Undercurrents | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


Was that a Bat Signal above the Sun-Sentinel building?
Among the highlights of last week's Ken Jenne coronation was the opening prayer, in which God was asked to shackle the new Broward County sheriff with "handcuffs of integrity."

God may have considered reaching for those cuffs the following day when Jenne made one of his first official pronouncements. The subject: whether, given his top priority of "protecting the people and fighting crime," the sheriff was summoning to action ace crime-fighter John DeGroot.

DeGroot cloaks himself as a Sun-Sentinel writer/editor/media personality but, unbeknownst to many, he also holds an honored place in the history of Broward County law enforcement, not to mention the rise of King Ken: He is credited with creating the politically potent legend of "Batman and Robin."

In olden times (the early '70s) DeGroot wrote glowing articles chronicling the breathtaking exploits of public corruption prosecutors Jenne and Bob Butterworth, immortalizing them with the dynamic-duo nickname "Batman and Robin." DeGroot followed that perceptive journalism with a series investigating weaknesses in local government, leading to creation of a Broward County charter commission, of which Jenne became executive director, launching his political career.

It's understandable, then, that Jenne last Wednesday called DeGroot "a terribly bright human being -- a thinker."

Responding to a Miami Herald question, the sheriff said he hoped to hire DeGroot to develop a long-range vision for the department, then added, "We need to see if there's a position available."

This was greeted with some puzzlement around the Sun-Sentinel, because DeGroot had already quit to take a job with Jenne.

Last Tuesday morning, before Jenne's swearing-in ceremony, a sharply suited DeGroot marched into the Sun-Sentinel and announced he had a new mission: strategic planning for the sheriff. DeGroot immediately deployed to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, positioning himself up front with the power people, then triumphantly returned to clean out his desk. He was gone by the end of the day, abandoning a 25-year career, apparently secure that Jenne had already given him a job.

This will be DeGroot's second stint as a thinking man's lawman; he was first called to duty by "Batman" Butterworth when Butterworth served as sheriff from 1978 to 1982, then returned to fight for truth at the Sun-Sentinel.

DeGroot's mission as Jenne's strategic thinker may include creating a new image to replace "Robin," a name not fit for sheriff or king. One can almost hear the awesome DeGroot brain at work: Ken Jenne, "Kojak of the Condos," "The Patton of Patronage," perhaps even "Broward's Little Caesar."

With the legendary visions DeGroot is capable of seeing, it's a good thing King Ken has already promised no grandstanding in front of the TV cameras.

Undercurrents wants to know about any and all political deals, media screwups, and particularly dumb memos from bureaucrats. Let us know. Call 954-233-1572, fax 954-233-1571, or e-mail [email protected].