Providing top-quality service to the residents of Broward County is one of the top priorities of the Broward Sheriff's Office. Whether it's a prompt response to a 911 emergency call or the many ways our first responders go above and beyond to provide helpful support, we are constantly striving to make the lives of those we serve better, safer and easier.
As part of our ongoing efforts, BSO is launching a much-improved sheriff.org. At BSO, we are always at the forefront of emerging trends and technologies. That is why we were one of the first public safety agencies in the nation to maintain a true online presence. Through the last two decades, many residents have come to rely on sheriff.org and our online social media pages for a variety of services and resources. Now, we are getting even better!
With many improvements, the new sheriff.org is keeping a lot of the features you love, but we redesigned the website to make it cleaner to navigate and easier on the eye – and we added a plethora of beautiful photographs. More importantly, we are making it far more user-friendly and easier to find what's important to you.
With one click, visitors to our website can do everything from requesting a report, to filing a commendation or complaint. You can also visit our crime mapping feature that allows you to track where crimes are occurring nearby (and keep tabs on registered sex offenders and predators living in your neighborhood). We are also making it far easier to find information about your local BSO district offices, civil procedures and our jails.
Looking for a job? Look no further than the top of the homepage to discover all the amazing opportunities available at BSO and even apply online from the comforts of your own home. And, yes, we are hiring.
Our commitment to connect better with the diverse communities we serve continues through our webpage, where we added features intended to unite and strengthen Broward. Now, users can easily keep on top of upcoming BSO events, such as shred-a-thons and grocery giveaways that visitors might not otherwise know about. You can find our calendar of events featured prominently on our homepage. We also added a tab on the website where you can read about BSO's signature community outreach initiatives, including Uniting Broward, body-worn cameras, community policing and civil citations.
Of course, protecting our communities and keeping us safe remains our primary mission. Through our new community resources link, we are constantly adding educational brochures and information on a variety of public safety topics, including how best to protect yourself from identity theft, sexual assault, burglary and bullying. You can also find vital public safety tips and messages in the featured video section on our homepage.
I am thrilled at all the amazing improvements we are making online and invite you all to visit and explore our improved sheriff.org website.
Sheriff Scott Israel
Aretha Franklin said it best when she sang about the importance of being shown a little respect. We all know the foundation of a strong relationship is built on this important quality. It's even more important when it comes to law enforcement and how we interact with people in all the diverse communities we serve.
That's why I'm thrilled to announce that the Broward Sheriff's Office is launching the Respect Campaign. Beginning this month, and running throughout the year, our Respect Campaign will highlight all the ways BSO's dedicated men and women in law enforcement, detention, fire rescue and civilian positions build stronger community connections and the many ways we work to get even better.
Throughout the year, we will share stories through our social media platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as on our website at www.sheriff.org, showcasing the interactions and people who make a huge difference in ways both big and small.
Stories that highlight BSO's respect for our profession and respect for the communities we protect. The people who go above and beyond. And the daily interactions with our community's children – and the acts of compassion that go a long way – in ensuring the safety and well-being for all.
We're also taking the opportunity to look at how we can improve and become even more responsive to the needs of Broward County's two million residents and many visitors. As part of the effort, we developed a new internal training video that stresses the importance of treating everyone with dignity and respect – and how it produces lasting, positive benefits. We're also seeking feedback from members of our community to help us get even better. After all, listening—truly listening—to others and using their views as meaningful guidance is one of the most sincere forms of respect.
This Respect Campaign is the next advancement in our Uniting Broward initiative, BSO's key community outreach effort which actively unites Broward's vibrant and diverse community groups across racial, religious, ethnic, cultural and sexual orientation boundaries, to make Broward a better and safer place to live, work and raise a family.
As a law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, I quickly learned that treating everyone with the kindness and respect they deserve produces massive results. That's why I've made community policing a cornerstone of my belief system and have made it a priority during my time at BSO.
Far too often we focus only on the small number of bad people, when we should also be focused on the 99 percent who are good people. These are the people that can and will make a difference, and help us make Broward even safer. If you treat people with respect, they are more likely to approach law enforcement with tips or seeking help for a problem before it spirals out of control and becomes a public safety issue.
So to quote Aretha Franklin, I'm excited for you to find out what a little respect means to me … and to BSO.
Sheriff Scott Israel
In August, BSO had the great honor of hosting the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) International Conference. This opportunity to share and exchange best practices for mental health treatment with police departments around the world was a testament to how far we've come as an agency.
Since police officers are typically the first responders to psychiatric emergencies, I made it a priority that our deputies receive training to handle mental health incidents more capably.
If someone falls and breaks a bone, the next step is immediately clear: a trip to the emergency room. If someone suffers a psychotic break, a solution is not as easily prescribed.
We were recently called to the home of a 25-year-old man who had become enraged and verbally aggressive, threatening his mother. She had retreated to her vehicle and locked the doors. The son followed, pulling the driver's side handle repeatedly with force, breaking it off. He then started punching the car window. Fearing for her safety, the mother drove to the community gatehouse and implored the security guard to call 9-1-1.
Sadly, the mother knew the routine. She supplied the necessary information - location of the house, details of the incident, the age and height of her son and what he was wearing. She also communicated that her son had been diagnosed with psychotic behavioral issues, was not being medicated and may have been carrying a knife. The mother suggested he needed to be Baker Acted, a process under Florida law which allows an individual to be taken to a medical facility for involuntary examination and initial treatment.
Fortunately, the mother also knew to specifically ask for a CIT-trained deputy to interact with her son.
BSO's CIT deputies receive specialized training, which helps them identify and more effectively engage an individual suffering a mental health crisis. Based on the nationally recognized "Memphis Model," the course was established nearly 30 years ago following the death of a man with mental illness who charged police with a knife. The model provides a more intelligent, compassionate and safer approach to these types of incidents. One of the keys is de-escalation. In situations where moods and actions can shift and escalate quickly and unpredictably, the first few moments of verbal contact are critical to calming individuals.
Our 9-1-1 operators, who also take a CIT course, quickly assess incoming calls and determine the emergency response required. In this case, Deputy Jeffrey Smith, a CIT-trained, 34-year veteran of the Broward Sheriff's Office, was dispatched.
Initiating conversation, he immediately noticed the young man was confused, incoherent and rambling. Deputy Smith recognized the signs and symptoms of mental illness and knew professional treatment was required.
"You talk to people in an upset state as best as you can without getting hands-on," Deputy Smith says, who engaged the young man verbally for over a half hour before getting him safely out to a vehicle.
On the ride to the hospital, they continued the conversation, exemplifying the good rapport and positive relationship the two established on scene and reinforcing why CIT-trained law enforcement professionals like Deputy Smith are essential to effective policing. If this was in a community without CIT-trained police officers, the young man might have been confronted by an officer who did not know how best to approach the situation. It may have escalated, possibly ending in arrest or something far worse.
Since taking office more than four years ago, I directed that every one of our deputies become CIT-trained. Before I took office, there were only 173 active deputies with this specialized training in our entire agency. Today, roughly 700 of our active deputies are CIT-trained. And, within the next few years, we will reach our goal of having all BSO deputies complete the CIT training program. This will better allow us to serve those in our community who struggle every day with mental illness.
Sheriff Scott Israel
The unimaginable horrors of the 9/11 terror attacks remain as painful today as they did that fateful Tuesday morning 16 years ago. None of us will ever forget where we were as the chaos and carnage unfolded—and nearly 3,000 innocent souls perished—before our eyes. The heinous assault forever altered the course of history and our lives.
Yet we rose from the ashes and smoldering remains a stronger nation—a nation which courageously channeled its fear, anguish and anger into constructive action that has produced positive results for our country and at home here in Broward County.
Though we can never and should never claim victory in the war against terror, Broward is safer today as a result of the efforts by the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Since 2001, BSO has undergone transformational changes and has forged a strong spirit of cooperation with numerous law enforcement entities. Today, we’re working smarter and training harder as part of our relentless mission to keep residents and visitors out of harm’s way. After all, if you’re not prepared, you’re prepared to fail.
The efforts begin with the work our dedicated men and women perform each day, including individuals who serve in various roles and perform critical tasks as part of BSO’s Homeland Security Unit. This specialized unit includes Intelligence, the Bomb Squad and the Covert Electronic Surveillance Unit, and is a vital component to combatting terrorism.
This unit’s importance was seen in January during the shooting at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood international Airport. Within 30 minutes, our Homeland Security Unit knew the attacker’s identity and gathered a dossier of information about him and his possible motives and affiliations.
In addition, BSO has dedicated personnel assigned to the South Florida Joint Terrorism Task Force (SFJTTF). The task force, comprised of local, state and federal authorities, helps protect our nation by serving as valuable conduits for sharing vital homeland security information and countering domestic terrorism.
With increased interagency communication and bolstered investigative prowess, numerous potential terror attacks have been thwarted. In 2012, the SFJTTF arrested two brothers from Oakland Park who planned on carrying out bombing attacks in New York. BSO and the task force were also critical in halting a potential bombing at an Aventura synagogue last year.
However, our work is far from over. While BSO and law enforcement agencies throughout the country have had incredible success in preventing another 9/11-style attack, there are still challenges ahead. Chief amongst those is the ever-changing face of terrorism.
As we’ve seen from the attacks at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, the Boston Marathon bombing and the Emanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, today’s attacks are largely perpetrated by individuals or small groups with no known ties to established terror groups. These home-grown killers will use any means necessary to inflict as much death and destruction as they can. Many are self-radicalized through the internet—which makes it difficult to spot early warning signs. In essence, the internet is law enforcement’s biggest challenge to combatting terror.
To counter that challenge, we need the assistance of members of the community. Please, always remain vigilant and alert. If you see something, say something. Together, we are stronger in our fight against terror.
Sheriff Scott Israel
In my nearly 40 years in law enforcement, I have chased and brought countless criminals to justice, operated undercover, worked as SWAT commander and now proudly serve as sheriff to the 1.8 million residents of Broward. Yet all that pales in comparison to my most challenging and rewarding job: father to my triplets, Blair, Brett and Blake.
As any parent can attest, our children are our most prized treasures. From the instant you first lock eyes with your newborns to the moment they pack up to go to college or set out to begin their careers, our most important job is ensuring the safety and security of our children.
While we share in the exhilaration of their successes, we also live in constant worry about their well-being as they ride the roller coaster ups and downs all children face daily as they come of age. Sadly, despite our best efforts as parents, some of our children struggle to overcome these obstacles. The enormous pressures they face lead some to tragically take their own lives.
As a parent, we often choose to believe that these types of tragedies can never happen to us. The startling statistics, however, say otherwise.
Each year in the United States, thousands of teens commit suicide and many more attempt to take their lives. In fact, suicide is a leading cause of death among young people in the U.S. A recent survey showed one in six high school students seriously considered taking their own lives, and one in 13 reported attempting suicide. These alarming statistics are even more troubling considering suicides and attempted suicides are on the rise.
There are a wide range of reasons why teens attempt to take their lives. These include depression, bullying, drug abuse, eating disorders, break ups and general insecurities. Aside from the normal challenges of growing up, our children now must also contend with new technology including social media, which exponentially magnifies exposure from just a handful of people to potentially dozens if not hundreds or thousands. As we all know, the internet can be a tool for good, but can also lead to hatred, intolerance and indecency.
Recently, this reared its ugly head in the form of a new, dangerous and potentially deadly “game,” the Blue Whale Challenge. The game encourages individuals to complete 50 self-harming challenges with the final task requiring that individual to commit suicide. Reports claim it is responsible for the deaths of 130 teens in Russia, but these have not been verified. Elsewhere online, bullying runs rampant. Parents must remain vigilant about what their children do online.
While it may be difficult for us to understand why our sons or daughters would take their own lives or what motivates them to do so, there are steps we can take to prevent teen suicide. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs; talk openly and candidly with your children; and know how to react and where to go for professional help if needed.
If a loved one is harming themself or if you believe he/she is in immediate danger, call 911. For more questions and answers, call dial 2-1-1 for Broward 2-1-1.
Through education and awareness, we all can help prevent teen suicide.
Sheriff Scott Israel
A terrifying opioid epidemic is sweeping the nation—infecting our neighborhoods, poisoning our families and filling our morgues. Nationwide, nearly 33,000 people lost their lives to opioids in 2016—more than died in auto accidents or homicides.
Sadly, Broward is not immune from the devastating crisis, which knows no bounds and impacts individuals across nearly all demographic and socioeconomic categories. The numbers are alarming. In 2016, opioids claimed 582 lives in Broward—nearly two each day. And the death toll from this deadly menace is rising all the time. By the end of the year, deaths attributed to this threat will likely exceed 1,000 in Broward alone.
The dramatic uptick is largely the product of cheaply-made synthetic drugs, such as fentanyl and carfentanil, which are used as replacements for heroin. For instance, fentanyl is many times more potent than heroin, while carfentanil is up to 1,000 times more potent than heroin, and a very small dose can sedate a 13,000 pound elephant (while the same minuscule dose can easily kill a person).
In more than 30 years of working in law enforcement, I have personally witnessed the horrific damage drugs can inflict on individuals, families and communities. The drugs may change over the years, but the overall narcotics problem remains. While this public health emergency is historic and its impact far reaching, the Broward Sheriff’s Office is doing all we can to make a difference and end this deadly drug plague.
BSO is a member of the Community Action Team, comprised of law enforcement, treatment providers, epidemiologists, first responders, physicians, the Broward Medical Association, Broward Health, Memorial Health, United Way and many others. The team has developed a three-pronged attack at ending this epidemic via a combination of enforcement, education and intervention.
While BSO drug detectives and deputies are working at a feverish pace to enforce drug laws and arresting those responsible for selling these dangerous drugs, we are also educating the public through town hall meetings and community forums. Education campaigns also continue in middle and high schools, PTAs and community organizations. In addition, BSO has acquired funding to outfit hundreds of additional deputies, along with first responders from fire rescue, with the anti-narcotic overdose drug Narcan. That move will no doubt save lives.
This war on opioids is not our first fight to end a drug epidemic gripping Broward. We’ve been here before and we’ve had much success. When the highly-dangerous, imported, designer drug Flakka suddenly appeared on the scene a few years ago and became an out-of-control local plague, we met it head on. Within months, we effectively stamped out the deadly drug from Broward’s streets. I am hopeful we will have similar success in the battle against opioids.
If you know someone struggling with these dangerous drugs, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Call 2-1-1.
The opioid crisis is very real and very deadly. But, together, BSO and our community partners are committed to ending this alarming epidemic and saving lives.
Sheriff Scott Israel
DIVERSITY IS OUR GREATEST STRENGTH
For nearly 40 years, I’ve personally witnessed Broward grow into the enormous economic engine, tourism hotspot and all-around great place to live that it is today. This tremendous growth and prosperity, no doubt, was fueled by its residents—a vibrant melting pot of diverse people, cultures and communities.
Historically, public safety agencies often failed to adequately resemble the diverse communities they protected, and they struggled to connect with them. This has been an issue nationwide. When law enforcement fails to mirror its diverse communities, it can often cause a breakdown in trust—especially in the aftermath of tragic incidents.
When I first took office in 2013, I directed a significant cultural change within the Broward Sheriff’s Office to prioritize diversity within our ranks. To serve the citizens of Broward to the best of our abilities, we must look like the citizens we police. We must ensure that the deputies on the street protecting our community are also protecting their own community.
Today, the percentage of minorities employed in sworn positions at BSO is proudly greater than the percentage of minorities in Broward County's population as a whole. And that diversity is growing throughout every corner of the agency. BSO has boosted the percentage of black employees by three percent, including law enforcement deputies, where they had been underrepresented in the past. And fire rescue, traditionally nationwide one of the least racially-diverse public safety services, is also becoming more diverse. A majority of the new firefighters hired in the last four years have been a combination of minorities and women. And, impressively, minorities hold senior command positions today – reaching to the highest ranks – throughout BSO.
BSO also proudly employs many strong, dedicated women throughout the agency in sworn and non-sworn positions alike. They play a vital role in all aspects, and their presence at times brings a different and welcome perspective to public safety. We also recognize and celebrate the positive impact of our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender personnel within our ranks and appreciate their many contributions to our agency’s successes.
We have diversified BSO by creating a dedicated recruitment team that reaches out to minority communities, including participation in job fairs, in the schools and through other proactive outreach opportunities. We have made great strides and will continue to do so through our hiring process. But make no mistake. Each of these men and women have earned their positions through their hard work and dedication. I will always base personnel decisions on the qualifications of the individual and the skills he or she brings to the job. When you hire or promote the best person for the right position, diversity happens naturally.
There is still work to be done, but I am thrilled at how far we have come. Today, BSO is more inclusive than ever before, and our diverse workforce is building bridges across our multicultural community that is leading to a safer and smarter Broward County.
Sheriff Scott Israel
Few occasions in our lives produce more lasting memories than our high school proms. The pomp and pageantry is unforgettable as we bid farewell to more than a decade of schooling and the treasured friendships forged throughout our childhood. It culminates in a night of fun and frivolity before we embark on the next journey in our lives.
As a father of triplets, I witnessed that joy and excitement just a couple years ago as my sons and daughter headed out to their high school proms. The excitement I felt for them as they basked in the enthusiasm of prom night, however, was masked somewhat by my own worry. As a father and law enforcement officer for nearly 40 years, I have the unique experience and unfortunate perspective of personally witnessing the darker side of prom season. Far too often, happy times can turn tragic — often the result of someone intoxicated getting behind the wheel of a car.
Here are some sad and sobering facts:
• Young people aged 12 to 19 are already more likely to die in an accident than by any other cause, with motor vehicle crashes being the most common.
• Between April and June (peak prom and graduation season), there is a massive spike in alcohol-related teen traffic fatalities, accounting for roughly a third of the annual death toll.
Instead of celebrating the occasion responsibly, many teens use it as an excuse to get intoxicated. A recent study found that more than 40 percent of teens said it was likely they or their friends would use drugs or alcohol on prom night. To make matters worse, many teens drink in excess. According to a separate study, more than 50 percent of teens admitted to drinking four or more alcoholic beverages during prom night.
Keeping our kids safe has always been a priority. That is why, as prom season kicks into high gear, the Broward Sheriff’s Office and a host of community partners team up to raise awareness in the battle to eliminate drunk driving. We want to see our teens enjoy a safe and memorable prom season.
Each year, BSO presents important programs to warn and inform teens of the serious consequences of impaired driving. One such program is Prom Promise, where Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue firefighters/paramedics conduct a vehicle crash scenario of what happens when someone is involved in a crash. The presentation can be quite intense and real — but it reinforces the dangers and potentially fatal consequences of drinking and driving.
We also work closely with the Meagan Napier Foundation, created and run by the mother of a teen killed by a drunk driver. Renee Napier, whose daughter Meagan and her friend Lisa Dickson were killed in a 2002 car accident, co-presents with Eric Smallridge, the drunk driver responsible for taking their lives. Renee and Eric share the story of heart-wrenching tragedy and the painful aftermath on all the participants. BSO also continues to be a proud supporter of other community organizations devoted to stamping out drunk driving, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Our young sons and daughters should dance, have fun and make lasting memories this prom season. But, above all, they should also be safe. Parents: please speak with your children. Remind them to protect their futures by making good choices – before a night to remember turns into one we’d all like to forget.
Sheriff Scott Israel
As young children, many of us dream of becoming police officers or firefighters. I remember spending many a childhood afternoon and weekend imitating public safety professionals. With toy handcuffs at the ready or a small garden hose standing in as a fire hose, my friends and I role-played for hours as we rushed to help those in need. We chased down the bad guys who needed to be brought to “justice.”
For me, that childhood passion translated into a long and fruitful career in law enforcement. For nearly four decades, I’ve had the good fortune of performing challenging, yet rewarding, work where I’ve made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of people with whom I’ve come into contact.
Yet, while law enforcement officers and firefighters are the public face of public safety, there are many other positions that are less visible but no less important. The Broward Sheriff’s Office is looking for more good men and women to join our team in the critically-important positions of E911 Communications operators, detention deputies and Child Protective Investigations Section (CPIS) investigators.
Communications operators are the lifeline between the community and first responders. These unsung heroes do far more than just answer 911 phone calls – they are the quarterbacks of public safety. They offer lifesaving instructions and provide a calming presence while obtaining the critical information necessary to direct emergency response teams to where they need to go. These workers undergo months of intensive training to learn the ins and outs of public safety – and their impact is immeasurable.
The same can be said of our detention deputies. Each day, these men and women are charged not only with maintaining order and discipline among detainees in our jails – the 12th largest jail system in the nation – but also ensuring the safety and security of the detainees, the public and other fellow 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 them.
Finally, BSO’s CPIS investigators dedicate their careers to ensuring our community’s children are safer and more secure. These professionals investigate allegations of child abuse, abandonment or neglect – and work with families for the protection of their children. They also provide assistance to improve parenting capacities and strengthen families with a focus on enhancing child safety.
All three of these positions at BSO are tremendously rewarding careers. BSO also offers competitive salaries, an outstanding work environment and amazing benefits, including low-cost medical insurance, retirement pension and generous vacation leave. At BSO, you also have the opportunity to work for the largest fully-accredited public safety agency and one of the most respected in the country. With that comes bountiful opportunities for advancement.
Don’t settle for a job – embark on a career. Come join us at BSO and make a difference in your community. Explore these and many other opportunities – and apply online – at jobs.sheriff.org.
How many more innocent lives must perish before our legislators pass meaningful and common sense gun legislation? How many more tragic attacks like those at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Sandy Hook Elementary and the Pulse nightclub need to occur before rational thought prevails?
Broward mourns five more lives lost in a tragic mass shooting – especially as this one occurred in our own backyard. It should be clear to everyone that dangerous individuals like alleged airport shooter Esteban Santiago, who clearly demonstrated signs of mental illness, should never have been allowed to own a gun.
In fact, any person suffering from certain disqualifying mental illness should not be able to buy, possess or carry any type of firearm – period. The same applies to convicted felons and individuals who are on the federal government’s terrorist “no-fly” list. We shouldn't be allowing people in these narrow categories to buy or carry firearms.
The statistics are telling. In just the last 12 months alone, 76 innocent victims died and scores more were injured due to U.S. mass shootings. Yet unbelievably, some argue arming more individuals is the solution. That goes for some legislators in Tallahassee, who appear more concerned about passing laws written by the gun lobbyists that would allow guns into classrooms and government meetings.
That dangerous line of thinking will only lead to further violence and bloodshed. As Sheriff of one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country, I understand public safety better than gun industry lobbyists and those elected officials who help advance their agenda. I can say with certainty that more guns are not the answer. Imagine the chaos if everyone at the airport was armed with a firearm. Countless individuals would certainly have been caught in the wild crossfire and hit by stray bullets.
One study which examined New York’s annual firearms discharge reports showed police officers hit their targets 34 percent of the time. The hit ratio was even lower at other agencies. If law enforcement officers who carry guns daily and regularly train are successful at hitting their targets at that rate, it is clear that ordinary citizens would be significantly less accurate.
It would also make the job of law enforcement far more difficult and divert them from the real threat. In such a stressful and chaotic situation, with shots being fired in all directions, how could we expect law enforcement to recognize the good guys from the bad ones?
The men and women of the Broward Sheriff's Office, local and federal law enforcement agencies and first responders did a phenomenal job rushing into a dangerous and chaotic situation. These heroes put their lives at risk to protect residents and visitors alike. We shouldn’t make it even more dangerous for them.
Let me be clear: gun control isn’t about restricting freedom or taking firearms legally obtained by law-abiding citizens. Instead, it is about common sense laws that help identify people with a history of criminal convictions, violence, certain high-risk mental illnesses or are on the FBI’s terrorist watch list. For years, I have been on the forefront in demanding common sense gun legislation, including closing the gun show loophole, reinstating the assault weapons ban and fighting against open carry laws.
It’s time our elected officials in Tallahassee and Washington finally do the same and tackle this life-threatening issue once and for all.
Most of us have been touched in our lives by someone struggling with mental health illness or substance abuse issues. The deep personal pain of watching helplessly as our closest family members and friends spiral out of control is devastating.
The fact is that nearly one in six young Americans will struggle with mental illness in their lifetime. As I often say, these are people with problems, not problem people. These illnesses and/or addictions are a disease, not an indication of someone’s worth in our society. In fact, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill both suffered from what is now today called clinical depression.
Sadly, those suffering – often silently – can find themselves on the wrong side of the law. Too frequently, the criminal justice system treated these individuals as criminals and locked them in jail – often for relatively minor offenses. My experience has shown that arresting a person with mental health issues does not address the problem. Instead, it adds to the problems the individual is already facing. Mental illness is not a crime, and incarceration – the most expensive social service option – is the least effective solution.
At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, addressing this issue is paramount, and diverting certain non-violent individuals into treatment (instead of incarceration) is our key objective. Already, we made great strides in tackling this public safety concern through proactive community policing, including increasing the number of deputies with Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. CIT provides a non-violent solution focused upon de-escalating and assisting, not arresting.
Recently, the community received a massive boost to the tune of a nearly $22 million grant from the Florida Department of Children and Families to establish a comprehensive system of behavioral health care via a new, specialized Centralized Receiving Facility. In partnership with Henderson Behavioral Health and other behavioral health providers, the facility will provide law enforcement officials with a one-stop assessment center for individuals they encounter exhibiting signs of mental illness or experiencing a crisis that requires mental health evaluation, intervention, and treatment. It will assist in determining if certain individuals can be successfully diverted from arrest, incarceration and criminal prosecution.
Staffed 24/7/365 by human services professionals specializing in security, mental health, substance abuse, homeless services and case management, the center will focus on properly assessing individuals and linking them with appropriate, proven community providers for the help they need. BSO will remain in direct contact with these individuals and chart their progress through a continuum of care. We hope to deploy several centers strategically throughout the county in the coming months.
It’s a win-win for both those struggling with mental illness and the community as a whole. The center will help increase behavioral health programming and services to at-risk individuals in a community setting – not behind bars. It will also have the added benefit of driving down the rearrest rate – leading to increased public safety gains – while reducing our jail population, where taxpayers shell out nearly $120 per day to keep each prisoner incarcerated.
Individuals suffering from mental health illness deserve our support in helping them overcome their difficult situation – and I am excited for what this initiative will bring.
Sheriff Scott Israel
Thank you, Broward! I am extremely humbled and grateful for your support and overwhelming vote of confidence. On January 3, I will take the oath of office for my second term as Sheriff. This distinct honor is more than a personal victory for me — it’s a victory for all the amazing men and women of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, and for those in our community who support our public safety mission.
When I first took office four years ago, I promised to bring fresh ideas to BSO. The ways of the past – where our young sons and daughters were sent to jail for minor infractions, and produced soaring crime rates – was not acceptable. As head of the nation’s largest fully-accredited Sheriff’s agency, BSO is expected to set an example for other law enforcement agencies around the country to follow.
Through effective and innovative programs, BSO delivered on these promises—and I’m extremely proud that our dedicated sworn and civilian personnel are a shining example of everything law enforcement should strive to be. Each day, BSO makes a real difference in all of our diverse communities. Crime is at historic lows, our children are given every opportunity to succeed and Broward is safer and more united than ever before.
But we cannot be content to rest upon our current successes. As we move forward into the new year and my second term as Sheriff, we also begin writing a new chapter. The successes of the past four years laid a solid foundation and serve as a launching pad for bigger and better things to come. In the coming months, BSO will roll out numerous initiatives and programs focused on both ensuring the safety of all Broward’s residents, while also taking steps to improve their quality of life. These initiatives will tackle pressing problems with common-sense solutions.
As you may know, helping children mature into successful adults is my highest priority. The civil citation and P.R.O.M.I.S.E. programs are huge successes, and I believe an expansion of these programs can produce even more significant results.
We must also continue to help those suffering from mental health issues. These are not problem people, but people with problems. We are working on multiple programs to provide them with the assistance they need and deserve. Addressing this issue is a great way we can reduce the growing number of incidents of violence and prevent them from happening here. Mental illness isn’t a crime, and incarceration shouldn’t be the solution.
Changes within BSO will also continue to progress. Our proactive body-worn camera initiative will expand so that all uniformed law enforcement deputies will be equipped with body cameras by the end of 2017. The program is our most visible commitment to providing transparency and enhancing community trust. And, finally, BSO will continue to become more reflective of our multicultural county.
Thanks again for your continued support, and I look forward to unveiling more exciting programs to make Broward an even better place to live. From all of us at BSO, my best wishes for a happy, healthy and blessed new year.
Sheriff Scott Israel