81ºF

Shakeup at BSO's child protection unit following Local 10 News investigation

Sheriff's major removed as commander of agency

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – When Local 10 News caught up with Broward Sheriff's Major Audrey Jones in June, she had nothing to say about allegations of mismanagement in the Child Protection Investigations Section (CPIS) -- a unit that investigates all child abuse cases in the county, which she was commanding.

"Not now," she said.

The station's investigation found that investigators in the all-important unit were working caseloads double and triple (sometimes more) the national standard, and there were staffing shortages caused by high turnover from employees, at least 25 of whom who had left the agency.

In addition to that, there was outrage among some at the agency for what they saw as extravagant purchase orders from Jones, including a request for an executive bathroom in her planned office suite at a new location that was being renovated for the agency on Cypress Creek Drive.

This week investigators in the unit were notified that Jones is being removed from the position in favor of new leadership, said Christina Bullins, who represents the employees in the unit for the International Union of Police Associations.

"I'm just very thankful that the sheriff has changed the leadership," Bullins said.

She also said that she has fielded dozens of complaints against Jones from employees.

While the new head of the agency has not been named by the Broward Sheriff's Office, which did not respond to requests for information, Bullins said she has been told that the new appointee will come from civilian ranks, with extensive experience in child abuse investigations.

One of the knocks against Jones, she said, was that she had little experience in child abuse investigations and was unprepared for the task of managing what amounts to more than 15,000 child abuse cases each year.

Other employees were concerned that Jones was politically protected by Sheriff Scott Israel, who chose her for the job.  

"You have to leadership that has done this, that are experts in this (and) that know the job," Bullins said.

Bullins said the employees in the unit were heartened by the removal of Jones, but added that the issues, including staggering workloads and inadequate funding, remain.

"This is not a complete magic pill," she said. "But it's a good first step."