New Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony pledged to restore confidence in deputies who were castigated for their chaotic response to last year’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and announced his intention to run for the county’s most powerful political office in 2020.
Tony, who replaced suspended Sheriff Scott Israel, outlined his primary goal of upgrading active-shooter training during a meeting with media on Thursday.
“There are deficiencies in training that we’re trying to fix,” he said. “Coral Springs and Parkland didn’t think it could happen, just as Columbine and Sandy Hook didn’t think it could happen, but it continues to happen. Be prepared so you don’t have to get prepared.”
Tony, 40, was appointed on Jan. 11 to lead an agency with a $730 million budget by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who removed Israel for what he called “repeated incompetence and neglect of duty” in the wake of BSO breakdowns during the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting in 2017, which left five dead, and the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018, that claimed 17 lives.
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Tony, Broward’s first black sheriff, rose to the rank of sergeant during an 11-year career at the Coral Springs police department. He retired two years ago to pursue a career as CEO of Blue Spear Solutions, a company he founded with his wife, Holly, a nurse, to teach civilians how to prevent and react to active-shooter and mass casualty incidents as “immediate responders” who can treat the wounded.
He insisted he has “zero time” to listen to critics who say he lacks the experience necessary to run one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the country.
“I understand the basics of leadership and the operational elements,” he said. “We’ve got 5,800 employees, which adds up to 30,000-40,000 years of experience, and I need to tap into that. I don’t have to shop far. There’s lots of talent here, lots of people with bright ideas.”
“We’ve got a lot of brave and dedicated people. I was disappointed that a small fraction failed the community and didn’t go in.”
Tony, who grew up in Philadelphia’s inner city and was a walk-on fullback under Coach Bobby Bowden at Florida State, said he will run for the post as a Democrat in 2020. He’s been registered as both Republican and Democrat in the past. As he adapts to his new job, he will also have to launch an election campaign.
“Why would I run?” Tony said. “If I walk away in 2020 there’s no guarantee that what I put in place will be sustained by the next administration. I knew coming in that if I was going to do this I’d have to be all in.”
Israel said Thursday he plans to run for his old post in 2020. He has set up a legal defense fund to challenge his ouster.
Tony said plans to improve BSO’s training curriculum, add training facilities, ensure that active shooter policies leave no room for “guessing,” and establish a dialogue with the people of the state’s second-largest county.
“Tell the public there was a failure here but no complacency in fixing things,” he said. “The confidence aspect was absolutely shattered and will take time to rebuild. My job now is to take this organization to the vision I see and that the community deserves.”