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.
Service Equals Reward
Sheriff Gregory Tony