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
Earlier this year, the Broward Sheriff's Office Regional Communications Division was selected by the Florida Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the world's oldest and largest not-for-profit professional organization dedicated to the enhancement of public safety communications, as their 2018 Team of the Year.
The team was selected for the hard work, professionalism and dedication they displayed during the shooting at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport on January 6, 2017 where they deftly managed 135 calls from panicked citizens, witnesses, airport employees, family members and victims that flooded the regional 911 system during the chaotic moments of the shooting. Operators provided anxious callers with guidance, comfort and empathy.
Simultaneously, hundreds of officers and other first responders were deployed countywide to assist with the event from approximately 31 municipalities in Broward County. Off-duty Regional Communications Division staff promptly responded to assist during the incident.
The honor reaffirmed what I have known since we launched Broward County's consolidated dispatch system in October 2014: it is not only working—but it is exceeding expectations and providing some of the best 911 service in the country.
Residents and visitors alike are receiving more efficient and effective responses since we merged eight public safety answering points (PSAPs), and 29 cities transitioned into just three regional PSAPs located in Coconut Creek, Sunrise and Pembroke Pines. These three regional sites now operate under common call taking and dispatch protocols and common technology platforms.
The effort was a gigantic undertaking but has proven to be a vast improvement over the previous fragmented system. Each day, our call takers handle roughly 7,500 calls— that's a staggering 2.5 million calls a year. But they handle the load with professionalism and unmatched dedication.
Today, we are more efficient and effective. Under the old system, emergency responses were often hindered and people's lives put at risk because calls would be directed to the wrong answering center and would need to be transferred. The new system has virtually eliminated the need to transfer calls.
Creation of the regional system also streamlined and reduced staffing levels by more than 100 employees. And we increased accountability for staff through transparency and a countywide ticket tracking system to track concerns, complaints and trends. As a result, total call processing times were reduced by approximately 30 seconds, and the vast majority of 911 emergency calls are now answered in 10 seconds or less. In fact, a recent study shows we produce some of the quickest answering times and exhibit one of the best performance levels of any large 911 center in the nation.
This, of course, would not be possible without the dedicated 911 operators and dispatchers. They truly are the unsung and unseen heroes of the agency, tirelessly navigating stressful and chaotic circumstances to serve as the critical link and vital lifeline between our community and emergency services. These workers undergo months of intensive training to learn the ins and outs of public safety.
I've long known their importance and value to public safety, and I'm glad they are finally receiving the outside recognition they earned and very much deserve.
Sheriff Scott Israel
It's not easy work, but there is no other career in the world as rewarding as public safety. Countless individuals across the country and here in Broward County diligently serve in public safety, dedicating their lives to keep our communities safe and making a difference daily, both big and small.
And now you can, too!
The Broward Sheriff's Office is looking for a few good women and men to join our team as law enforcement deputies. At BSO, serving and protecting is not just a job description; it is a way of life. These deputies serve in numerous positions, including road patrol deputy, criminal investigations detective and in our special units. And as the largest fully accredited public service agency in the country, there are numerous career advancement opportunities as well.
Make no mistake. Serving as a law enforcement officer comes with tremendous responsibility. At BSO, your job is more than just stopping crime – it is also connecting with our communities and forging lasting relationships with the diverse communities we serve. You will be equipped with rigorous training to handle every scenario with professionalism but also be required to bring a solid work ethic, sound reasoning and temperament and embrace BSO's commitment to community policing, accountability and transparency.
We are also seeking to fill the ranks in our Department of Detention. Each day, these men and women are charged with maintaining order and discipline among detainees in our jails — the 12th largest jail system in the country — and also with ensuring the safety of the detainees, the public and other law enforcement and detention personnel. As rehabilitation is a top priority at BSO, detention deputies also have the unique opportunity to make a difference in the lives of detainees because of their close and frequent interactions with prisoners.
Want to be part of BSO, but not sure becoming a sworn officer is the best fit for you? We also are looking for more individuals to join our team in the critically important positions of E911 Communications operators and Child Protective Investigations Section (CPIS) investigators. Communications operators are the lifeline between the community and first responders, and our CPIS investigators dedicate their careers to ensuring our community's children are safe and secure.
Aside from the rewarding work you will perform, BSO also offers competitive salaries, outstanding work environment and competitive benefits (including low-cost medical insurance, retirement pension and generous time off) plus numerous opportunities for advancement. Equally important, you are not just an employee at BSO — you are part of our BSO family of over 5,600 employees.
You could be part of our BSO family. Join me and the rest of the BSO team by visiting jobs.sheriff.org.
Sheriff Scott Israel
By air or by sea, and on the ground, the Broward Sheriff's Office's specialized units are devoted to keeping all of the county's 1.9 million residents and millions of annual visitors safer. In fact, these countywide units, when working in tandem with our dedicated men and women on the streets, provide exceptional service to all the cities in Broward County – not just those policed by BSO.
I'd like to tell you about a few of these units and how they serve our communities.
We've all seen police forensics shows like "C.S.I." and how they amazingly use DNA and other forensic evidence to catch a criminal within an hour-long episode. But, in real life, this sort of work takes weeks or even months. This meticulous work requires patience and precision, qualities the roughly 50 dedicated professionals in BSO's Crime Laboratory display every day. In fact, our crime lab is a nationally-recognized leader in the forensic science community as the first sheriff's office crime laboratory to become internationally accredited by the prestigious American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.
BSO's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team has been bravely serving Broward for more than four decades. During that time, SWAT has responded to some of the county's most dangerous law enforcement situations, including barricaded subjects and hostage-taking situations, violent felon search/arrest warrant operations and other tactical operations. Today, nearly 40 deputies, nine county firefighter/paramedics and 12 negotiators staff this team.
It also takes a special type of person to run toward a potential explosive and attempt to defuse it. But that's exactly what our BSO Bomb Squad technicians do. This unit coordinates the investigations of situations involving the use of bombs, explosives and mass-destruction weapons and at post-blast explosion scenes. The unit's highly-trained and skilled members are equipped with state-of-the-art tools including two custom-designed bomb disposal response vehicles, a full-containment explosive vessel with transport, the newest remote bomb disposal robot and two additional remote control robots.
BSO must also give thanks to the furry friends in our K-9 unit who help sniff out crime. These loyal canine deputies of various breeds are specially bred and trained for a variety of tasks. Some canines track and apprehend criminals, while others search for and find missing persons. Other BSO dogs sniff out narcotics and bombs and even find contraband smuggled into our jails. Today, we have 55 dogs assigned throughout the agency available around the clock for immediate response.
Our countywide units are not limited to the land. The BSO Marine Unit provides critical help in our waterways, and our Aviation Unit helicopters are our eyes in the sky, helping to locate and apprehend violent criminals. They also routinely perform emergency medical transports and assist with rescue missions in the Florida Everglades.
And all of these services – which are called "regional services" – are made available upon request to help assist law enforcement departments in every corner of Broward.
At BSO, our tasks may be varied, but our mission is the same: to serve and protect all of Broward.
Sheriff Scott Israel
April is National Autism Awareness Month, a time where we shine an important spotlight on the developmental disability that affects many in this country and around the world. Though the exact causes of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are still uncertain, doctors, experts and activists are feverishly working on raising awareness and aiding in research, diagnosis and treatment of the complex disorder.
At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, we are always working on providing special attention to individuals with ASD and other special needs by instituting proactive programs and initiatives—and undergoing special training aimed at assisting this special population.
One of my personal favorite programs is the Autism in Flight program, which provides a full airport experience in a relaxed setting for individuals about to embark on their first flight. Children and their families check in, go through security, walk the terminal to their gate, board a jetBlue plane and experience a “take-off.” It truly is a special experience.
BSO is also in the community at other special events. During the annual Autism Awareness Day, people affected with autism are given an opportunity to learn about the resources available to them, meet with our first responders in full uniform and see their emergency vehicles and equipment in a non-threatening environment. We’re also huge supporters and participants in the annual Surfers for Autism event, where hundreds of children with autism and developmental delays receive the chance to surf in a safe and secure environment.
Yet BSO’s support for this community goes even further. I’m thrilled to have supported historic legislation my good friends Ellen Kleinert and husband Jerry Cohn tirelessly worked to get passed into Florida law: the Wes Kleinert Fair Interview Act. It is named after Kleinert’s autistic son and is the first of its kind in the country. The law requires a mental health expert be present during police interviews of developmentally disabled victims, witnesses or suspects. It also makes it easier for authorities to know who may need such assistance by creating a voluntary new designation on state identification cards.
Finally, I’m excited to share one of BSO’s biggest and most innovative initiatives. In our ongoing efforts to provide better service and help keep individuals with special needs safer, we recently launched the BSO Special Needs Program. It gives parents or caregivers of individuals with special needs an opportunity to opt in to the program by voluntarily providing biographical information, including a description of the individual’s diagnosis and behavior, which will be captured to improve interactions with first responders.
The program will help 911 communications operators convey the critical information to the responding deputy so they can respond more effectively and efficiently. This information can help dispel any concern should the person seem aloof, uncooperative or even in crisis—leading to more positive outcomes. The program is currently in a pilot phase but will ultimately be rolled out countywide.
If you’d like to learn more about our efforts, please visit us on our community resource page at sheriff.org.
Sheriff Scott Israel