To participate, please call your local BSO district office. Visit https://www.sheriff.org/LE/ for more information.
This summer is an opportunity for us to enjoy some much-needed relaxation and fun. Follow these safety tips to help keep your summer safe and memorable.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
In public safety, there is no room for error. As the leader of an organization responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone who lives in and visits Broward County, it is my responsibility to ensure we hold ourselves to the highest standards of accountability. That means we not only correct areas needing improvement, but we also examine ourselves to determine if what we are doing is working and, if not, make it right. Accountability is a promise I made to you on my first day as sheriff.
BSO's Office of Inspector General (OIG) is a new bureau within the Department of Professional Standards that will hold our agency accountable in all areas of our operation. The OIG provides oversight of all departments within BSO. This protocol ensures if we find problems, we work toward developing viable solutions. We are designing the OIG with transparency in mind. Our focus is to work more cohesively, fiscally responsible and operationally sound.
The OIG encompasses three divisions:
Combining these three divisions under one bureau will ensure continuous review, effective communication and shared problem-solving. To spearhead this new office, I have selected Major Scott Champagne, a 23-year law enforcement veteran. During his career, Major Champagne has led BSO's Division of Internal Affairs and Public Corruption Unit. He has demonstrated experience in separating himself from agency business to review claims of wrongdoing independently.
I will always focus on improvements for public safety. This new department has a clear mission: to help everyone at BSO do our jobs more efficiently and transparently so we can better serve you.
Service Equals Reward Sheriff Gregory Tony
Mental well-being is just as important as physical well-being. Since first responders are often the first people someone in a mental health crisis interacts with, it is critical that we know what mental illness looks like and what to do when we see it.
Dr. Vincent Van Hasselt is my mentor on mental health awareness for first responders. He is a professor at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) specializing in police psychology and a certified reserve officer with the Plantation Police Department. Dr. Van Hasselt knows firsthand that many mental health issues are silent and difficult to detect. Despite our wealth of knowledge and ability to perform our jobs safely and effectively, first responders benefit greatly from specific training dealing with mental health. As his former student, I have incorporated much of what Dr. Van Hasselt taught me into my work at the Broward Sheriff's Office.
One specific course that Dr. Van Hasselt is a big proponent of is Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. He has been teaching it since its inception in 2002. The training educates deputies to interact appropriately with someone who has a history of mental illness and gives them a better ability to deescalate a situation when needed. CIT-trained deputies can also recognize signs of mental illness better and have an increased sensitivity to what an individual living with mental illness may be going through. I believe this training is essential for all our deputies, and I will continue to push toward a fully-trained department.
CIT training alone, though, is not enough to address the mental health challenges facing today's public safety agencies. We must also confront our own mental health challenges. Many of our first responders, which includes law enforcement, fire rescue, detention and communications personnel, are used to helping others. Yet, they have trouble knowing how to find or ask for help for themselves. In comparison to the general population, first responders are up to three times as likely to develop PTSD or related disorders. These disorders can lead to severe complications for anyone if left untreated. For first responders who interact with the public in high-stress, often traumatic situations daily, an unchecked mental health issue can be disastrous.
I needed to do something about it. When I became sheriff, Dr. Van Hasselt reached out to me. He, too, was concerned about first responders' mental health and asked BSO to partner with NSU on an important program. Together, with the aid of a Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant and the tremendous help of Judy Couwels from our BSO Employee Assistance Program, we started the Peer Support Team, a progressive new resource for my agency's employees.
We want to make it easier for someone who needs help to get it, and first responders are more likely to seek help from a peer. The Peer Support Team is comprised of 30 sworn and civilian BSO employees who are available at any time for fellow BSO employees. Our Peer Support Team members are trained in active listening skills and critical incident stress management. They can refer those in need to community resources, and they have access to licensed psychologists who can handle more clinically complicated cases. This vital program is entirely voluntary and provides support and help to employees who may be experiencing personal issues, distress from critical incidents or are suffering from stress. I am proud of everyone involved in its development.
When we treat everyone with the appropriate methods of care, compassion and understanding, we all benefit.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
Every Sunday morning, when Pompano Beach District Captain Martin Hedelund’s twin boys were young, he would take them on drives around Broward County, showing them various landmarks and sights. Captain Hedelund would do all the talking; Dalton and Martin Jr. sat and listened. They were four years old and nonverbal - a developmental delay caused by autism.
Today, Captain Hedelund’s boys are 14. Both can speak and express themselves in different ways. They remember those trips with dad, sometimes down to the date on which they happened. “It has been cataloged in their minds all these years,” Captain Hedelund says. “While the twins are aware of what is going on, sometimes they just can’t tell us that they know. We have faced challenges as a family, but with the blessings of early diagnosis, curriculum-based learning and having two caring parents, Dalton and Martin Jr. have exceeded expectations.”
As a veteran law enforcement officer, Captain Hedelund became better at his job from his personal experiences with autism. He learned how to read body language better and pick up on important social cues. His wife, Margi, has dedicated her life to spreading awareness about autism. She is a board member of the Autism Society of Florida. She travels across the state, sometimes with her sons, to teach first responders about autism awareness and how to communicate more effectively with individuals on the spectrum.
At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we understand the importance of autism awareness in public safety. We have instituted proactive programs and initiatives and continue to provide specialized training to assist our first responders in serving this population better.
Our most progressive initiative is the implementation of the BSO Cares program. The program provides first responders with important information about persons with disabilities so we can respond more appropriately to calls for service. Participation in the program is voluntary and available to anyone who resides in or frequently visits Broward County with a special needs diagnosis. To learn more about the program, or to register yourself or a loved one, please visit www.sheriff.org/BSOCares.
We also continue to ensure more first responders receive Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. This unique training enhances the understanding of the signs and symptoms of someone with behavioral health issues. It also helps provide a more prepared and aware approach when interacting with an individual on the spectrum.
BSO is honored to have some incredible community partnerships with organizations such as Surfers for Autism and Autism in Flight with JetBlue. Surfers for Autism is a community event that gives individuals with autism a chance to learn to surf. Autism in Flight provides a full airport experience for children with autism and their families. They go through check-in and ticketing, security, boarding and a taxiway ride on the tarmac. The program aims to make the prospect of a commercial flight less intimidating.
At BSO, we will continue to work hard to further develop these essential programs and partnerships. Our goal is to ensure all persons are served with respect and protected in the safest possible manner.
I am so proud and honored to work alongside the remarkable women who serve in departments across the Broward Sheriff's Office. In recognition of Women's History Month, I want to take this opportunity to highlight just a few of the extraordinary women of BSO making a difference throughout this community.
There's a good reason Deputy Vickie Kendrick was recognized as the 2019 BSO Department of Detention Employee of the Year. She is a dedicated, hardworking and selfless individual who gives her best to everyone she encounters, both on and off the job. At work, she is a leader in every sense of the word, serving as a mentor to new deputies who join the team. While off duty, Deputy Kendrick uses her time and resources to help families in Broward. From ensuring kids have clothes and supplies each school year to assisting with gifts and meals during the holiday season, her mantra is: "I am blessed, and I want the children in the community to know that someone cares." Deputy Kendrick's commitment to service is a true testament to her personal and professional success.
For nearly 18 years, Fire Rescue Public Education Manager Courtney Palmer has helped develop a public education program that is second to none. Despite COVID-19 restricting in-person instruction, Courtney and her incredible team, who also happen to be women – Life Safety Educators Melanie Brocato, Rebecca Lowe-Johnson and Leah Wilson – have evolved and adapted, developing new, creative learning opportunities in our virtual world. Collectively, they have hosted thousands of people in their virtual firehouse tours, hands-only CPR and bleeding control courses. "We are busier than ever," Courtney says. A champion of good causes, she also chairs BSO's new LGBTQ+ Liaison Committee and donates her time, energy, and even her hair, to charitable causes. "I really should get a T-shirt that reads: Stop me from volunteering," she jokes. "But I just love helping any way I can."
I know few people who have the poise, grace, determination and leadership necessary to tackle the tremendous challenges we've all faced this past year; Captain Renee Peterson is one of them. As captain of the Neighborhood Support Team, she has been a lifeline to our communities. Since March 2020, she and her team have helped put food on the table for thousands of Broward residents through Operation Helping Hands, a partnership with Feeding South Florida. During the social justice protests last summer, Captain Peterson's focus was rooted in quelling unrest, listening to our communities and creating new opportunities for understanding. Today, she leads BSO's groundbreaking Social Justice Task Force. "We all benefit when we work together to build a better understanding of each other," she says. Day or night, Captain Peterson is out in the community listening, collaborating and working together to establish positive change.
In her 26 years with BSO, Jennifer Bourgouin serves as our agency's Emergency Management Program Coordinator. Providing essential administrative and managerial support for the Emergency Management Program, Jennifer faced a new challenge this past year with the COVID-19 pandemic. Accustomed to short-term, in-person activations in the Sheriff's Emergency Operation Center (SEOC), Jennifer was able to adapt quickly, successfully implementing a remote emergency response. "I am very proud of how we came together as a response team," she says. "Every disaster is different, but I'm confident that through our training and preparedness efforts, we can handle anything." As our battle against COVID-19 persists, Jennifer's supportive efforts continue in the SEOC.
The remarkable women highlighted here are just a few of the many others who serve across BSO. Their dedication to service is unrivalled. I genuinely believe that our organization and our community are better because of their service.
Three years have passed since the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The memories of the 17 innocent lives taken from us on that terrible day live on in our hearts and our actions. Never again. Those two words gain more importance as time passes. As the freshman class from that year graduates and moves on to new and exciting endeavors, our work to safeguard our schools continues.
Training and preparedness are vital to that mission. As one of the nation's largest sheriff's offices, we strive to be the best equipped and most prepared organization in the country. Today, I am happy to say that we are exceeding standards and continuously raising the bar.
After a thorough, critical and honest self-evaluation, we have introduced numerous improvements and initiatives to strengthen our training and readiness. The Broward Sheriff's Office is the first agency in Florida to have a nationally-certified active shooter training unit. In collaboration with our federal partners, BSO has certified instructors in Active Shooter and Basic Tactical Medical Response, the FBI ALERRT Program and Incident Command Structure. And for the first time in BSO history, we have broken ground on a state-of-the-art training center.
These changes are significantly contributing to safer schools and safer communities. But it's just the beginning. I am excited to share some details about BSO's new Department of Preparedness and Response, a critical evolution that better addresses today's public safety challenges and enhances operational readiness.
Established in June 2020, the department centralizes our agency's training efforts and the deployment of our special operations units to maximize response capabilities. Previously, training had been fragmented, leading to inconsistency and lack of continuity in training protocols. By putting training under one umbrella, we optimize our capabilities, resulting in superior service to Broward County. The new department also provides for greater accountability. Whereas previous training records would only show someone attended training, each person is now independently evaluated on course performance objectives.
Another aspect of the department is the new Threat Intervention Tactics Analytics Network (TITAN). This intelligence-led policing unit works to mitigate terrorism and acts of violence throughout Broward County. Comprised of a full-time SWAT team — the first in BSO history — the unit provides high visibility and tactical security in critical infrastructure locations, including airports and seaports, throughout the county. Should there be a critical, mass casualty incident, this highly-trained unit will facilitate an immediate tactical deployment.
TITAN personnel also work to mentor others throughout BSO. TITAN responds to any incident that requires four or more deputies. The team reinforces training and helps establish proper procedures and protocols during small-scale incidents so deputies are better prepared and ready to respond appropriately during more critical events.
"Establishing Incident Command is vital during critical incidents," said Colonel Steve Robson, who leads the Department of Preparedness and Response. "The onsite training provides deputies with the opportunity to experience the type of response necessary should we have another incident like Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Everyone knows what to do and can perform as expected."
The department is also ensuring our first responders have what they need to perform their jobs. As other public safety agencies, government entities and healthcare systems scrambled to procure critical personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Preparedness and Response, in partnership with the county, is establishing a strategic stockpile of PPE for all first responders in Broward. This is another first time preparedness initiative created by BSO. As the county's lead public safety agency, we should never rely on state or federal partners to provide the equipment necessary to ensure our community's safety.
The department is aligned to ensure preparedness and accountability to address today's public safety threats. Their structure draws attention as a flagship model for other public safety agencies around the country looking to implement similar changes. I am proud of our efforts and will always work toward implementing best practices to safeguard this community.
On January 5, I will take the oath of office to continue serving as your sheriff. My swearing-in ceremony will be a much less extravagant affair than those of sheriffs' past due to COVID-19 restrictions. Perhaps an intimate setting is more appropriate, regardless. The oath of office is a sacred trust. It is a promise I make to myself and my fellow first responders. It is also a promise I make to you.
I recently removed the placard with my name on it from the front of my office door. I replaced it with a more suitable designation: "The People's Office." The sheriff and all the men and women of the Broward Sheriff's Office work for you and our mission every day, to provide this county with the best public safety services in the country.
When I assumed command of BSO nearly two years ago, I did so with the promise of putting public safety before all else. In just a short time, we've made significant progress in achieving our goals. Better training, better equipment and the introduction of new technologies mean Broward County is safer today.
I have also worked with command staff and community leaders to create a more transparent and accountable sheriff's office while providing public safety all residents can trust.
I've appointed new members to the BSO Professional Standards Committee, including members from the community, to review internal disciplinary matters. I have established a Use of Force Review Board, the first ever in BSO's history. I've made it clear time and again, I will never tolerate egregious use of force under my leadership.
Our Social Justice Task Force recently met for the first time. The group, comprised of BSO employees, community stakeholders, organizers and leaders, will build relationships, gain trust and bridge the gap with the communities we serve. The task force will meet every other month to listen, learn and cooperate toward the shared goal of a safer, collaborative community.
While we have achieved success, we can and will continue to do better. I will spend my next four years in office the same as my first two, working in the best interest of the people I serve.
This year, I am establishing the BSO Office of Inspector General (OIG). The department will ensure BSO runs in the most efficient, economical and responsible way possible. The OIG will ensure misconduct allegations made against employees are thoroughly investigated, identify ways BSO can be more cost-efficient in all areas of operation and conduct independent reviews of every department within BSO to ensure we exceed public safety standards. This is just one more way BSO will be accountable and transparent.
As we enter a new year, I want to say thank you. Thank you for entrusting me with the responsibility to lead BSO into the future. Thank you because this is your office as much as it is mine. Together, we will continue our great work and focus on taking the necessary steps toward keeping public safety a priority.
This year has been met with a whirlwind of emotion. For some, fear, loss,
loneliness, isolation and anxiousness may define their year. For others, joy,
appreciation, comfort and family. And for many, a mixture of both. But if 2020
taught us one thing, it’s that we always accomplish more as a unified community.
As the year unfolded, COVID-19 changed how all of us live and work. We have all
had to find ways to adapt to what has become our new normal. Yet, despite the
many changes in work and personal lives, countless good people in Broward County
have continued to take every opportunity to give back, help meet a need, show
support, extend resources and virtually come together.
Despite the push for physical distancing, I’ve witnessed people taking every
opportunity to give back, help meet a need, show support, extend resources and
virtually come together.
As a public safety agency, we know public safety isn’t only about protecting our
citizens but striving to better our communities. I am moved by the overwhelming
generosity and heartfelt acts of kindness from the men and women of BSO. Aside
from their primary responsibilities, these individuals looked for alternative
ways to serve this community.
From helping a homeless mother and child pay for a hotel stay for a week to
helping a single mother who lost her job get her electricity turned back on, our
deputies found ways to help where it was needed most. Other deputies gifted a
homeless father of two young children with new shoes and socks for his kids.
Another employee from our Civil Division spearheaded a food collection drive
resulting in the donation of more than 800 pounds of food to provide for those
in need. These acts demonstrate true care and commitment and highlight the
exceptional ways in which our personnel go above and beyond – not just today,
but every day.
These generous acts of kindness were also displayed by the community towards law
enforcement. From countless cards, crafts, prayers and delicious meals donated
from local restaurants and community residents, our agency has received an
overwhelming show of support and appreciation from this community. A young
11-year-old boy named Zechariah, who runs in honor of fallen heroes, added two
more miles to his 609-mile record to remember the lives of Deputy Shannon
Bennett and Lt. Al Rengifo, who we lost earlier this year. During times of
protests and nationwide unrest, we had an opportunity to listen. We prayed
together. We dialogued. We came together in support of equality and justice for
Witnessing these genuine acts of goodness take place across this county during a
time when it is needed most has been a heartwarming experience. People simply
helping people. People whose names they may never know and who they may never
meet. But giving back and showing support because it’s the benevolent thing to
do. It’s things like this that truly make Broward County a special place to
At BSO, we, too, have worked through this pandemic and looked for opportunities
to identify areas where we may help lessen the burden on residents across
Broward County. Through Operation Helping Hands and our food drives, BSO has
partnered with community-based organizations to provide groceries and individual
meals to thousands of individuals and families experiencing financial hardships
countywide. This assistance will continue as long as there is a need in this
In the spirit of the season, we have continued our tradition of partnering with
local organizations and the Broward Sheriff’s Advisory Council to provide
turkeys and Thanksgiving meal baskets to families in need. For the first time,
our Department of Detention personnel volunteered to distribute more than 300
Thanksgiving meals donated by Calvary Chapel to families of inmates housed at
Broward jails. The hope was to ease the financial burden and alleviate the
stress associated with having a loved one incarcerated.
Our holiday outreach will continue during the month of December in partnership
with the Sheriff’s Foundation of Broward County. Though our annual in-person
Shop with the Sheriff event is canceled, we still believe it is important to
reward students who excel in and out of the classroom. This year, 400 deserving
youth will receive a Walmart gift card along with a new toy donated by BSO
personnel as part of our agency-wide toy drive.
And with that, I say what else? I want to go the extra mile and extend this
offer to you. If you know a family who could use some support and cheer this
holiday season, BSO wants to know about it. For a chance to be selected, please
follow me on social media @bsosherifftony and send a message about why this
family should be chosen. The winner will be contacted by December 13.
I’m inspired by this community’s display of unity and brotherhood. I couldn’t be
more proud and honored to serve alongside such dedicated and incredible people.
On behalf of the men and women of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, from our family
to yours, we wish you a safe, healthy and fulfilling holiday season!
At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we strive to exceed all expectations and live up to the highest industry standards so we can provide Broward County with the best, most prepared and accountable public safety services. I am excited and proud to announce that BSO received final approval for full law enforcement accreditation last month by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA).
As many of you know, BSO lost its accreditation last year due to systemic failures in leadership related to active shooter preparedness and response protocols regarding the 2017 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting and the 2018 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. While accreditation is not mandatory, it is nonetheless vital in maintaining the high standards of a modern, progressive public safety agency. Accreditation is awarded upon the successful demonstration of excellence in leadership, resource management, service delivery and adherence to a body of stringent standards, which represent the very best in law enforcement today.
Disappointed in the loss of accreditation, it fueled us as an organization to quickly rebuild the trust and confidence we lost and return to being a model of what a public safety agency should look like. Instead of waiting the full two years to reapply for reaccreditation, I requested an earlier review by the commission, who performed a thorough review and assessment earlier this year. Thanks to advancements in our active shooter training, changes in policy and protocols, investments in technology and most importantly our dedicated employees, the CFA assessors found BSO to be 100 percent in compliance with all mandatory standards. CFA Assessment Team Leader Sgt. Frank Ruggiero further noted, “The Broward County Sheriff’s Office appears to be an excellently managed agency with members that are extremely proud to be part of it.”
In addition, I am honored to recognize the attainment of two additional accreditations earned earlier this summer.
The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) recommended BSO’s Regional Communications for reaccreditation. BSO’s Regional Communications is the largest CALEA accredited communications center under the Public Safety Communications Accreditation Program. BSO’s Pretrial Services and Probation divisions also earned full reaccreditation from The Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission (FCAC) for their compliance with rigorous standards and industry best practices.
In total, BSO holds, or maintains, 16 accreditations across the agency including the Department of Law Enforcement, Department of Detention, Community Programs, Crime Lab, Biometrics Unit, Training Division, Regional Communications, Purchasing and Fire Rescue and Emergency Services.
I am proud of the work the men and women of BSO perform daily to protect and serve the Broward community. I pledge to continue to hold our organization to the highest standards. To learn more about our accreditations, please visit us online at www.sheriff.org/Administration/Pages/Accreditation.aspx or call the Division of Policy & Accountability at 954-831-8930.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
It is with great excitement that I announce the launch of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Social Justice Task Force (SJTF), a civilian and law enforcement collaboration that will help our Broward communities achieve greater justice and equity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our way of life and how we go about our daily routines. For many, kitchen and dining room tables have become the new office, classroom or social meeting place. Virtual is the new reality, and while it allows us to continue to work, learn and socialize safely, it comes with its own unique set of challenges and dangers.
As we transition to using more online platforms, scammers, hackers and other cybercriminals are finding new, lucrative and sometimes dangerous ways to target people. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, in addition to ensuring the safety of our physical streets, we are also dedicated to protecting our online neighborhoods — especially when it comes to the safety of our children.
With Broward public schools having begun their year fully remote, kids have had to adapt to extended hours behind their digital devices and the increased risks associated with them. It is important that we protect our children’s ability to learn and play online safely.
Recently, we’ve seen an increase in phishing scams through email and text messages. Aside from malware, ransomware, spyware and other dangers designed to steal personal information and money, these scams also pose a significant risk to children, who are perfect targets for identity theft because of their clean credit histories. In 2017, more than one million children were victims of identity theft or fraud, and that number continues to grow.
In addition, with social distancing as the new norm, socialization has turned even more digital than ever before. Parents must pay special attention to who their children are interacting with online and in what manner. Unfortunately, cyberbullying is rampant and has been linked to a variety of negative effects, including anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
Here are some important reminders on what you can do to help keep your children safe:
We are living in unprecedented times with unfamiliar threats. But by being vigilant and prudent, we can keep our kids and our community safe from cybercrime.
This year, our nation – our world – has been faced with unprecedented challenges. From a global health crisis to civil unrest and the reminder of inequalities for people of color, our strength, our faith and our wills have all been tested. As we enter the eight month of 2020, I gain strength from the opportunities before us. The opportunity to listen. To grow. To mend. And to change. In the last 18 months, I have made significant changes that focus on building stronger community relationships and restoring trust by bringing accountability and transparency to the Broward Sheriff’s Office. I have revised policy to establish a Use of Force Review Board, appointed new members to the Professional Standards Committee, established progressive training protocols and improved recruitment practices to ensure we are hiring the most qualified applicants. Despite these advancements, we must do more.
Recently, I’ve had several opportunities to sit down with community leaders and advocates for change to listen to their concerns and discuss areas of strength and opportunities for growth. Our dialogues were progressive, and the BSO command staff and I welcomed their input.
The focus of our discussions was on policing practices. Today, law enforcement remains the only branch of government that is required to respond to every situation where there is an immediate need or threat. Often, these needs are met by people in crisis, who are hurting, who have been wronged, are suffering or have been defrauded. Our deputies are trained in conflict resolution and de-escalation; the majority (soon to be all) are trained in crisis intervention. Yet, as a profession, our policing approaches must continue to evolve.
Since becoming sheriff, I have made a commitment to investing resources in areas where they are needed most. Aside from the aforementioned changes, I have restructured the Law Enforcement Trust Fund process to ensure it is more fair and equitable to serve nonprofit organizations that focus on issues vital to our community. We have established the BSO Legacy Program offering scholarships and internships to minority individuals interested in a career in public safety. We have established a Youth Mentorship Program focused on mentoring youth and developing them into strong, responsible civically-engaged adults.
Change will not come overnight. However, these changes are just the beginning of establishing systemic solutions toward a more unified Broward. I will continue to make progressive changes for the benefit of this community. At BSO, we are listening. We are evolving. We are prioritizing the needs of the people we serve. And we are committed to working together with you to maintain trust and strengthen our community.
The appalling murder of George Floyd reopened deep and painful wounds in our country. For too long, many people of color have suffered through a separate and unequal system of justice and have been unjust victims of police brutality.
Incidents like this cut particularly deep with me. Before I was Broward’s first black sheriff, I was a black kid from the inner city thrown to the ground by a police officer with a knee pinned to the back of my neck. I understand the distrust some black and brown Americans feel toward law enforcement. We’ve let them down for far too long and have done too little to root out systemic racism from our ranks.
BUT I SAY THIS TO YOU: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
I know we must work hard to rebuild trust with our communities, but changes are being made. Since I became sheriff, I have worked to build public trust by bringing accountability and transparency to this agency and to this community.
Our deputies are held accountable for their actions. On four different occasions, I’ve terminated deputies for use of excessive force. I’ve appointed new members to the Professional Standards Committee, which includes minority members from the community, to review internal disciplinary matters. In addition, I am establishing a Use of Force Review Board, the first ever in BSO’s history. Egregious use of force will not be tolerated under my leadership.
We continue to ensure we are hiring the right people, including more minorities and women, and are providing them with the appropriate training. We are reintegrating a comprehensive Early Warning System to detect potential behaviors that may cause harm to the public. In addition, every deputy in our department continues to be trained in de-escalation techniques along with safe arrest methods. I am also allocating approximately $1 million to implement racial equity and implicit bias training programs. All Department of Law Enforcement deputies have body worn cameras and are required to activate them prior to any interaction with civilians.
I also know one negative incident can erode years of trust. At BSO, community policing is not merely a buzzword. We are working side by side with our communities, listening to your concerns and identifying problems and solutions for BSO involvement in the neighborhoods we serve. This is why our deputies now get out of their patrol cars and walk the neighborhoods they protect, interacting with residents, as part of our Park, Walk and Talk program.
At BSO, we’re making significant changes, and we are one of the most accountable and transparent public safety agencies in the nation. Yet I know there is still work to be done. I challenge our communities not to let incidents like what happened in Minneapolis divide us. I pledge as sheriff to continue to work with our communities and hold ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and accountability. While I am I’m deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd and others killed unjustly, know this: their deaths will not be forgotten. May their legacies live through our progress.
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:
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.
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.