By Scott J. Israel
November 4, 2013
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts.
On Oct. 27, the Sun Sentinel wrote an editorial about my leadership as sheriff. The only problem was that nearly every key fact cited in the editorial was either wrong or purely fictional.
•BSO planned to “cut the sole ambulance serving the east end of Alligator Alley.” Fact: We planned to remove just one rescue unit from Station 106, but keep the specialized hybrid Rescue Engine there. The Rescue Engine is both a fire engine and a full-rescue ambulance. We also have our BSO helicopters, which are frequently used for medical evacuations from the Alley.
•BSO received a “still-generous 4.5 percent [budget] increase” this year. Fact: The true number was 3.8 percent — the same as the County Commission gave itself and every other constitutional officer.
•BSO sought money for “bigger staff pay raises.” Fact: It was Sheriff Lamberti who saddled the agency with the 2 percent cost-of-living increases and 5 percent seniority increases for deputies for this year and next. I am legally required to honor those signed collective bargaining agreements, and have done so. The editorial also erred in referring to this as a “5 percent cost-of-living raise and a 2 percent merit raise.”
•BSO sought money for “bigger… pensions.” Fact: No pension benefit increases were requested. Costs rose from a 2013 change in state law that significantly increased the employer contributions for all Florida Retirement System participants.
•BSO sought money for “bigger… perks.” Fact: There were no requested increases in employee benefits.
•BSO “squeezed Southwest Ranches so hard” that they turned to Davie for police services. Fact: The move was about politics, not money. Southwest Ranches decided to contract with Davie even though it will cost the town over $300,000 more this year than had they remained with BSO.
• “Consolidation is supposed to save taxpayers money.” Fact: This statement was entirely pulled out of thin air. There has never been any consolidation plan for BSO to become the regional policing agency in all Broward cities, supplanting local police departments. Many Broward cities have their own independent police departments and have zero desire to give them up. As there was never any countywide police consolidation envisioned – and I’m not in the business of “empire building” – there was certainly no cost-saving promises tied to this fictional plan.
Then there were the contradictory demands of the editorial.
The editorial demanded cost savings — yet complained that BSO was reckless to close satellite booking facilities to save money. The Sun Sentinel failed to mention that all of Florida’s largest counties operate with just one central-booking intake facility. The closures bring Broward into alignment with how efficient jail systems operate today. Additionally, it produced $2.8 million in annual taxpayer savings.
I truly support fiscal responsibility, but not at the expense of providing public safety services on the cheap. I support saving tax dollars, but I support saving lives more.
Scott J. Israel is Broward County Sheriff.
Certain Broward cities and towns maintain their own police departments, however, BSO does provide communications and dispatch services to the following cities.
Central Broward, Cooper City, Dania Beach, Deerfield Beach, Ft Lauderdale-Hollywood Int’l Airport, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Lauderdale Lakes, North Lauderdale. Oakland Park, Parkland, Pembroke Park, West Park, Pompano Beach, Port Everglades, Southwest Ranches, Tamarac, Weston and unincorporated West Broward.