The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) union had plenty of criticism for Sheriff Gregory Tony after the death of a BSO deputy to the novel coronavirus. Now, Sheriff Tony is seeking to reassure the public — and his agency — that there is plenty of protective equipment for those deputies to go around.
Tony also didn’t mince words regarding his critics, including Jeff Bell. Bell serves as the President of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association.
While Tony did not mention Bell or the union by name, he released a statement seeming to allude directly to the attacks being lobbed at Tony for his handling of the crisis.
“We must set the record straight. We are experiencing a global health crisis that is redefining how we do everything at every human level,” Tony said.
“This is not a time to spread misinformation and unfounded rumors to create division for political and personal agendas. It is despicable that a few individuals are using the death of one of our veteran deputies for political gain. My command staff and I believe in transparency on all levels and are here to answer your questions.”
That prompted Bell, the union President, to write a scathing op-ed targeted at Tony.
“COVID-19 is not only the single biggest threat to all first responders, but it has the potential to take more lives of police officers in a single month than will fall to gunfire nationwide in a year,” Bell wrote in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
“Yet, regrettably, Broward Sheriff Greg Tony is failing to lead BSO in the face of an unprecedented pandemic menacing South Florida by ignoring the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association Union and our repeated requests for personal protective equipment (PPE), and berating our union when we call attention to public safety concerns.”
Bell argues weeks of requests have not resulted in sufficient PPE for BSO deputies. But Tony is refuting that assertion.
“I want to assure you that the Broward Sheriff’s Office has enough personal protective equipment to do our job. At BSO, we are constantly monitoring and replenishing our resources so that we continue to have the necessary PPE for the duration of the pandemic,” Tony said.
“We are committed to holding ourselves to the highest standards of professionalism and accountability, and that has not changed with the coronavirus health crisis. We all have a sworn duty to protect the public, and that starts with making sure that all our deputies are healthy and safe to serve.”
According to BSO’s numbers as of Tuesday morning, 36 employees had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Another 300 are being monitored, while 210 employees have returned to work after isolating.
So far, Bennett is the only casualty among BSO employees. But even Tony conceded he may not be the last while announcing Bennett’s death this past weekend.
“We lost a man in the line of duty, and we’re probably going to lose another,” Tony said. “But we’re going to keep fighting this battle and if you support us then take heed of this virus.”
Broward has been among the top three counties affected by the virus within the state of Florida. More than 2,300 confirmed cases have been registered in Broward as of a Wednesday evening update.