Broward County

‘There will be change,’ promises new Broward sheriff

 

After being sworn into office, BSO Sheriff Scott Israel lists his priorities. Among them: solving the murder of Sgt. Chris Reyka.

dchang@MiamiHerald.com

After the honor guard and the pipe and drum corps finished performing, after the recital of the pledge of allegiance and the national anthem, after the invocation and the official swearing-in had taken place, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel laid out his vision for the agency he was elected to lead.

“There will be change,’’ Israel said. “I think that’s important. We will be transparent. We will have a new vision, and we will be a diverse group of men and women.’’

Surrounded by his wife, Susan, and children Blair, Blake and Brett — 16-year-old triplets — Israel accepted the oath administered by Broward Circuit Judge Ilona Holmes on Tuesday before several thousand BSO deputies, family and friends at the Faith Center in Sunrise.

After repeated standing ovations, Israel, a Democrat, approached the speaker’s podium. He broke the ice with a small joke, and thanked the supporters who helped him win November’s general election and defeat incumbent Al Lamberti, a Republican.

He thanked Broward Commissioners Barbara Sharief, Martin Kiar and Sue Gunzburger for their endorsements.

He spoke of regrouping with his family following the 2008 loss to Lamberti at the polls, and how his wife and children supported his decision to run again despite the grueling nature of the campaign.

“It took me four years longer to get here than I had hoped,’’ he said.

Sheriff is one of the most powerful elected posts in the county, overseeing about 5,500 employees and a $670 million annual budget.

A former Fort Lauderdale police captain and North Bay Village chief of police, Israel, 56, pledged to transform BSO.

He vowed to be inclusive, and the swearing-in ceremony included nods to Broward’s predominant political constituencies: Israel was sworn in by a black female judge; he joked with the mostly Democratic county commissioners in attendance to increase his annual budget; and a rabbi delivered the benediction.

“I am the sheriff of everyone,’’ Israel said, “and I will treat everyone with respect, including the men and women I work with on a daily basis.’’

During the ceremony, producers presented a slide show with photos of all the men who have been Broward’s sheriff since the agency was founded in 1915.

Of all the former sheriffs, including Bob Butterworth, who was in attendance, Nick Navarro and Ken Jenne received the loudest applause when their pictures appeared on the screen. Lamberti received only polite applause, and the closing picture of Israel was greeted with yet another standing ovation.

After the official swearing-in, Israel spelled out four priorities, which he said were presented in no particular order:

First, he said, “we must solve the Chris Reyka slaying, and we will,” referring to the 2007 murder of the BSO sergeant, who was shot to death outside a Pompano Beach drugstore. No arrests have been made in the murder.

Second, Israel said, “We need to bring a cultural change. … We must bring diversity to the entire agency. We must look like Broward County.’’

On this topic, Israel spoke the most.

He said cultural change meant reducing recidivism rates, and that success would be measured by the number of kids kept out of jails.

“I want to de-politicize BSO,’’ Israel said. “I don’t want you to worry about me getting reelected.’’

If everyone performs their job well, he said, then reelection should follow.

“Our cultural change begins today,’’ Israel said, “by me demanding that our leaders never rule by intimidation, fear or retaliation.’’

A standing ovation followed.

He vowed there would be no good ol’ boys network in his office, and that he would personally review every promotion to ensure it was earned on merit.

He promised not to play favorites, or to emphasize the success of one BSO division over another. He urged all divisions within the agency to consider each other as teammates.

“We are one,’’ he said.

Even before taking office, Israel set to work changing things at BSO.

In December, his transition team sent emails to 28 high-ranking employees telling them they would be out once Israel took over. Many top officials had already announced they would be leaving, including BSO spokesman Jim Leljedal, attorney Judith Levine and Undersheriff Tom Wheeler.

Emails from Israel’s transition team to BSO show that Israel has sought information about every aspect of the agency, including budget forecasts, contracts for everything from garbage collection to lobbying, statistics about the race of employees and even about the protocol for military casket arrivals.

Israel’s senior command staff includes many who played key roles in his campaign, including his new general counsel, Ron Gunzburger, son of Sue Gunzburger, and Lisa Castillo, who worked on Israel’s campaign. The name of her husband, Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo, also has surfaced as having a role in the Israel administration.

On Tuesday, Israel advised deputies to be unafraid of risks or criticism, and to put their jobs third in life — after God and family, in that order.

He promised a robust community outreach department that would seek to forge partnerships with churches, community groups, schools and residents.

Israel also invoked the school massacre at Newtown, Conn., and pledged to protect schoolchildren from harm.

“I will do everything I can to keep assault weapons out of Broward County,’’ he said.

He also said BSO will be “more accountable to the public,” and that he will find and eliminate waste in the agency by consolidating services, and increasing partnerships with community organizations.

“We’re going to make Broward County a better and safer place to live and work and to raise a family,’’ he said.

Miami Herald staff writer Amy Sherman contributed to this report.

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