Ending Police Abuse: A new way to Protect and Serve Our Minority Communities
Any casual observer of Broward County’s racial disparity in arrests and incarceration would notice the damning statistics pointing towards police abuse. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, in the state of Florida, there is an incarceration rate of 833 per 100,000 people, which means it locks up a higher percentage of its population than many wealthy democracies. In addition to arresting and incarcerating more people than average, people of color are disproportionately overrepresented in jail populations. These realities belie the distrust our communities of color have for the police and our justice system. Thankfully, there is a way for us to make this better. For that to happen, we need to make key changes within the Broward Sheriff’s Office. We need to begin protecting and serving our minority communities through fair, accountable and transparent policing. As your next Sheriff, I see it as a top priority to take the following steps to lead the way in a policing revolution that places our minority communities on equal footing as stakeholders in our civil society.
Should I have the honor to become Broward’s Sheriff, I will tackle the perception that police officers don’t play fair. This means ending racial profiling as a routine practice, ensuring that all members of our public are held to the same standard and eliminating non-criminal incarceration of undocumented people in our county. Racial profiling, when a member of a racial group is targetted because of what they look like rather than what they are doing, is the very definition of unfair policing. According to a 2018 study conducted by Florida State University’s College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Black and Afro-Caribbean residents are victimized by racial profiling to such a high degree that over half of our jail population is black despite making up only 17.1% of the state population at large. In 2019, Broward County Sheriff’s Office reported that approximately 58% of arrests were of African-Americans, who make up approximately 21% of the county population. In practice, this means that crimes committed by other groups are deliberately or inadvertently overlooked while we focus too intently on one group. This has not boded well for the results of the work we do. Indeed many of the higher-profile crimes committed by non-black residents and visitors in Broward County have involved failures to act that arguably would not have occurred if the perpetrators were black. This is unacceptable and this routine malpractice will end under my leadership.
Likewise, our current treatment of Broward’s Hispanic community can be drastically improved. As of March 23rd there were 124 undocumented Hispanic members of our community being held in County jails simply because of their immigration status. These individuals had committed no crimes that warranted their incarceration. As your Sheriff, I will act to arrest criminals of any immigration status who allegedly break our laws. However, I will not act as a surrogate to the border patrol, ICE, or customs officers by “rounding up” people who appear to be undocumented. That is not part of the BSO mission. As your Sheriff, I will see to it that cooperation with ICE occurs only when it is warranted by statute. In other words, I will turn over undocumented criminals held in Broward county jails, but never seek to arrest an undocumented person purely on suspicion of them being undocumented.
Policing With Accountability
Changes to police work in Broward can be divided into three areas that need to be done with higher levels of accountability. These areas are recruiting, prevention and law enforcement. As your Sheriff, I will make the BSO accountable in these areas to a committee made up of third-party civilian observers from such organizations as the ACLU.
The rights and privileges of our hard-working police officers are already successfully protected by the police unions. Now it’s time to ensure that the civilians we serve also have their rights taken into consideration as we interact with them on a daily basis.
Recruiting proportionately is recruiting smart. Too often, under the current leadership, there is a vast difference between the demographic make-up of the community and the peace officers that do the policing. With proportionate recruiting, we experience better results from undercover work, soar over language and cultural barriers with ease and garner the trust that helps us do our day-to-day policing. It’s time for us to overcome these long-standing challenges to mission accomplishment by bringing in third-party observers to ensure we do the right thing. Third-party civilian oversight will ensure that we recruit proportionally from the communities we serve and protect. Representation of deputies and officers within BSO should proportionately reflect the Black and Afro-Caribbean communities, Hispanic community, Bangladeshi community and LGBTQAI+ communities that the agency is tasked to protect and serve.
The second area of oversight is prevention. Unbiased prevention ensures that police work is done more effectively. The more we can prevent crimes from happening in the first place, the better we will be at keeping Broward residents and our deputies out of harm’s way. By preventing crime without bias, we maintain our trust with the community and ensure that all law-abiding taxpayers feel that the Broward Sheriff’s office has their best interests in mind. In preventing crimes we need to ensure that we are fighting crime, and not fighting certain groups within our community that our personal prejudices tell us may commit a specific type of crime. Fighting the community rather than the crime leads to shoddy police work. This is because too often, widely held prejudices don’t reflect the statistical reality. For example, too many people are convinced that the US and indeed Broward County face a higher threat from our domestic Muslim community. However, by far the majority of domestic terror attacks are committed by members of our White Supremacist and “Alt-Right” communities. Third-party oversight should ensure that our preventative police work is proportionate to the actual, not the perceived, threat. Oversight also means we emphasize prevention within all communities while respecting the civil and Constitutional rights of everyone involved.
“As your Sheriff, I will make the BSO accountable in these areas to a committee made up of third-party civilian observers from such organizations as the ACLU.”
Currently, Internal Affairs is made up of BSO staff who, for better or worse, may hesitate to sanction a fellow officer. When Internal Affairs fails to protect the public from dangerous police behavior, their lack of action hurts the reputation of our agency. Therefore, the current internal process is not transparent enough. There needs to be unbiased, third-party observation that considers the civil rights of the subject of police action. Third-party unbiased observation will ensure that timely, professionally-run due process takes place and that BSO staff do not get out of disciplinary actions on technicalities.
A more transparent BSO will send the message to the public that those who police Broward do so as professionals with a high standard of service quality. This is important to garner community trust in the Sheriff’s Office and for us to lead the way for other Florida police organizations to follow.
In conclusion, as your Sheriff I will end police abuse by steering BSO towards a place of fair, accountable and transparent policing. This will be done by ending racial profiling, ending the incarceration of non-criminal undocumented people and by bringing in third-party monitoring to improve the ways we interact with our minority communities. To achieve this, I ask that the citizens of Broward elect me as their next Sheriff. The result would be a safer, better Broward for all our residents and guests.