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.
Sheriff Gregory Tony
“All men are created equal. No matter how hard they try, they can never erase those words. That is what America is about.”—Harvey Milk, slain LGBT rights champion
This month, we honor the 50th anniversary of the momentous Stonewall riots. The series of demonstrations did more to advance the cause of equal rights for gay Americans than any other single event in U.S. history and sparked a movement that continues today.
We celebrate the achievements and social progress of the gay community during Pride Month, but we do so with an eye toward the future — mindful that the fight for equality is never easy or complete. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we honor our LGBT employees in all areas of our organization.
Deputy Josh Sapp’s story epitomizes what we strive to achieve at BSO. The six year law enforcement veteran began his career at a police department where he was suspected of being gay and subsequently shown disrespect for who and how he chose to love. But when Josh started his career at BSO, he found a home that measures his value on quality of work and content of character, not sexual orientation. Deputy Sapp is currently assigned to the DUI Task Force, working with an important team of deputies to keep impaired drivers off our roadways.
As sheriff, I play an important role in protecting the rights of all Broward’s nearly two million residents. As Broward’s first African American sheriff, and as a person who has experienced inequality firsthand, it is a role I fully embrace.
I know the fight for equality is not a fight for any one group or individual — it is a fight for the rights of all Americans. Those rights are preserved in our Constitution and are part of the moral fabric of this nation. Yet, despite the efforts of many, there is still much work to be done to ensure equality and acceptance for all.
We must recognize that what makes us different is also what makes us special — and makes us stronger. Each and every one of us brings a different perspective and uniqueness to our communities. No one person or group of people is better than or inferior to another.
As sheriff, I instill in the men and women of BSO to be blind to color, to treat everyone as equals and never turn a blind eye to the injustices and inequities affecting our diverse communities. Everyone, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual identity, deserves the same opportunities, the same level of respect and the same rights as everyone else.
Please join me and the men and women of the Broward Sheriff’s Office on June 15 in Wilton Manors for the Stonewall Pride Parade and Festival as we celebrate the LGBT movement and equality for all. For more information, please visit our community events calendar at sheriff.org.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
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.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony
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.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office’s success begins with its dedicated employees. The men and women of this organization collectively offer thousands of years of public service experience. There is a great deal of talent throughout this agency, and I have had the honor of promoting some of our most highly-qualified leaders. Our new leadership is strong. As an agency, we will operate more efficiently and effectively as we continue to focus on our mission of public safety. We are also bolstering our recruitment efforts to identify well-qualified individuals who are committed to public safety and are eager to serve.
Ongoing professional training is paramount to public safety. Our training division has been restructured, focusing on providing BSO employees with the education, training and tools needed to perform their duties properly. We are working toward establishing an on-site training complex to provide more intensive, frequent training necessary to address today’s public safety challenges.
We have established a Threat Management Division, which encompasses our Real Time Crime Center. This unified crime center will provide a means for law enforcement to utilize cutting-edge technology to proactively identify and investigate potentially dangerous threats to our community. We have been in direct communication with Broward school officials examining ways to enhance our school safety and security.
In the coming weeks and months, we will continue to evaluate our priorities and develop new policies and initiatives to improve our operations. We will be fiscally responsible and ensure we are allocating resources to the appropriate areas of public safety. Going forward, we will encourage two-way communication and open dialogue. New communication tools will be implemented to listen and connect better with the community.
I am proud of the strides we are already making to restore honor and confidence in this organization, and we are just getting started. Together, we will work toward achieving great success while prioritizing public safety. I look forward to meeting members of the community in the coming months. You can stay connected by following me on Twitter @BrowardSheriff or emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SERVICE = REWARD
Sheriff of Broward County
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.
Sheriff Gregory Tony
"As your new sheriff, I am honored to have the opportunity to serve our great county and its residents once again. I know there are many of you who are eager to learn more about me—and I promise you will soon.
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.
Sheriff Gregory Tony
In life and in work, success is achieved through the willingness and ability to evolve, adapt and innovate. That is especially true when it comes to public safety.
Throughout my four decades in law enforcement, the crime-fighting skills, tools and initiatives I’ve been equipped with have continuously improved to keep up with changing demands. Criminals don’t give up because they’ve been caught once before — they simply seek new ways to game the system and inflict new harm. That is why it is always so important to keep up with trends and strive at all times to be several steps ahead of the bad guys. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we remain on the cutting edge of advancement.
Now, as we embark on a new year, I’m excited to launch our #SaferBroward initiative, which will pioneer proactive programs, policies and initiatives to achieve the results Broward residents expect from our agency.
Throughout the year, we will take an in-depth look at the new ways BSO works to keep you safe. One of most exciting new initiatives is the way we receive important, live and actionable intelligence from the community through a variety of sources. That includes the recent implementation of the SaferWatch app, which makes reporting suspicious activity or perceived threats at our schools a whole lot easier. SaferWatch covers more than 440 public, charter and private schools in Broward and gives students, teachers and parents the ability to submit photos, videos, audio files or text messages anonymously to BSO. Remember, if you see something say something — and now you can even send something.
SaferWatch is a remarkable new tool, but it is just one of many new measures we’ve implemented to enhance school security. BSO is ensuring that an armed School Resource Officer, Deputy or Guardian will be on every public and charter school campus in all BSO-patrolled cities—and equipping them with the tools and training necessary to be successful.
Additionally, our new, dedicated threat assessment division will keep us safer by serving as a clearinghouse for all information related to individuals who pose a potential threat to our schools and the communities we serve.
Under my administration, BSO also created bold new programs aimed at limiting the loss of property. One of the most successful ways we’ve done this is through the creation of the Burglary Apprehension Team (BAT). BSO’s BAT targets criminals who break into homes and vehicles. Combining bold surveillance tactics targeting “hot spots” and known or suspected burglars with cutting-edge law enforcement predictive technology, burglaries in our communities plummeted in recent years.
BSO is also one of the largest policing agencies in the nation to have successfully deployed body-worn cameras to our uniformed officers. All BSO road patrol deputies are now equipped with this technology, and it’s already been paying dividends. It provides transparency and accountability to the public we serve.
While stopping criminals is important, equally important is addressing the root causes of crime and preventing individuals from initially turning to a life of crime. Our community policing efforts address these approaches, as do our programs which seek to help the mentally ill, youth and the homeless. The help we give to community groups also helps strengthen our community and its support network of social services.
As always, your input can also make a difference and help make for a #SaferBroward.
When disaster strikes, the Broward Sheriff's Office is ready, willing and able to lend a helping hand to those in need at a moment's notice—no matter where or when it occurs. From the heart of Broward to the people in need in the Carolinas and the Florida Panhandle, BSO was there to assist in whatever manner was needed during this deadly and catastrophic 2018 hurricane season.
Following the monster one-two punch of Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael, dozens of our brave men and women in the Department of Law Enforcement and Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue (BSFR) answered the call for help from our neighbors and friends who were in desperate need of assistance. They put their comforts aside and put their lives on the line to help people in far-off locations they knew little to nothing about.
These selfless actions are a continuation of BSO's long and rich history of sending assistance to other counties, states and even countries who have been impacted by disaster. While ensuring the safety and security of Broward residents and visitors is always BSO's top priority, we promote the ideals of public safety by helping any way and anywhere we can. Public safety is about helping out those in need, even if disaster doesn't touch us personally. As this devastating hurricane season showed, there were many who required the kindness and assistance of outside help.
Following Hurricane Florence's fury in September, a team of BSFR personnel sprang into action at a moment's notice to assist in the rescue efforts in South Carolina in the aftermath of the hurricane. The team was deployed as part of the FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Florida Task Force 2 and was tasked with locating and helping people stranded due to the rising waters of the hurricane. While on the ground, these brave men and women assisted in multiple rescues and no doubt helped save lives. Just weeks later, the team was sent into action once again when Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida Panhandle.
They were joined by BSO's Quick Response Force—a unit of 24 law enforcement personnel from all around the county who packed into a caravan and headed up to Bay County in the Florida Panhandle to assist in providing law enforcement services to the ravaged region. Working 12-hour shifts, the 23 deputies and one community service aide performed vital law enforcement functions, including responding to calls for service, patrolling for anti-looting, assisting with traffic and search and rescue.
So we would not be a burden on local resources, which were greatly diminished by the hurricane, this unit was self-contained, meaning they arrived with everything they needed, including water, food and clothing to last for their eight-day deployment.
These deployments came just a year after BSO personnel travelled to the Florida Keys and Puerto Rico to help in the relief efforts and assist the storm-weary residents following the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria.
I am so incredibly proud of the men and women of this agency who drop everything and give their all to help any way they can. If disaster strikes again, they are ready to roll.
Sheriff Scott Israel
Thanksgiving is a time for family. A day celebrated with loved ones gathered around the dining room table for the traditional holiday feast.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many families in Broward and around the country who are simply unable to put food on their tables for Thanksgiving. At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we have made it a Thanksgiving tradition to ease the burden, bring some joy and provide some hope for those struggling during this holiday. No child should spend the holiday hungry — and no parent should experience the pain of being unable to provide.
Each year, BSO distributes thousands of turkeys to families in need. I personally witness the anxiety and despair fade away as I hand out turkeys to families around the county. That’s what Thanksgiving is truly all about. We couldn’t do this without the financial support of numerous partners, including the Broward Sheriff's Advisory Council, which provides year-round support to public safety in Broward and also to our community as a whole.
Sadly, food insecurity is not just a once-a-year event, but a daily stark reality for many Broward families. In fact, around a quarter million people struggle to get enough to eat. That includes nearly 80,000 children who go to bed hungry.
That is unacceptable.
Ending food insecurity has been one of my biggest passions for many years. I remember visiting a Boys and Girls Club when I was first elected sheriff and noticed the counselors filling backpacks of the kids with food so they would not go the full weekend without a decent meal. The food was the club’s way of helping these kids make it through the hardest of times. I was both moved and motivated by this gesture — and made it my mission to have BSO do what we could to help.
Shortly afterwards, BSO teamed up with community-based organizations to distribute free food via the grocery giveaway food distributions. These events, paid for through the generosity of individuals, businesses and non-profits, are held throughout the year and around the county. They provide residents an opportunity to stock up on meats, produce, bread, dairy and frozen foods. Everyone is welcome to attend this free community event.
We do this not because it’s the nice thing to do, but the right thing to do. It benefits us all. Helping to relieve the stresses of hopelessness, frustration and despair is part of the solution. Troubled individuals are far more likely to steer clear of crime when their basic needs for food, shelter and treatment are met. These proactive community policing policies strike at the heart of the problem before it spirals out of control.
During this Thanksgiving season, I ask that we remember those less fortunate than us and all do our part to help where we can. From the BSO family to yours: have a safe, healthy and happy holiday.
Sheriff Scott Israel
Recently, I instituted a new policy at the Broward Sheriff’s Office that requires all law enforcement deputies to carry at least one less-lethal weapon in addition to their firearm while on duty.
Less-lethal weapons are explicitly designed and primarily employed to induce a subject to submit or comply with directions while minimizing fatalities, permanent injuries and unnecessary damage to property and the environment.
In my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, I know firsthand that there is no one right response to any given situation. In many instances, deputies have only a matter of seconds — sometimes fractions of a second — to respond to a potentially life-threatening situation. It is up to each trained deputy on the street to assess any imminent threat rapidly and decide whether a firearm or less-lethal weapon is the most appropriate tool to use.
That is why this new policy is so important. When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As a result of this new policy, deputies are afforded more options to de-escalate an incident while ensuring their safety, the safety of those around them and the safety of those individuals involved.
In addition to their firearm, deputies now must carry at least one of the following:
Impact Weapon (baton): These devices can be used in situations where there is an up-close encounter.
Chemical Agent (pepper spray): This irritates the eyes and temporarily restricts vision. It can be used from a farther distance than impact weapons to incapacitate and gain compliance over the perpetrator.
Conducted Electrical Weapons (commonly called “Taser”): This device provides an electrical discharge. It is more effective at a greater distance and, when effective, results in the total loss of control of voluntary muscles.
I also approved a tool, a Less Lethal Launcher, which is issued to specially-trained qualified deputies. Although it looks like a 12-gauge shotgun, it fires less-lethal bean bag-like projectiles designed to incapacitate an individual up to 50 yards away. The impact of one of these rounds can be compared to getting hit by a major league fastball in the upper thigh or lower abdomen. In addition, the menacing appearance and sound it produces often lead to quicker and greater compliance.
Not only are all deputies required to carry at least one less-lethal tool, but they also receive training and must demonstrate proficiency with that tool on a continuous basis.
Although police use-of-force incidents resulting in death by firearm decreased nationally in recent years, they still regularly make headlines. The requirement to carry a less-lethal weapon is the right decision not only for our deputies, but for the individual involved in the incident — and without question, it’s good for our community. Most importantly, it will save lives.
Sheriff Scott Israel
Reporting suspicious activity or perceived threats at our schools just got a whole lot easier.
The Broward Sheriff's Office, in partnership with SaferWatch, recently launched an innovative new mobile app that allows users to report non-emergency incidents and tips in real time directly to BSO. The SaferWatch program covers more than 440 public, charter and private schools in Broward and gives students, parents and teachers the ability to submit photos, videos, audio files or text messages anonymously.
Whether it's a case of bullying, overhearing something of concern or witnessing an incident that gives you pause, the app provides a user an easy way to report important tips and information that may have in the past gone unreported. The information is then sent to BSO Criminal Investigations who will review the information and swiftly take the appropriate action. The more eyes and ears we have in the community, the safer we all become. So if you see something, send something through SaferWatch.
Another great feature about SaferWatch is the ability to alert users of an incident or event at any geo-fenced school in Broward County. For instance, if there is an incident at a school, all users of the app at the school and those who have chosen that school for which to receive alerts will be sent a notification through the app in real time.
SaferWatch is a remarkable new tool, but it is just one of many ways BSO is working to strengthen school security.
This year, BSO is ensuring that an armed school resource officer, deputy or guardian will be on every public and charter school campus in all BSO-patrolled cities, from the open of school to the close of school. Larger schools have more than one deputy to provide for additional coverage. BSO also provides added armed security on every public and charter school campus in BSO-patrolled cities during the beginning and end of each school day, when the most people are coming and going from campuses.
In addition, we are also working closely with Broward County Public Schools to assist with the hiring, equipping and training of their armed school guardians for schools in all Broward County districts.
We also know that ongoing training and preparation are vital in every profession—especially law enforcement. To that end, we have provided enhanced tactical training to all BSO school resource officers in the area of active shooter; initiated additional active shooter training for all sworn BSO personnel; and trained and equipped all school resource officers with smaller concealable long gun firearms to ensure they have immediate access in the event of an active shooter incident.
BSO is making heavy, but prudent use of the Risk Protection Order Act (RPO), or red flag law, which passed earlier this year. The law is a valuable tool to prevent gun violence by helping keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who demonstrate an obvious threat to themselves or others. Already, BSO has utilized RPOs dozens of times—more than any other county in the state.
We are working on the formation of a dedicated threat assessment division which will serve as a clearinghouse for all information related to individuals who potentially pose a threat to our schools and the communities we serve. These enhancements are just some of the ways BSO is working to help keep our schools and our children as safe as possible.
To learn more about SaferWatch, including how to download it, visit BrowardAlerts.com.
Sheriff Scott Israel
Broward County and all of Florida are safer today thanks to a new state law that gives law enforcement a valuable tool to prevent gun violence by helping keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who demonstrate an obvious threat to themselves or others.
Florida joined a handful of states earlier this year when it passed the Risk Protection Order Act (RPO), or red flag law, spurred to much-needed action in response to the tragedy in Parkland. This important law, passed with bipartisan support in the state legislature, allows law enforcement to remove firearms and ammunition from violent or mentally ill individuals while affording citizens their due process.
Already, this law is clearly proving its worth to law enforcement and the public.
Since the passage of the law, the Broward Sheriff’s Office has made significant use of the RPO Act. Already, BSO has utilized RPOs dozens of times—more than any other county in the state. In April, BSO violent crimes detectives arrested a Deerfield Beach man, who was pending trial for attempted murder, for violating a risk protection order and removed an AR-15, a .22 caliber rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a bump stock and numerous other weapon-related items from his home. The arrest is believed to have been the first in the state for violation of an RPO.
The process for obtaining an RPO is straightforward and puts the decision to remove guns in the hands of a judge. First, law enforcement files a petition listing the statement, actions or facts which give rise to a reasonable fear of significant dangerous acts by respondent. The petition is heard by a Judge within 24 hours to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to themselves or others in the near future by having in their custody any firearm or ammunition. If granted, the respondent is served with the temporary order, and they must immediately surrender their firearms, ammunition and concealed weapons license pending a final hearing.
The judge will set the final hearing within 14 days, at which time law enforcement must present clear and convincing evidence that the person poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to themselves or others by having in their custody or control any firearm or ammunition, or by purchasing, possessing or receiving a firearm or ammunition. If granted, the final RPO is valid for one year. In order to extend the order, law enforcement would once again have to present evidence to the court that the person is still a threat to themselves or others.
This is the type of common-sense gun measure for which I have long advocated. This law is intended solely to remove firearms from individuals who pose an obvious threat to themselves and others—not from law-abiding citizens. It balances public safety goals with the important rights afforded to citizens by the Second Amendment of the Constitution, as well as the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment right to due process. In fact, even gun rights organizations have voiced their support for these red flag laws.
While this law is not the perfect solution to ending gun violence, it’s a gigantic step in the right direction, and we are all safer because of it.
Sheriff Scott Israel