After being fired from his post as chief of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on Thursday, Larry Scirotto addressed the controversy at the NAACP Broward office on Monday morning.
Scirotto, who is gay and mixed-race, is accused of giving promotions to officers based on their minority status.
From August to November, he gave 15 promotions — nine were to white men and the remaining six were ethnic or gender minorities. He also hired 35 people throughout the department of “various races, various gender, ethnicities and backgrounds” whom he says their “credentials stand on their own merits.”
“In each of those promotions, it wasn't based on any protected class or immutable trait,” he said Monday. “It was based on their qualifications. Every one of those candidates who were promoted was extremely qualified. Those that were not selected were not nearly as qualified and in some instances have a history that would preclude them from promotion.”
Four EEOC claims were filed against Scirotto from white police officers — three men and one woman who are sergeants and lieutenants — in what was called a “minority-first agenda.” This led to the city hiring Rossman Legal of Davie to conduct an investigation into the claims. According to the report, which was submitted on Feb. 25, Greg Rossman conducted interviews in December and January with 24 “potential witnesses” of people who were eligible for the promotion. Scirotto was also interviewed by Rossman.
In the report, Scirotto was said to have pointed to a wall of photographs in the chief’s conference room and said “that wall is too white” and “I’m gonna change that” on more than one occasion. There was also an allegation that during a meeting to discuss promoting an officer to captain, Scirotto asked “which one is Blacker” when comparing two Black candidates. A witness told Rossman that when they asked the chief why they were passed over for a promotion, he responded, “I have to consider diversity and equity.”
Rossman concluded, “The Chief’s own words, admitted by him, are ill-conceived if not plainly discriminatory. They are not part of a well-conceived, adopted plan of affirmative action or diversity implemented by ordinance or court order.”
During the Monday press conference, Scirotto denied saying the wall was “too” white, but instead wanted to have the force be reflective of the Fort Lauderdale community, almost half of which are people of color. The former police chief stated that when he was hired, he was asked to make changes, including promoting diversity in the department.
“The city manager warned me that the changes that I would need to make would meet great resistance, and that is ever true today,” he said. “I guess that was true until the actual changes started to happen. And here we are today.”
Scirotto also called the report an “opinion piece” as he alleges there were no testimony transcripts or recordings and no witnesses under oath.
Before Scirotto spoke, he joined supporters in a prayer circle. Then, NAACP Broward President Marsha Ellison shared that the former Pittsburgh assistant police chief was their first pick because he was an outsider.
“We don’t need another insider, one of those current officers or law enforcement folks who work for the city of Fort Lauderdale to further the agenda,” she said. “This community has been neglected for way too long.”
She said that “apparently he did his job too well” and she believed the department felt he promoted too many Black officers. She called his firing a “set up.”
The Fort Lauderdale Black Police Officers Association is also standing behind Scirotto, saying in a statement that the promoted officers’ “professional reputations have been damaged by the flawed and woefully inadequate discrimination report produced by Rossman Legal,” leading to a hostile work environment.
“It implies they did not earn their promotion based on their superior qualifications, experience, and educational attainment,” wrote Captain Cecil Stone, the president of the organization. “This renewed internal effort to disqualify, delegitimize, and destroy the reputation of hard-working Black, LGBTQ+, and other minority police officers is reprehensible.”
Stone was one of the officers who received the promotion to captain under Scirotto’s tenure — the former police chief cited him specifically as an example of a qualified officer, pointing to his Master’s degree, respect in the department, and his community outreach with providing Thanksgiving meals and buying toys for children for Christmas.
“He was by far the easiest of my selections, this promotion process, and I stand behind that,” he said.
Scirotto says he has secured legal representation and will be leaning on them for the next steps — hopefully, to get his job back.
“I love the city, I love this police department,” he said. “There’s nothing more I’d rather do than be the chief tomorrow. I’m not sure that is an option for me. I won't make that decision.”
Larry Scirotto and supporters say a prayer before a press conference Monday. Photo by Christiana Lilly.