Sheriff reprimands commissioner:“I will not stand here and be lectured to…”
Broward County Sheriff Greg Tony
By Perry Busby
The honeymoon between Sheriff Greg Tony and Broward County leaders is officially over. Tony declared as much in a heated exchange at the Tamarac City Commission Meeting on April 24.
While he didn’t come right out and say, ‘It’s over’, Tony’s defiant response to Commissioner Marlon Bolton left many leaders and community activists believing that is indeed the case. During the exchange Tony stated forcefully, “I will not stand here and be lectured to about the laws of investigative practices because no one up there has the experience that I have, or my staff. So, sir, you’re out of line with the context of what you’re demanding from me and I won’t accept it.”
Tony was attending the meeting at the invitation of Commissioner E. Mike Gelin. It would be his first chance to address city leaders since 15-year-old DeLucca “Lucca” Rolle was brutally attacked by three white deputies in a local McDonald’s parking lot.
In the video, a BSO deputy confronts Lucca after the high school freshman attempts to pick up a cell phone. The deputy pepper-sprays the teenager then throws him down, where another deputy dives on his back and begins slamming Lucca’s face repeatedly into the asphalt.
The video has since gone viral, garnering national and international response, shining an enormous spotlight on the city and its leaders. Recognizing their untenable position—the city contracts with BSO for law enforcement services—several Tamarac commissioners issued state-ments condemning the actions and requesting the deputies no longer be assigned to work in the city.
Two of the deputies are currently suspended, with pay. A third deputy on the scene has yet to be identified and currently does not face any disciplinary action.
After Tony’s opening comments, Commissioner Gelin submitted a formal request to the city manager, Michael Cernech, directing him to notify BSO and request the three deputies be removed from active duty within city limits.
Prior to submitting the re-quest, Gelin attempted to give Tony latitude regarding BSO’s internal process, ensuring the matter was handled correctly and completely while also offering a subtle re-minder that they, too, had a constituency that was looking for accountability.
“I understand you would be making a big mistake by taking immediate action, which, after the press has moved on, could come back in the form of lawsuits and other items. While this did happen in Broward County, which is your territory, it did happen in our city, which is our territory and what we’re responsible for,” Gelin said, acknowledging his cohorts around the dais.
A motion to approve the re-quest was on the floor. Bolton, however, wanted clarity be-fore casting his vote. Things heated up after Bolton asked Tony to explain why the third deputy in the video had not been placed on administrative leave nor suspended, when the video clearly shows all three men participated or dis-played negligence.
Many in the audience were shocked, while others gave an I told you so nod, as Tony displayed the same type of aggressive, confrontational behavior that many Black and brown county residents see on a daily basis.
The sheriff’s unprovoked outburst and insinuation that Bolton, who is Black, was making unjust demands to please some in the community for political reasons, created unease among Black leaders who met with Tony days earlier to express their desire for justice and willingness to give him time to complete his investigation.
“It’s almost like the person we saw yesterday wasn’t the same person we saw this weekend,” county commissioner Dale Holness replied when asked about his thoughts on the heated ex-change.
Tony’s aggressive push back will no doubt cause many to speculate if he has the tem-perament and diplomacy to handle such a demanding role.
The 40-year-old sheriff is a former sergeant with Coral Springs police department. At the time of his selection, Tony was retired from active duty and operated a law enforcement training firm specializing in mass-casualty responses. He formed a bond with several families of victims from the Parkland shooting. Among those was Andrew Pollack, whose daughter, Meadow, was murdered at Stoneman Douglas. Pollack introduced Tony to one of his acquaintances, Governor-elect Ron DeSantis.
Some are beginning to speculate if DeSantis has committed an unforced error by suspending beleaguered Broward Sheriff Scott Israel replacing him with a retired, low ranking officer with no political experience.
“He has to understand he’s no longer just a cop,” said Holness, chairman of the Broward Black Elected Officials. “He’s a community leader and a community builder. Being a political neophyte will only last so long.”
Others, such as Pollack, view the move as positive.
“He’s a real policeman, he’s not a politician,” said Pollack. “He puts the community first and he wants to do the right thing. I think he’s doing a great job.”
Tony announced that he plans to launch a campaign to retain the position. His ability to quell this situation will go a long way in determining if he will be a viable contender in a race that already includes seven candidates, in addition to himself.
Future aspirations aside, the next eighteen months will be critical for Tony as he attempts to coexist with a very demanding partner. Perhaps instead of honing his political skills, the sheriff should seek the counsel of any married man who has learned that when it comes to marital disputes, being right does not make you the winner.