For more than three years, I have had the honor of serving as your sheriff. All of our efforts here at the Broward Sheriff’s Office are aimed at continually improving public safety services and enhancing the quality of life for all Broward County residents.
As sheriff, the responsibility to keep communities safe falls squarely on my shoulders—and it’s a task I do not take lightly. Under my leadership, our dedicated sworn and civilian professionals have done an amazing job and helped launch groundbreaking initiatives that make a real difference.
Our agency’s accomplishments are vast and grow every day. Since taking office in 2013, violent crime has plummeted, thanks in part to the Violence Intervention Proactive Enforcement Response (VIPER) Unit, a crime-fighting initiative that targets Broward County’s most dangerous violent criminals. Burglaries have also taken a significant dive since our 2014 creation of the Burglary Apprehension Team (BAT) to combat the rash of residential burglaries. In total, Broward County crime rates are at the lowest point in decades.
Though it’s important to rid our neighborhoods of dangerous felons, I am also mindful we need to distinguish those from young people who make an isolated mistake and others who are wrestling with substance abuse and mental health issues. Through the Civil Citation Program, we have made positive strides in cutting the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline by keeping countless young people out of our jails and courtrooms by offering in-school alternatives to criminal arrests. We have made significant inroads with our Homeless Outreach Initiative, which connects the homeless to appropriate social services while treating them with dignity and respect instead of arresting them.
I have also worked tirelessly to bring transparency and build community trust further in BSO with our proactive body worn camera initiative. Our program was recently expanded to set us on course ultimately to equip all uniformed law enforcement deputies with body cameras. It will serve three important purposes: help protect good deputies from false accusations, gather evidence to support our arrests and protect the public from the isolated instances of officer misconduct.
Despite our agency’s achievements, this is hardly a time to take a victory lap. That is why I’m seeking county funding of a training salary for 40 police cadet positions. BSO never paid a cadet salary in the past, and this is making us uncompetitive in recruiting new deputies. We must never forget that the hardworking and dedicated men and women in uniform are the backbone of this agency and responsible for the community’s safety, and BSO needs to continue to recruit the best to wear our gold star.
Sadly, in today’s climate of national distrust, it is not easy being a law enforcement official. As a result, there has been a significant drop in the number of prospective law enforcement candidates. In order to recruit top-tier individuals, BSO—like most other agencies—must start paying a cadet’s salary while they go through the academy. The small investment per cadet is well worth the cost.
We encourage the county to use creative funding approaches that do not require any increase in the property tax millage rates. The county has rainy-day funds set aside in other accounts, including non-essential reserves, that we hope they will consider using for these public safety needs. I am a staunch proponent of saving tax dollars, but savings lives must always take priority.
So while we celebrate our successes at BSO, I promise we will not rest on our laurels. Together, we can—and we must—build upon our strong foundation to ensure a safer and more prosperous future for all of us.
Sheriff Scott Israel