The Wilton Manors Police Union last year voted 28-0 to encourage a merger with the Broward Sheriff’s Office. Next Tuesday, the city commission should vote 5-0 to ask the Sheriff's office to send them a proposal to effectuate such a merger.
Very simply, Wilton Manors is becoming too big a city with too small a police force.
While South Florida Gay News is published in three counties, and now has over 550 distribution spots, Wilton Manors is still our hometown. It is where we planted our roots because it has become a leading American LGBT community. (By the way, it would be prudent and prideful if the website WiltonManors.org could more accurately depict that life here is significantly different than life in Peoria.)
Our LGBT community has infused this economy with new and refurbished residences, revitalized commercial enterprises, and even an ever-emerging nightlife on the 'Drive.' Our community deserves first class law enforcement support, not second hand excuses of why traffic patrols are unavailable or burglaries can’t be timely processed.
With an LGBT supportive Sheriff-elect, Scott Israel, now about to take office, we know that the command staff of a new law enforcement administration will be friendly to our own leadership. In fact, the new general counsel for the sheriff-elect, Ron Gunzburger, is an openly gay administrator.
Transitioning to the sheriff’s administration does not mean we will be losing a 'hometown' police force. What we will be gaining is a greater level of public safety, improved resources, better staffing, more efficient response times, and less cost overruns. There will still be local commanders.
Financially, a new three year contract with BSO has the potential of saving Manors taxpayers over $4 million, freeing revenues for other purposes. Presently, Manors police officers have had their training funds been cut by 38 percent, civilian personnel by 29 percent, and road patrols by 20 percent. Those numbers should be unacceptable to all our citizens, regardless of whether you are straight or gay.
The police union is encouraging friends, neighbors and supporters to turn out to the City Commission meeting at 7 p.m. on November 27, in order to advance the proposal, an idea whose time has come. At the very least, it is an idea worth listening to. First of all, it has to be financially practical for his office to move forward.
The city of Wilton Manors needs more than to just issue proclamations celebrating Sunday green markets. To drive business on ‘The Drive,’ the street needs to be made more pedestrian-friendly. To induce businesses to build, and customers to feel welcomed, we need to make the state road our own. We need city commissioners who are visionary and vocal, not nearsighted. We need law enforcement on that path too.
Ultimately, we need to celebrate LGBT diversity in our community, on items as simple as our website and as broad as our police force. It is the judgment of SFGN that accessing and harnessing the resources of the Broward Sheriff’s diverse, better equipped, and more professional staff enhances those opportunities.