|Posted by Anne Siren on November 30, 2012 at 1:45 PM|
Wilton Manors – Sheriff-elect Scott Israel is open to the possibility of the Broward Sheriff’s Office [BSO] taking over law enforcement duties in Wilton Manors.
Ron Gunzburger, speaking on behalf of Israel at the city commission meeting Tuesday night, said BSO would welcome a contract with Wilton Manors as long as it was beneficial to both entities. “We will come anywhere and everywhere we are wanted,” said Gunzburger, who has been appointed by Isreal to run BSO’s legal office when the sheriff-elect takes over in January.
Pushing the BSO takeover is the Wilton Manors Police Department [WMPD] where officers say switching would save the city $4 million over three years.
The police had planned to ask the commission to request a proposal from BSO at Tuesday’s meeting but decided to wait until January.
WMPD Sgt. Chuck Howard, speaking for the police, said the next move is to meet with Israel’s people “just to let them know what page we’re on.”
But before any changes can be made residents will have to be asked what they think.
In January, voters overwhelmingly passed a referendum requiring that they vote on any proposal to switch to BSO or any other law enforcement agency.
But on Tuesday, residents were already giving their opinions and it was a mix of yes, no and maybe.
“I actually prefer a smaller police agency,” said resident Michael Rajner, who added though that he would like to see more oversight of the police department.
“I’m not in favor of BSO. I’m in favor of a proposal by BSO,” said resident and business owner Nick Berry.
Resident Richard Oberer said his house has been broken into twice in the last six months and it took police 34 minutes to respond to a call at his neighbor’s house. According to a brochure disseminated by the police, there are a maximum of two patrol officers on duty at any given time.
Resident Paul Kuta said that he doesn’t think the city will save any money over the long run and that it could find itself in a “bind” a few years down the road.
Two years ago Pompano Beach officials, unhappy with rising BSO costs, explored the possibility of restarting the city’s independent police force.
Pompano city staff estimated personnel costs would be cheaper by going back to an independent department but that the city would have to spend $13.9 million on one time expenses such as police cars and other equipment. But the extra costs were too much and the city stuck with BSO.
But despite the mix of opinions at Tuesday’s meeting, Kuta added that he thinks voters will reject any proposal.
“I think that our local officers are completely misrepresenting the attitude of local residents if they think that a proposal for a BSO takeover would be approved in a voters referendum,” he said.
The ultimate decision, however, would still rest with the commission, which has expressed a desire to keep the status quo.
Commissioners would also decide if the issue is put on the ballot. If commissioners decide against it the city charter allows police to bypass the commission and force a vote. To do so they need to get a petition signed by 2,000 [20 percent] of the city’s registered voters.
“We might have to go the harder route,” said Howard.