Activist Cal Deal Finds Weaknesses in Broward Courthouse Security

Local gadfly Cal Deal beside the door an escaped inmate ran out of five days earlier.EXPAND
Local gadfly Cal Deal beside the door an escaped inmate ran out of five days earlier.
Photo by Jess Swanson

Last Friday, alleged murderer Dayonte Resiles sprinted out of the maroon-colored staircase door on the northeast side of the Broward courthouse to freedom. Five days later, activist Cal Deal had his nose pushed against that same door’s glass window.

Even though uniformed officers and guards patrol the front of the newly renovated Broward Judicial Complex, no one stops or questions Deal for this suspicious behavior at the scene of one of the greatest inmate escapes of all time. In fact, there’s not a cop or guard anywhere along the north or east sides of the building.

“They have all this security in the front and nothing in the back,” Deal says. “It’s all for show.”

In the aftermath of Resiles’ escape, Scott Israel announced that maximum security inmates will now remain in the detention deputy’s custody until an armed court deputy is present. (Previously, only two unarmed bailiffs were required in each courtroom.) The beefed-up security in the courtroom will surely prevent inmates from breaking out again, but for the last decade Cal Deal has been more concerned with security lapses that would allow bad guys to get in and cause a terrorist attack or an active shooter situation.

“If one person’s job is to open the back door [from the inside], what’s to stop ten people intent on freeing somebody... right now?” he asks. “I know I’m thinking of extreme scenarios that probably will never happen, but it could.”

The 9/11 terrorist attacks prompted Deal’s interest in security. For the last decade, whenever the former newspaper reporter rode his bicycle or walked his golden retriever past the courthouse, he couldn’t help but notice its many glaring weaknesses. Over the years, Deal took photos and envisioned different scenarios. In the wake of Resiles’ escape, Deal gave New Times a tour around the courthouse perimeter, pointing out the safety concerns.

On Tuesday afternoon, there were six marked BSO patrol cars in front of the building, which Deal calls “an overreaction.” He walks to the east side of the building and stops at the road that cuts across the complex. A BSO patrol car is sitting at one end. Three empty patrol cars are at the other. Deal points to two boom barriers (poles that rise and fall vertically when access is granted) on either end. He shakes his head.

Activist Cal Deal Finds Weaknesses in Broward Courthouse Security
Courtesy of Cal Deal

“Remember Timothy McVeigh and what just happened in Nice,” he says. “Trucks don’t have to be very big to cause much damage. What’s going to stop someone from just driving through it?” Deal worries someone would then be in the middle of the courthouse, able to drive under the raised hallways that cross over the road and detonate a bomb.

Deal keeps walking and turns the corner past the jail. The northeast side of the courthouse faces the water. It’s picturesque. Couples ride bikes on the paved sidewalk and boats skim past on the New River. But Deal stares at the bridge where Resiles’ getaway drivers waited for him and the back doors that Resiles’ pushed open to freedom. Five days after Resiles' escape, Deal is surprised no officers or guards are back here. He slowly moves toward the door that Resiles used to escape. He looks in the glass window and notices a security camera but no guard.

Activist Cal Deal Finds Weaknesses in Broward Courthouse Security
Courtesy of Cal Deal

“I half-expected my peeking to trigger something,” he says. But for 20 minutes, Deal looks in windows and strolls along the back side of the building — not unlike a criminal scoping out an escape or entry plan.

Afterward, Deal returns to the front of the building. He looks carefully at the glass windows. His biggest concerns are vehicles crashing through them or an active shooter firing inside.

Clifford ThorpeEXPAND
Clifford Thorpe
Photo by Jess Swanson

Clifford Thorpe, an elderly uniformed guard, sits outside the front doors of the courthouse. He has worked there for five years and explains that his sole job is to make sure no one tries to bypass security by walking in the exit door. He says his job is “more or less” the same after Resiles’ escape and that his duties to monitor the exit door haven’t changed.

“The problem is that it took place on that side, not this,” Thorpe says, pointing to the back of the building. “I’m supposed to guard this door and make sure no one goes through the exit. That’s it.”

Scott Israel blames lax security on county commissioners, who refused to give his office more money to heighten security at the courthouse. But critics like Deal believe there are enough deputies; Israel just mismanages security. “What’s to stop another [escape]?” Deal asks.

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