sheriff_scott_israel__web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE — Before a packed house of religious leaders, civic association officials, the business community and everyday residents at the African-American Research Library & Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, Broward Sheriff Scott Israel unveiled his innovative concept of uniting the county’s diverse cultures to better protect their communities.

“As sheriff of the 1.8 million residents of Broward County, I recognize that our community is diverse, comprised of people from many races, religions and cultures, and each needs to be heard,” Israel told the overflow crowd at his inaugural ‘Uniting Broward: Protecting Communities’ gathering.

Attendees tasted traditional food and refreshments from Chinese, Egyptian, Haitian, Jewish, Italian, Mexican and Indian restaurants at the event.

Presentations were given on the numerous services the sheriff’s office provides to the community.

“Broward is a minority-majority county and in order to better protect and represent every community, I am committed to extending the lines of communication to effectively respond to any unmet needs. I understand that in many cultures and in certain instances voicing concerns to a deputy with a badge and gun can be intimidating.”

To bridge the gap between law enforcement and residents, Israel implemented a Community Outreach Team, which is diverse in its own right.

He introduced this team to the public with a video presentation and called the members to join him on stage. It is made up of civilian employees from various ethnic backgrounds and languages. They work directly in the community and with residents, nonprofit organizations and religious institutions to resolve concerns and maintain open channels of communications with the sheriff’s office.

“I see the kids. We have a few neighborhood officers and they speak to them. I didn’t see that before,” said Minister Guillermo Delgado, who attended the gathering.

Attendees even offered the sheriff ideas about what concerns them in the community.

“I think it’s a good idea to help the homeless and people with mental issues on the street,” said a businessman in the crowd.

Israel told attendees that opening up dialogue between Broward’s diverse ethnic groups can lead to greater cooperation and a reduction in crime.

“Although BSO has always had an open-door policy, not every voice was heard,” Israel said. “Today, BSO is an agency committed to listening, which has resulted in all faiths and ethnic groups being represented,” he said.