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Sheriff Scott Israel Is Beefin' With the Sun Sentinel

Obviously, the whole, like, point of newspapers is to keep the powers-that-be in check, so when the media criticize police forces or government agencies, there's not always warm fuzzies going on between them.

But yesterday, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel came out swinging after the Sun Sentinel published an October 27 editorial criticizing his leadership. He announced through BSO's official Facebook page that "nearly every key fact cited in the editorial was either wrong or purely fictional."

The Sentinel began its piece thusly:

In his relentless pursuit for more and more money, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has lost sight of his customers and risks splintering the face of law enforcement in our community. Shortly after taking office 10 months ago, the county's top cop asked the Broward County Commission for a 14 percent budget increase -- or another $93.7 million for his $667 million budget. After receiving a still-generous 4.5 percent increase, he started looking elsewhere for more money, focused on awarding bigger staff pay raises, pensions and perks.

It then went on to give examples in various municipalities throughout the county.

This comes just two months after another Sun Sentinel piece, by columnist Michael Mayo, that began:

"Broward Sheriff Scott Israel is a political rookie, and it's showing.

As much as he tries to blame enemies and predecessor Al Lamberti for his problems, it's time for Israel and his team to face up to the off-kilter signals emanating from the Sheriff's Office.

Some leaders have the wow factor. So far, Israel keeps making me go, "Huh?"

In his first eight months, Israel had a rapper with a pending cocaine-trafficking charge perform at his swearing in, welcomed a convicted felon (ex-sheriff Ken Jenne) with open arms to BSO headquarters, and held a self-serving July news conference proclaiming a dead guy as the likely killer of BSO Sgt. Chris Reyka of Wellington in 2007.

But Israel fired back to last week's article. Here are some of his points. Read his entire letter here:

•BSO sought money for "bigger staff pay raises." Fact: It was Sheriff Lamberti who saddled the agency with the 2 percent cost-of-living increases and 5 percent seniority increases for deputies for this year and next. I am legally required to honor those signed collective bargaining agreements, and have done so. The editorial also erred in referring to this as a "5 percent cost-of-living raise and a 2 percent merit raise."

•BSO sought money for "bigger... pensions." Fact: No pension benefit increases were requested. Costs rose from a 2013 change in state law that significantly increased the employer contributions for all Florida Retirement System participants.

• "Consolidation is supposed to save taxpayers money." Fact: This statement was entirely pulled out of thin air. There has never been any consolidation plan for BSO to become the regional policing agency in all Broward cities, supplanting local police departments. Many Broward cities have their own independent police departments and have zero desire to give them up. As there was never any countywide police consolidation envisioned -- and I'm not in the business of "empire building" -- there was certainly no cost-saving promises tied to this fictional plan.

Then there were the contradictory demands of the editorial.

The editorial demanded cost savings -- yet complained that BSO was reckless to close satellite booking facilities to save money. The Sun Sentinel failed to mention that all of Florida's largest counties operate with just one central-booking intake facility. The closures bring Broward into alignment with how efficient jail systems operate today. Additionally, it produced $2.8 million in annual taxpayer savings.

I truly support fiscal responsibility, but not at the expense of providing public safety services on the cheap. I support saving tax dollars, but I support saving lives more.

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Deirdra Funcheon

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