By Perry Busby
Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony shook hands and extended a cordial greeting to Scott Israel, the county’s former sheriff. It was the first time the two had spoken since Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Israel and replaced him with Tony.
Tony and Israel, along with three other candidates, attended the NAACP’s Candidates Forum last Thursday at Saint Christopher Episcopal Church. All were there to present their vision and make a case for how they would lead the county’s top law enforcement agency.
The small sanctuary was filled to capacity. Interested citizens packed the pews and stood shoulder-to-shoulder against the walls.
Each candidate made sure their most ardent supporters were on hand. You could recognize them easily by their t-shirts and buttons. Others let it be known by thunderous claps and shouts every time their candidate had the microphone.
Nine candidates have entered the race. The five candidates on Thursday are all Democrats.
The race will be interesting with Tony and Israel both entering the race claiming they are the incumbent. Both have solid support and vocal detractors.
Voters point to many past incidents to justify their support or objection of both men, but it is the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting that serves as the tightrope of their political careers.
“My name is Scott Israel, and I am your elected sheriff of Broward County,” Israel said in an attempt to stake hold of the mantle from the start.
Tony addressed the issue in his opening remarks, “There have been discussions and rambling about your elected Sheriff Scott was removed,” he said “I have no interest in that battle. I’m here to serve you as best as I can.”
The group debated school safety, community policing and other issues.
“We need somebody that’s gonna step up and show out for the community and that leader is Willie Jones,” Mr. Jones said.
Candidate Andrew Smalling also said, “We need leadership in the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and because of my background, I know I can provide that leadership.”
“They need someone to come in and lead the agency with experience,” Al Pollock said. “I have that experience.”
Tony’s lack of experience was also the subject of some not so subtle jabs. Sheriff Tony responded by pointing to the collective number of years of experience of the people he has appointed to key positions, as well as the number of African Americans and women.
Each candidate brings a unique perspective. It would be wise for voters to pay attention to all candidates because it will ultimately be left up to them in determining not only the next step from this horrific tragedy, but how we address the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color, police brutality and equitable justice.