The History of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office
From the “32 News Official Newsletter of The Broward Sheriff’s Lodge F.O.P. #32” October 1978 Issue.
Broward Sheriff’s Office, the chief law enforcement agency in Broward County, has survived years of corruption, poor administrations, and the constant indictment and removal of sheriffs, to become one of the largest, most progressive, and most respected police organizations in the State of Florida.
BSO serves the public with the patrol and investigation of criminal activity in the unincorporated areas throughout the county and makes available its services to 29 municipalities within Broward.
With the incorporation of the county in 1915, the department was formed to service those areas not incorporated into Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield, or Hollywood. The facts are scarce that relate to the actual operations of the department during the first few years. But it was the beginning of a long battle the department would have to endure to retain its creditability in the public eye.
Elected to serve as the first sheriff of Broward County was a businessman by the name of A. W. Turner. He served for the first ten years until 1925. His department was small and his men tough and it resembled nothing of what the sheriff’s Office stands for today.
Turner was replaced by Paul C. Bryan in 1925, who served only two years. Then in 1927, Tuner was elected back into office for another four-year term.
Walter R. Clark was elected as sheriff in 1931. He was constantly brought into public attention by his associations with known underworld figures. Pressures mounted and Clark left office in 1938, still under investigation for his actions. Similar to Turner’s term in office, another sheriff, Eddie Lee, was brought in, only to leave two years later, replaced by the man whose office he had taken over.
Clerk was sheriff for the next ten years, despite his notorious associations. It was during these years that the Sheriff’s Office obtained a scandalous and corrupt reputation, unworthy of representation and lacking respect from other law enforcement agencies. Clark was brought before the Kefauver Committee, where he was investigated for his alleged connections with syndicated figures. The Committee revealed the fact that he operated slot machines and other illicit operations from the Sheriff’s Office. He was also indicted on charges that he worked closely with a figure who controlled syndicated casinos in South Florida. He was removed from office for the last time in 1950.
The department saw little or no change in its structure during the first 35 years. Manpower was low and employees saw few benefits and little chance for promotion. Public relations was not stressed as a departmental rule and the deputies did not “aim to please” the citizens of the county. They became stereo-typed as mean, ornery, almost brutal deputies with little respect for the public they served.
With the gubernatorial appointment of Amos Hall as sheriff in 1950, there had begun a positive change within BSO. Hall completed the last two years of Clark’s final term and was elected back in office in 1952. He started to develop a respectable attitude within the department, making public relations a point of responsibility.
With 28 members and two large police zones, BSO began its departmental expansion in 1953; Sheriff Hall authorized the formation of a Traffic division for the sole purpose of traffic enforcement and accident investigation. Under the supervision of Sgt. Edward Wagner, a team of five motor deputies patrolled the county for all traffic problems.
BSO received its first radio system in 1954. Previously dispatched on Fort Lauderdale’s Police frequency, it shared its communications with Deerfield, Hollywood, Pompano, and Oakland Park. The personnel consisted of three dispatchers and two sergeants who handle the radio dispatching and citizens complaints, respectively. There was a radio, two desks, and two phones in a small room that was designated as the Communications Center.
Hall lost re-election as sheriff in 1956. J. A. “Quill” Lloyd was voted in as his successor and during his four-year term, the department saw very little change.
A Safety Education division was established as a public service device. It was created for the education of school children in the rules of safety, at home and at school. Headed by Sgt. Paul Radcliff, it concerned itself with certain functions designed to teach children the acceptance of responsibility.
In 1960, Allen Michell, a former police captain form Philadelphia, was sworn in as the High Sheriff. During this time, Michell had stripped away what little respect the department had gained.
BSO had added a canine division, divided it jurisdiction into six police zones and expanded its personnel to 42 members by 1966. But by 1967 things had begun to unfold again.
Michell was indicted by a grand jury charging him with common law crime of misfeasance, nonmisfeasance, and malfeasance in office. He was suspended by Florida Governor Burns in 1964 while investigations and criminal proceedings were conducted. Burns appointed Thomas Walker, a Fort Lauderdale insurance executive, to serve as interim sheriff until Michell was either acquitted or convicted of all charges.
Michell was acquitted and reinstated by Gov. Burns within hours of his trial. However, the grand jury was presented with new evidence concerning Michell’s actions and Michell was again suspended from office. Walker was unable to be reached at the time of Michell’s second suspension, whereas, the Governor appointed BSO Captain Dunson acting sheriff until Walker could be contacted.
Edward J. Stock was elected Sheriff of Broward County in 1968. The department since then has tripled in size and has built a reputation of high standing within the county and the state. BSO has developed more since Stack has taken office than during any other time in its 53 years of existence and the accomplishments made since then have been many.
Benefits were improved for the department personnel. The uniforms were upgraded from green and gray to the present green and white for the uniform division. Stetsons and were also issued as regulation headgear as opposed to the brimmed hat previously worn. Road patrol deputies were also issued their own patrol units in 1969, an unprecedented achievement for BSO or any department in Broward County.
The addition of numerous divisions within the department between 1969 and 1978 had increased the size of the department from 62 to over 700 employees, 560 of whom are sworn personnel.
Organized Crime, Criminal Investigation, Crime Control and Technical divisions were created, beginning in 1970, to supplement the uniform division in crime prevention, patrol and investigation.
In 1974, BSO had sent two women, Linda Cline and Judy Tucker to the Broward Police Academy to become the department’s first female uniformed deputies.
In 1975, the initiation of the countywide 911 Emergency System and the Cooperative Dispatch Center, expended its Communications Division to become one of the largest in the country. This system enables operators to handle most emergency calls within the county, directing them to the proper authorities and the dispatching of police units for 16 of Broward’s 29 municipalities.
The Sheriff’s Office went further to expand its services to the public by assuming law enforcement responsibility at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 1975. The Sheriff also began to provide bailiff and transportation services for prisoners.
The incorporation of a municipal police department, the first in the county, took place on March 1, 1977 when a contract was signed with the City of Lauderdale Lakes constituting police services for the city would be provided for by the Sheriff’s Department.
In a statement made to the Fort Lauderdale News, Sheriff Stock had said, “I am trying to shape the department to give the unincorporated area the same police protection as the cities,” which gives the citizens of Broward a little confidence to know they finally have confidence to know they finally have something they can depend on.
BSO has faced its share of problems during the last ten years also, despite the development and growth the department has experienced. Political accusations and internal affairs have plagued the department, however, not to the extent of hampering the operations of the Sheriff’s Office in serving the citizens of the county. It has maintained the respect established again of the public as well as of law enforcement organizations after years of ignominious operations by men who cared little for public well-being.
Information and Photos provided by the Broward County, FL Sheriff’s Office.