As President Donald Trump threatens to send federal troops into several cities and counties nationwide, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony says he would reject such an offer, calling the Trump administration’s actions in Portland, Oregon “unprecedented and unconstitutional.”
Protests over George Floyd‘s death in Minneapolis spread across the country in previous months but have mostly died down. Those demonstrations have continued in Portland, however, prompting federal officials to send in troops — against the wishes of local officials — to protect federal property in the city.
“As a constitutional officer of Broward County, I’m responsible for safeguarding the liberties and constitutional rights of our residents,” Tony said in a Friday statement.
“Recently, federal agents were deployed into city streets across America at the direction of President Trump. This has created fear for Americans who are now watching federal law enforcement firing non-lethal weapons at protesters, deploying pepper spray, striking individuals with batons without provocation, and egregiously seizing American’s freedom without legal justification.”
While there are no public plans to send officers to South Florida, the Trump administration has threatened to send troops to cities other than Portland which are experiencing unrest.
Tony argued Trump and administration officials such as Acting Homeland Secretary Chad Wolf are using federal troops improperly. Many legal experts have agreed. Michael Horowitz, the Department of Justice Inspector General, is now conducting a review of the use of force by federal troops in Portland.
“This is what happens when politicians misuse law enforcement,” Tony argued. “It’s wrong, and it further creates distrust between citizens and law enforcement. As Broward County’s Sheriff, I firmly reject the notion of federal officers being unleashed into our community. I will not allow presidential ambitions, or anyone’s politics, to come into Broward County and violate Americans’ rights.”
Tony’s call comes after Rep. Shevrin Jones, who serves parts of Broward County, called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to also rebuff any offers to send federal troops into Florida.
The Sheriff also spoke out about Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police, which has set off a call for widespread police reforms along with protests which, in a minority of instances, have devolved into violence and looting.
“Of all the ways the accused law enforcement officer failed, what alarms me most is that he ignored mercy,” Tony said.
“Mercy, the act of demonstrating compassionate treatment to those in distress, is fundamentally the greatest quality any law enforcement officer — and any leader — can exhibit to the public they serve.”
The Governor appointed Tony to the Broward Sheriff’s role after DeSantis suspended Tony’s predecessor, Scott Israel. Tony is now seeking reelection to the post.
Though Trump has not yet floated sending troops into Broward County, the region did experience some unrest in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, prompting a curfew.
Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Steven Pohorence was suspended after shoving a woman while she knelt on the ground. Later, video from those protests showed officers laughing after firing rubber bullets at protesters. Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione was eventually removed and reassigned in response.
Tony says he recognizes his role in mending distrust felt by some members of the community. He argues, however, that some groups are using “gamesmanship” to divide those seeking to find common ground.
“Nowhere is this gamesmanship clearer than in President Trump’s unprecedented and unconstitutional deployment of federal agents into municipalities such as Portland, Oregon,” Tony asserted.
“This is a time for the display of mercy. For a compassionate treatment to those in distress. The American people deserve that compassion from our highest elected official — not conflict, not division, and most certainly not the injection of politics into law enforcement. There is never a suitable time to play politics with public safety.”