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Coronavirus in Florida: Tensions rise as Broward Sheriff clashes with union head over PPE equipment

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – There has been a lot of back and forth about what the Broward Sheriff’s Office does and doesn’t have in terms of personal protective equipment.

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony insisting on Monday that his deputies are prepared to handle their daily duties during the coronavirus pandemic.

"BSO is prepared across all spectrums," Tony said. "We’ll get the job done and we just ask that they continue to comply with what we’re putting out there which is social distancing, stay home."

It's a clear message from Sheriff Tony.

But Jeff Bell, who is president of the union that represents thousands of deputies working at BSO, claims the sheriff is stretching the truth.

"We know the Sheriff’s office is saying everything is fine, but when I talk to the deputies, and they email the union, they say everything is not fine," said Bell. "There's a lot of conflicting information."

Over the last few weeks, contention has built between the sheriff and the union.

It started after the union released information to the media, saying deputies were not being provided with adequate personal protective equipment.

The frustration apparently came to a head over the weekend.

Video obtained by Local 10 News that was taken moments after Tony gave his condolences to the family of Deputy Shannon Bennett, who died Friday night after contracting COVID-19.

The video appears to show Tony yelling at a group of deputies, allegedly about the union's actions.

"Completely unprofessional, uncalled for, unethical, to start cursing at deputies out of anger and to blame the union for speaking out to the media about problems within the sheriff's office," said Bell.

Local 10 News' Ian Margol, who spoke with Tony on Monday, asked the sheriff about the video.

"The last thing I wanted to see was information being pushed out by someone who’s supposed to represent the law enforcement group, to represent the deputies out there, where they’re using this death as a political tool," Tony said. "I think it’s unacceptable, I think it’s dishonorable and that was the message that I was translating over to our deputies."

Tony was also asked about the allegations that there are simply not enough PPE kits for every deputy.

"We’ve gone across the entire channel, from gloves to hand sanitizers to caps to gowns to goggles, anything that we can actually get our hands on, I’ve been buying it," he said.

The sheriff also said they’ve been working to buy more PPE but right now things are overpriced and out of stock. Still, he said they’re trying to get more.

As for the union, it plans to join several other unions representing BSO employees and reach out to the sheriff all together.


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