The Monday after Gregory Frazier was fatally shot by deputies from the Broward Sheriff’s Office in his backyard, Sheriff Scott Israel stood in front of an angry crowd that had gathered at the Bethel AME Church in Pompano Beach and made an announcement: All officer-involved shootings, including this one, would be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement from now on.
The news got mild applause and a few murmurs of approval. On the surface, it sounded like a promising sign considering that law enforcement agencies historically have not done the best job of investigating themselves.
In reality, it may be nothing more than a smooth public relations move designed to appease a frustrated community.
Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weekes calls it “such a crock of shit they are selling folks... Handing over the Frazier investigation to the FDLE is such a political move,” he explains. “It grants both the sheriff and the state attorney’s office political cover from an angry police union if the investigation turns south. It also allows them to deflect the community's concerns if the FDLE finds no wrongdoing. The community loses in each situation because the FDLE can't be held accountable, since they’re not elected.”
Furthermore, the sheriff’s decision to disclose carefully selected tidbits of information about the shooting, despite the fact that it’s still under investigation and we still don’t even know the names of the officers who were involved, gave the impression that he’d already made up his mind about what happened.
“The sheriff is vehemently stating that Frazier was standing and suggesting that the officers were justified,” Weekes says. “You can't have it both ways. How can you jump to those conclusions so quickly while at the same time calling for an outside investigation? It smacks of a fix and politricks as usual.”
In response, Israel issued the following statement through spokesperson Veda Coleman-Wright:
“Though incidents around the nation have fractured the community’s trust in law enforcement, BSO’s commitment to transparency and accountability has been unmatched. To further that trust, I made the decision to have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate any deputy-involved shootings and report their findings directly to the state attorney’s office. I have full confidence in the unbiased capabilities of our own detectives, but I understand perception does matter. It’s important the public has confidence in the independence of shooting investigations. I want what you want: truth and justice. This action is the best way to ensure that occurs.”
If you didn’t make it through that paragraph of PR-speak, here’s a translation: I think we could investigate this ourselves, but, yeah, it does look better if someone else does it.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.