Broward Sheriff’s Office launches social justice task force

“Inclusion is fundamental,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said of the diverse group. It was formed to better connect the community with the law enforcement agency and will meet on alternating months.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The protests that swept our streets over the summer, sparked by a nationwide outcry fed up with police brutality, are partly why the Broward Sheriff’s Office has formed a new social justice task force.

“Inclusion is fundamental,” Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony said. “Having the community get involved in the activities that we’re doing, the policies that we’re making, the engagements we’re trying to have — to earn and continue to keep the public’s trust.”

Tony joined some of the 20-member member panel for the announcement Thursday morning. The group is made up of community activists in the Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ communities, along with retired judges, police and clergy.

Their stated goal is to “encourage mutual listening, learning and educating in order to address community challenges, achieve goals and improve the quality of life for the residents of Broward County.”

“Identify issues that they see in the community and then bring that back to our task force so that we can try to resolve those issues before they escalate,” explained Kristen Palacio of the Broward County Hispanic Bar Association.

Pre-selected, the task force starts its work immediately.

“Our role is to be a voice for them, so that the legislators know exactly where we think this should be going,” said retired judge Julio Gonzalez.

The social justice task force is not intended to impede or step on the toes of the civilian review board that is currently being formed by Broward County leaders to review claims of officer misconduct.

However, the body of volunteers will have a strong voice in preventing problems, reforming policies and funding decisions, among other things.

“It’ll be many micro sessions of just information sharing,” said BSO Capt. Renee Peterson. "How does our homicide unit function? Crime-scene training. Sharing things that these people behind us can be the best advocates in taking that back to the community.”

LGBTQ advocate Nik Harris added: “There have been no limits placed on what we can say. We come from all aspects of the community, and we look forward to addressing issues before they are issues.”

There is a two-year commitment for the task force, which held an orientation Wednesday and plans to meet formally every other month.

About the Author:

Terrell Forney joined Local 10 News in October 2005 as a general assignment reporter. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, but a desire to escape the harsh winters of the north brought him to South Florida.