In his last news conference as Broward’s top cop, Sheriff Al Lamberti praised his agency’s efforts to reduce hate crimes in the county — a finding reflected in the 2011 Hate Crimes in Florida report issued by the state attorney general’s office this week.
But Lamberti, one of the most visible Republican elected officials in Broward, declined to say if he would ever run for office again, or to divulge many details about his plans once he steps down next week.
“Effective Tuesday, I’m going to be back where I was when I started: a citizen of Broward County,’’ said Lamberti, who was first elected sheriff in 2008 but lost to Democratic challenger Scott Israel by about 45,000 votes in November’s general election.
“I sacrificed ... a lot of time with my wife and my son,’’ he said. “So, I’m looking forward to catching up on lost time.’’
A 35-year veteran of the Broward Sheriff’s Office who began his law enforcement career working in the county jail, Lamberti rose through the ranks to be appointed sheriff by then-Gov. Charlie Crist in September 2007.
Broward voters elected Lamberti for an additional four years in 2008, choosing him over Israel, who is a former Fort Lauderdale police officer and North Bay Village police chief.
Lamberti took office at a time when the agency was in desperate need of stability after former Sheriff Ken Jenne went to prison on charges of fraud and tax evasion.
“I think we steadied the ship and got it going in the right direction,’’ Lamberti said, “and we accomplished a lot.’’
During Lamberti’s tenure, the sheriff took on Broward’s rampant pill mills and pushed to have lawmakers make attacking the homeless a hate crime — an accomplishment for which Lamberti expressed particular pride.
Flanked by local representatives of organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Pride Center and the Broward Coalition for the Homeless, Lamberti spoke Friday of the potent partnerships his agency forged with these groups and elected officials such as former Florida Rep. Ari Porth — who also was in attendance — to enact legislation in 2010 that made attacking the homeless a hate crime.
Lamberti said one of the first things he did as sheriff was to create a Hate Crimes Task Force, in response to annual state reports that found Broward led all Florida counties in hate crimes for several years.
“It has worked wonders,’’ Lamberti said of the task force, which is led by Capt. Richard Wierzbicki, who will be leaving the agency as well.
Ron Gunzburger, who has been named general counsel and senior advisor to the sheriff-elect, said BSO will continue to make it a priority to fight hate crimes.
“Sheriff Israel intends to keep the task force,’’ Gunzburger wrote in an email. “The sheriff sees hate crimes as serious incidents requiring prompt arrests and appropriate prosecutions.’’
Holding copies of Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s latest hate crimes report, and another issued by the National Coalition for the Homeless citing Broward as a national leader in preventing hate crimes against the homeless, Lamberti presented them as evidence of the task force’s effectiveness.