FORT LAUDERDALE – A diversity study commissioned in 2009 by then Sheriff Al Lamberti found multiple weaknesses in hiring practices, promotions and business opportunities in the Broward Sheriff’s Office. The 31-page report dated March 24, 2010, was never released to the public or to the members of the Council for Diversity and Equal Opportunity (CDEO) whose work led to it.
According to the study, BSO lacked minorities and women in 51 “facts/finding” areas. The report offered 31 recommendations to address the problems, which, according to some members of the panel, have yet to be addressed.
The study found that “diversity and equal opportunity are not distributed evenly and equitably throughout” the BSO.
The report said whites comprised 61.9 percent of the sworn and 54 percent of the non-sworn male workforce. Blacks comprised 54 percent of the non-sworn and 49 percent of the non-sworn female employees.
However, the study noted that blacks were heavily represented in certain areas, especially the Detention department.
“Much of the diversity is among the non-sworn personnel (e.g., administrative) throughout and Department of Detention, particularly,” the report said.
The report called for a diversity goal of between 10 and 15 percent, through the adoption of a commonly accepted definition of “diversity” throughout the BSO and the adoption of a “Diversity Vision Statement” and a “Diversity Action Plan.”
Henry W. Mack chaired the diversity study panel. According to panel member Roland Foulkes, an anthropologist, the CDEO was put together in an unorthodox manner.
“The sheriff had already chosen Mack to chair” the panel, Foulkes said. Mack, in turn, chose Jocelyn Carter-Miller as the vice chairwoman, he said Foulkes added that the sub-chairs and bylaws for the panel were decided beforehand, as well. “It was very different how we were pulled together,” said Foulkes.
Attempts to reach Mack, Carter-Miller and Lamberti by phone or email were unsuccessful.
What the CDEO found raised serious questions about BSO’s ability to effectively interact with and serve a county that is increasingly diverse in terms of both residents and tourists.
For example, the report said that BSO’s Department of Detention was the agency’s “most diverse unit,” yet employees in that department were typically “considered inferior” to personnel from other departments. That, in turn, impacted career advancement for many in the Detention department, the report concluded.
Also, minimal contracting opportunities were being made available by the BSO to minority companies, the report said.
“The BSO Purchasing Bureau does not maintain (a minority business enterprise) database,” the report added.
Career opportunities were also found to be lacking. The report said that a demographic-specific recruitment plan did not exist and the ratio of minority “command level” staff was not proportionate to the rest of Broward County.
“BSO did not have a definition of ‘diversity,’” Foulkes said. “We gave them one.”
Critics say no steps were taken under Lamberti to follow up on the panel’s work.
Ralph Rachels, president of the Liberal Black Firefighters Association, is disappointed. “We never heard anything from that report. I didn’t see any changes,” he said.
Albert Jones, vice mayor of Dania Beach, was a Broward County commissioner when Lamberti created the CDEO. “I never got a copy of the report so I don’t know what happened,” he said.
Foulkes said that he “felt used.”
“I haven’t seen a whole bunch of changes. My disappointment is that they did not follow through,” he said.
Jones described some of the challenges the CDEO encountered while trying to put together the report.
“We were running into interference along the way because we were outsiders,” he said. “We were just community people, volunteers,” Foulkes added. “The committee was a campaign promise. We came in, did our work, and left.
"For Rachels and some others, the experience remains a major disappointment. “That was a waste of time,” Rachels said.
Although the study was launched under Lamberti, the findings and recommendations likely have strong implications for the current sheriff, Scott Israel, who has embraced diversity.
Israel, who staged an electoral upset against Lamberti last year, said that a more diverse and inclusive work force is “critically important to me.” He is withholding comment on the report while he studies it, his office said.
The focus of Israel’s interest in leading an agency that “looks like Broward County” is still being developed. BSO Senior Public Information Officer Keyla Concepción told the South Florida Times that BSO is “reviewing what was in place.”
“Everything is being carefully reviewed,” Concepción said.
Still, both Israel and Concepción were eager to point out improvements. For example, since he was sworn into office in January, Israel has promoted numerous several African Americans and named some to key roles in the public safety agency.
Col. Alvin Pollock is now in charge of all of BSO’s Department of Law Enforcement.
Major David Holmes supervises patrol operations in the South Broward area. Col. Gary Palmer came out of almost three years of retirement to lead the Department of Detention and Community Programs.
Holmes’ counterpart in North Broward, William Knowles, was promoted to lieutenant colonel in charge of countywide services such as services for neighborhoods and youth and special operations.
He had served in Pompano Beach as major since 2007. Changes have also affected the BSO Public Information Office. The top two positions in that visible arm of the sheriff’s office are held by two women: Concepción and Public Information Office Manager Veda Coleman-Wright.
Israel also reportedly is keeping an eye on the sustainable side of diversity. BSO is “making a push” to recruit a more diverse applicant pool for jobs in the agency, Concepción said. “Positions are open.”
*Pictured above is former Sheriff Al Lamberti.