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Broward Approves Its Own Police Oversight Board

Broward County will soon have its own police oversight board.
Broward County will soon have its own police oversight board.

Less than two months after commissioners in Miami-Dade voted to revive the county's police oversight board, lawmakers in Broward County have voted to create a similar panel to investigate complaints against officers.

The new policing and criminal-justice review board was approved at the commission's October 20 meeting. The board will be made up of 24 members, including lawyers, health-industry experts, and representatives from various organizations, activist coalitions, and cultural groups in Broward.

Two of the 24 seats will be reserved for active members of law enforcement. One will be nominated by the Broward County Chiefs of Police Association, the other will be handpicked by the sheriff.

Former Broward County mayor and current county commissioner Barbara Sharief was part of the push to have members of law enforcement on the review board. She said she considers it to be an olive branch to police to encourage them to take the board's suggestions back to their departments.

Several residents voiced objections to that provision, expressing concerns about having members of law enforcement on a police-review board. On the other side of the spectrum, other residents feared the review board could inspire calls to defund police in Broward County.

Deborah Tarrant, mayor of Hillsboro Beach, predicted that the review panel would create a "lynch mob" and accused some groups that would be participating on the board of having "anti-law-enforcement leanings."

Those remarks were criticized by Michael Howson, an organizing member of the Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward.

"It's galling that someone who considers themselves a leader of an entire city would use that terminology," Howson told New Times after the meeting.

Commissioners repeatedly stated that the board will be extremely limited in scope and can't ultimately change policies around policing.

The board will be able to publish its research and findings and even go as far as suggesting policy changes to police, but it won't have the authority to force any changes. Subpoena powers will be limited to non-law-enforcement individuals and documents on matters that aren't under active investigation.

"They're not able to investigate an active investigation, so the police will still investigate themselves," said County Mayor Dale Holness.

At the meeting, Holness recounted how his fiancée's son had been shot and killed by three Lauderhill police officers in 2011. Holness said police at the scene questioned him aggressively.

"And the way I was treated, it's almost as if I had done something wrong. The way I was handled — it doesn't leave a good memory for me," Holness said.

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The mayor also spoke about the power of police unions and invited residents to read Florida's Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights to see the protections that document affords to deputies.

Howson, the Black Lives Matter organizer, tells New Times he doesn't think any significant change will come from a review board with such a limited scope.

"We do not by any means feel like this is satisfactory in addressing the community's problems," Howson says.

Despite the board's lack of teeth, Howson says the Black Lives Matter Alliance is satisfied with one aspect in particular: access to more data and information about the county's police force.

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