Broward Police Chief, Task Force Wants Criminal Justice For All





Paul O'Connell

Last week, in a stunning 96-hour period there was the Imperfect Storm. The officer involved shootings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, followed by the massacre of police officers in Dallas. Those deaths brought to light, not for the first time or the last time, the gulf between law enforcement and the communities we serve.

It is important that we acknowledge two critical failures.

First, we have a broken society where those who feel left behind are frustrated to the point of violence. This violence is not just on “the system” but on each other as verified by the overwhelming number of crime victims being African-American or “black on black” crime. Every year, approximately 6,000 African-Americans are homicide victims, mostly by other African-Americans. This is an ugly statistic but it is one which must be acknowledged. As an important note, 12% of all white and Hispanic homicide victims are killed by police officers compared to 4% of African-American homicide victims being killed by a police officer. But, the advent of video identifying bad judgment and even criminality on the part of police officers has led to this boiling point.

Second, our law enforcement system is under debilitating stress. Poor hiring practices, inadequate training and the inability to cleanse our profession of those who do not deserve to wear our badge of honor have combined to fuel this atmosphere of mistrust and a strong belief there is a lack of accountability.

Together, these failures have led to a crisis of confidence and trust in each other. Locally, it is important to know that the Broward County Chiefs of Police Association (BCCPA) has been working with Congressman Alcee Hastings and Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz on the Taskforce for Strengthening Police Community Relations. It has been and continues to be a work in progress and clearly more work is needed. The Urban League of Broward County has been a vital partner in this dialogue, as has our State Attorney Michael Satz. The Taskforce has reached out to our schools, churches, community leaders and elected officials to find more partners. We hope others will join us!

The goal of the Taskforce is simple: repair the damage and restore the trust. The solution is more complex as there is no modest formula or magic potion to apply. Too much time is being wasted on “fixing the blame” and too little time is being spent on “fixing the problem.” The Taskforce has the correct focus — building bridges of trust and confidence.

Here is what I know to the very core of my being:

The police profession is a noble profession made up of imperfect men and women who simply want to serve and who want to make tomorrow better than today. Our daily tasks continue to be challenging and perfection is not always attainable despite our best efforts. But we will adjust, we will adapt and we will move forward. We hope that you will join us on this journey for justice.


(Paul O’Connell is the chief of the Wilton Manors Police Department and the past president of the Broward County Chiefs of Police Association. He has been in law enforcement since 1977 and the Wilton Manor’s chief since 2011. Chief O’Connell previously had a lengthy career at the Broward Sheriff’s Office and was the BSO District Chief for Parkland from 2007-2011. )


For further information on the Taskforce for Strengthening Police Community Relations contact or

9 Responses to “Broward Police Chief, Task Force Wants Criminal Justice For All”

  1. Natasha Hampton says:

    Chief O’Connell,
    Thank you for the taking the time to shed light on an issue that has and continue to cripple this nation. Unfortunately, your attempt to do so, in part, appears to marginalize and justify the grotesque practices of some public servants paid to protect and serve. I’ll explain shortly. Please know I am an 18+ year public servant and former Director of Human Resources. I know all too well the enormous amount of pressure public safety officers’ experience and endure all while facing the possibility of not returning home to their loved ones.

    To elaborate my earlier thought, using words like “massacre” of ‘police officers’ when describing the shootings in Dallas gives readers a disturbing visual of violence against “police”.
    However, the same was not your description of the “officer” ‘involved shootings’ in Baton Rouge and St. Paul; as if one incident was more horrific than the other. I’m sure you can appreciate, understand and agree that all of these deaths resulted in tremendous loss to loved ones.

    You go on to acknowledge two critical failures to this Imperfect Storm the first being “black on black” crime. Chief O’Connell according to FBI Homicide statistics from 1980 to 2008, whites kill more whites than black people kill each other. In 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, 2,630 white people killed 3,172 white people in comparison to 2,447 African-Americans murdered 2,695 of their own. As you can see, white-on-white murder is clearly the bigger issue. Your misleading statistics demonstrate the type of passive judgment people of color experience daily when protesting unwarranted Police killings and must be discontinued if trust is to be restored particularly within the African-American and Latino communities.

    Your acknowledgment of an inability to cleanse a profession of those not worthy of the badge to protect and serve is spot on and this Chief O’Connell is where we start. I don’t believe anyone is asking for perfection. As an African-American woman and career public servant, I’m asking for police to understand that we (everyone) too are under debilitating stress; one’s stress no more important than the other, no less urgent than the other. No one should die for a busted tail light, selling CD’s or exercising 2nd amendment rights. True healing and restoration of trust begins with acceptance not blame. Acknowledge, take responsibility and work collectively to change archaic policies that fail to justly serve today’s communities. After all, a journey is only a journey when lessons are learned and never to be repeated!

    Thank you for your efforts to work toward solutions.

  2. Nathan Rapp says:

    The chief is right. We need to start talking to each other, not talking at them. Turn off Twitter and the inflammatory, and many times BS cable news. Understand we are all in this together and it is called America

  3. Ret. Sgt. Lloyd McElhaney (BSO) says:

    Absolutely well-founded and on the mark Paul. But knowing you as well as I do and having worked for you for a number of years, I would only expect you would have the common ground figured out in this matter! I just hope and pray for our comrades and the good citizens of everywhere USA, that this gap can be bridged to the point that confidence is not only restored toward Law Enforcement Officials, but restored and shared by our citizens of all races! Great reading your article Paul, hope to see you soon.

  4. Suggestion says:


    I believe there is no better man to serve on or lead the Taskforce for Strengthening Police Community Relations than Patrick Hanrahan.

  5. Suggestion No. 2 says:

    The Grand Jury and the U. S. Justice department cleared the officer in Ferguson. We need to talk and we need a task force, Chief. we also need to support law enforcement our only protection against a total breakdown of society As you wisely wrote, neither one is more important than the other.

  6. Sam The Sham says:

    Thank you Chief O’Connell for a thoughtful, well reasoned and researched article.

    The numbers for black on black crimes, violence and homicide are truly horrifying, especially considering that blacks make up only just over 13% of the population.

    I believe that the solution will only come when the good people of the black community stop making excuses and ostracize the criminal elements that are their families, friends and neighbors. They need to disassociate themselves from race pimps who profit politically and monetarily from spreading chaos, fear, hatred and misinformation. They need to embrace law enforcement and the criminal justice system (much of which is made up of blacks like themselves) to remove the criminals from their midst. They need to drop the victim mentality and realize that they are the architect of their own success or failure. Then and only then will these problems be solved.

  7. NotAgain says:

    Thank you Natasha Hampton for providing the exact reason why any solution to this problem is so difficult to achieve. Your flawed logic and nonsense statistics are more proof that no solution is wanted by folks with your mindset.
    While I agree with your statement that “I’m sure you can appreciate, understand and agree that all of these deaths resulted in tremendous loss to loved ones” as true. The deceased in the cases other than the massacre, yes it was a massacre, played an active role in their demise. But your blatant untrue statement “No one should die for a busted tail light, selling CD’s or exercising 2nd amendment rights” would be true if in fact it was true. We all know that is not. You want a real resolution? Stop blaming everybody else for the actions of criminals. Have an open and honest discussion about race and perception. I have participated in several “meetings” where it simply became a blame the cop, especially the white cop, for everything. I have almost given up trying to come to common ground since there never seems to be any. But I will continue to try because we all owe it to each other to make it work. You are absolutely correct in your opinion that “True healing and restoration of trust begins with acceptance not blame.” Maybe some people should heed that advice and stop demanding that criminal behavior be rewarded.
    The black community has many, many problems, some real, some manufactured, but white cops killing black folks is not one of them. I have stepped over too many young black kids murdered by black thugs protected by the Al Sharpton “No Snitchin” mantra that I care to remember. That really bothers me. What about them? Why don’t they have a way out? Want a solution, have a real discussion about race and perceptions. I don’t care whose feeling I hurt, and I don’t care if my feeling get hurt if it heals in the long run. It won’t be a pretty discussion, and it certainly won’t be politically correct.

  8. Lameo says:

    See Paul…nobody cares.

  9. Patricia West says:

    We have to do better! We have no place else to go. Do we have to hit rock bottom first? We should all be concerned. I enjoy my home here in South Florida.