FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - Election day is quickly approaching, and Broward voters now have the opportunity to choose who the county’s next top cop will be.
Democratic incumbent Broward Sheriff Scott Israel is facing political newcomer, Republican Santiago Vasquez Jr.
Israel said his track record speaks for itself. “We reduced violent crime over 20 percent. Our burglary rate is down over 40 percent. Every time I’ve had an opportunity to stand out against gun violence, I have.”
Vasquez, however, believes that it is time for change. “The people of Broward County deserve better. They deserve a sheriff that is not a politician,” he said.
Vasquez believes he brings something new to the table since he began his career in the military and spent 22 years in law enforcement. “I’m not a politician, I’m a police officer,” Vasquez said. “Let’s work with the community together.”
Israel said that he has the experience Vasquez lacks. “My opponent is in virgin territory. He would have no understanding of what I do for a living,” he said. “I spent 25 years on the street. I didn’t just magically appear as sheriff. I was a police officer, I was an undercover narcotics detective, I was a community policing officer, I was a SWAT commander. His experience pales in comparison to mine.”
In regards with working with the community, Israel said his efforts have made an impact. “We couldn’t be doing more from a community policing perspective,” Israel said. “We go to churches and temples and religious institutions. We go to schools.”
Israel credits community policing with purging Flakka, a dangerous drug, from the streets.
One other issue the pair disagree on is implementing body cameras on police outfits.
Vasquez said he supports the use of body cameras, but only if the state mandates and pays for them. “Is it realistic, right now, with the economy and with the budget of the Sheriff’s Office? No. It’s not,” Vasquez said.
Israel said that saving money for this particular tool is non-negotiable. “I wouldn’t want to be the one to stand up there and say, ‘Well, I voted against body cameras, I wanted to save a few dollars,'” Israel said. “That’s not what Broward County wants.”
Israel said it will be up to the county and each city to foot the bill.
When it comes to the budget, Israel hasn’t always agreed with Broward County commissioners, which is something Vasquez is zeroing in on. “He wants more money every time for everything that he does,” Vasquez said. “How about releasing some of his friends that he has hired as administrators that are not qualified for administration?”
“It seems like the county’s philosophy is, ‘Let’s save money. My philosophy is let’s save lives,” Israel said.
Vasquez is highly critical of Broward County’s 911 system, which was plagued with problems after its 2014 rollout. Israel said those issues have all been resolved.
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