‘What’s gonna happen when we need them?’: Broward town will have no cops starting next month

Town’s contract with BSO ends Sept. 30, but its own police department won’t launch until next year

Come next month, there will be no police officers on duty in one Broward County town.

PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Come Oct. 1, there will be no police officers on duty in one Broward County town.

That’s because the town of Pembroke Park’s contract with the Broward Sheriff’s Office expires at the end of the month and its long-delayed startup police department isn’t supposed to be ready to launch in February—and the town hasn’t negotiated a backup deal.

After the contract expires, residents who dial 911 may not get a law enforcement response for a while, if at all.

By Florida law, as Broward County’s primary law enforcement agency, BSO deputies will still respond to calls, but they will no longer be based in the town and could be dispatched from any part of unincorporated Broward County, meaning a response could take significantly longer than usual.

Sheriff Gregory Tony said the move will put the town’s residents in jeopardy.

At a recent town commission meeting, the town attorney advised Pembroke Park Mayor Geoffrey Jacobs that the decision to cancel the contract without a backup is dangerous.

“I don’t know what would happen if we had a serious incident in this town on October 2nd or October 1st, and I don’t want to find out that we don’t have adequate police services,” Town attorney Melissa Anderson said.

Pembroke Park has already purchased police cruisers. (WPLG)

John Lowe, who manages a business along Hallandale Beach Boulevard, says he’s concerned too.

“What’s gonna happen when we need them and there is no one here?” Lowe asked.

But Jacobs, who has made no bones about his disdain for BSO and Tony, said he’s willing to take the risk.

“Continuing any contract with the sheriff’s office is a disservice to the town of Pembroke Park,” Jacobs said at the most recent town commission meeting.

BSO offered the town a $3.4 million contract to cover the gap until the new Pembroke Park Police Department is ready to roll.

Jacobs, who spearheaded the move to start a town police department after 42 years with BSO, thinks the contract should be month-to-month instead.

“BSO has no concern for public safety, it’s about how much they can get from Pembroke Park and not serve our residents and community,” he said.

Jacobs feels the town has been overpaying for services, claiming response times are too long, referencing a study claiming 21% of calls aren’t being responded to. He also said only two deputies are on duty in Pembroke Park at any given time.

Pembroke Park police study:

Town Commissioner William Hodgkins is concerned about the gap in service and is the only one who voted against eliminating BSO’s contract come Sept. 30.

Hodgkins and the mayor had this exchange at a recent town commission meeting:

Hodgkins: “If we can’t get someone to help us out, an interim contract, then we will be in a tough spot.”

Jacobs: “We will find something.”

Hodgkins: “Well, we don’t know that.”

Jacobs: “No, we will find something.”

Hodgkins: “Until we do it, we need to cover our butts.”

Jacobs: “I’ve proven myself. We will find something.”

Pembroke Park town commission meeting, Sept. 14

Vice Mayor Reynold Dieuveille asked interim police Chief David Howard how he feels the gap will affect the town.

“I mean, I don’t know what to tell you, vice mayor,” Howard said. “I think we will be OK.”

Howard said he could open the department early, but, at this point, he has no connection to the county’s radio or 911 system and, most importantly, no officers yet.

“I haven’t had that approval,” he told commissioners. “So, if you want to get open early, then I need what I need to get open early. then we can start earlier.”

Click here to watch the full commission discussion on the BSO contract.

In a statement to Local 10 News, Tony lambasted the town’s decision to cancel the contract.

He called the move “irresponsible and irrational” and said Jacobs has made “numerous false claims” about BSO’s response times:

“The Town of Pembroke Park officials desire to have a police department of their own, and we want them to succeed in that endeavor. The proposed start date for this department has changed multiple times, but the most recent date the Town has announced is Feb. 1, 2023.

However, the current agreement between BSO and the Town for police services expires on Sept. 30, 2022, leaving a potential lapse in critical police services until the Town’s department is operational. To avoid such a lapse, BSO presented its standard contract to the Town for consideration.

Unfortunately, at the urging of Mayor Jacobs, the Town decided not to extend the police services contract with BSO even though the Town’s attorney and police chief have stated publicly that the Town police department will not be operational when BSO’s contract expires on Sept. 30.

This irresponsible and irrational decision by the Town was fueled by Mayor Jacobs’ false statements about BSO’s contract performance. Mayor Jacobs has made numerous false claims that BSO deputies failed to respond to 21% of the calls for service in the Town. These false statements were based upon a complete and incomprehensible misunderstanding by the Mayor and the Town’s police chief of data from a consultant’s report prepared at the Town’s request.

Despite BSO providing Mayor Jacobs with the correct interpretation of the consultant’s report, the Mayor has blindly continued to repeat his false claims to justify his decision to end BSO’s decades-long service to the residents of the Town.

Public safety is the number one obligation a government agency has to its citizens, but Mayor Jacobs’ decision will result in a lapse in necessary and critical police service beginning Oct. 1, 2022, jeopardizing the safety of all residents, businesses, and visitors in the Town.

While BSO will continue to perform its statutory obligations to respond to emergency calls within the Town until their police department becomes operational, this is not a substitute for proactive law enforcement patrols. The Town has been warned that response times to these emergency calls will significantly increase.

The men and women of BSO who have provided outstanding police service to the Town of Pembroke Park will be reassigned beginning Oct. 1, 2022. It’s a shame the Pembroke Park residents, businesses and visitors will suffer because of the Town’s political antics.”

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony

Right now, Pembroke Park has no signed agreements with any jurisdiction for police coverage come Oct. 1.

Residents, businesses and visitors would be left without a police response entirely for minor, non-emergency calls, like shoplifters, noise complaints, suspicious persons or minor car crashes, a source said.

While the majority of Broward County municipalities that outsource law enforcement services choose to contract with the sheriff’s office (see map below), Pembroke Park and other cities and towns are not required to choose BSO.

It’s possible for the town to pay another municipality to provide police protection.

For instance, the town of Southwest Ranches contracts out its law enforcement services to the Davie Police Department.

Mayor Jacobs was out of town this week, but told Local 10 News in an email that agreements with other agencies were being discussed.

Local 10 News reached out to officials in Hallandale Beach, Hollywood and Miramar to ask if they’ve been approached regarding the provision of police services to nearby Pembroke Park.

A Hollywood spokesperson said the city hasn’t been contacted.

As of Thursday evening, Local 10 News hadn’t heard back from Hallandale Beach or Miramar officials.

Interactive map of BSO patrol areas:

About the Authors:

Jeff Weinsier joined Local 10 News in September 1994. He is currently an investigative reporter for Local 10. He is also responsible for the very popular Dirty Dining segments.

Chris Gothner joined the Local 10 News team in 2022 as a Digital Journalist.