Broward Throws Millions At Outmoded Technologies





Sometimes it feels like Broward County is stuck in the last century, with politicians making expensive decisions based on yesterday’s technology:

  • The Wave streetcar system for Fort Lauderdale is moving ahead without taking into account that people in downtown Fort Lauderdale might prefer rides from companies like Uber/Lyft.
  • County Commissioners handed $10 million to Broward Sheriff Scott Israel for two new helicopters and ignored the trend towards dramatically cheaper law enforcement drones.

Broward Sheriff’s Office wanted two new helicopters for medical and law enforcement. Based on the comments of BSO Col. James Polan to commissioners this week, there no doubt is a need.

But how big is the need?

Polan of BSO wanted two new helicopters. Commissioner Michael Udine wanted to give BSO one new helicopter and wait until next year for the second.

Udine questioned whether drones might be able to do some law enforcement tasks in the future.

Polan explained BSO’s problem.

The BSO colonel said that out of four helicopters, one lies in pieces on the floor of a maintenance facility while a second one has exceeded its useful life.


Broward Sheriff’s Office helicopter


Commissioners bought Polan’s argument.

Polan got his two new helicopters. Only Udine and Barbara Sharief voted No.

Taxpayers got a $10 million bill.

Yet everyone from Amazon to other law enforcement agencies to the military is exploring the use of drones.


When Udine brought drones up at the meeting, there was no answer from BSO.

The one constant in government is the desire to grow and expand. I can guarantee that regardless of the new helicopters, BSO will be back to the County Commission in the future asking for drones.

If taxpayers are lucky, those drones won’t be able to look down upon The Wave streetcar system in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Yet the planning for this old, outmoded idea chugs on.

At a cost of $100s millions in construction and open-ended operating costs, the Wave was planned before the Uber/Lyft explosion in ride-sharing.

It was proposed when self-driving vehicles did not exist outside of science fiction. Today companies are pouring billions of dollars into this technology.

The future has overtaken The Wave. It will never compete successfully with ride-sharing, which has virtually no cost for taxpayers?

The Wave’s own plans call for between 10 and 15 minutes between streetcars. How many well-heeled in downtown Fort Lauderdale will wait 10-15 minutes in the broiling sun and intermittent rain for a streetcar when they can get a Uber/Lyft in minutes to take them door-to-door?



Planned times between streetcars from The Wave’s planning documents, January, 2017



The financial predictions are widely off if Uber/Lyft bleeds 25 percent of the ridership. The shortfall would probably be a lot more!

Ride sharing has another benefit.  Unlike The Wave, Uber/Lyft doesn’t take existing traffic lanes away from vehicles:





Fortunately an increasing numbers of Fort Lauderdale residents know The Wave is being built for only one reason: To enrich the development industry.

The tiny, looping system downtown made no sense 10 years ago. It makes no sense today as the future overtakes the 150-year-old streetcar technology.




16 Responses to “Broward Throws Millions At Outmoded Technologies”

  1. Ron Gunzburger says:

    Let me respond on behalf of BSO:

    1. Three of BSO’s four helicopters (including the dead 1996 one now used for salvageable parts) are well beyond their recommended lifespan. Our newest helicopter is 6 years old. The others are a 15 years old one, and two 21 years old ships (including the one used for parts). Keep in mind that BSO’s helicopters are not only used on BSO missions, but are also the helicopters deployed to assist ALL of the police departments in Broward, whenever needed — and they also perform double-duty as the only Broward Fire-Rescue evac ships anywhere in the county.

    2. BSO is moving forward on a parallel track with drones, but police drones cannot be deployed for pursuits and other operations that cover lengthy distances, as it is beyond the communications range of the ground operator’s devices. Drones can be deployed for perimeters and similar (as they must be ground based/operated in the vicinity). I’d also note drones also cannot transport a critically injured person from Alligator Alley to a trauma center.

    3. The tax dollars used on this was money BSO saved over prior years from fiscal operating efficiencies, and which (by written agreement) the County now holds for BSO to use specifically for capital improvements — like helicopters, vehicles, and technology upgrades. These dollars can only be used for BSO capital improvements, and this was a critical need.

    4. BSO operates with just a tiny fraction of the police and fire-rescue helicopters used in either of our neighboring counties.

    5. The two helicopters coming out of service (including the one in parts) will be sold, so some funds will be recouped for taxpayers.


    If drones can’t operate lengthy distances, you’ve got the wrong drones. Military drones and ones used by other government agencies operate over larger areas than the entire Broward County. Also, no one knows what will be developed within the next few years.

    Also, it is my understanding from the commission meeting that the new helicopters will be used for law enforcement purposes. The BSO spokesperson said BSO wants to move away from the duel purpose helicopters they currently use because they are more expensive.

  2. Michael Udine says:

    I support law enforcement and I support Sheriff Israel, I believe he is doing a great job and bringing great innovative programs to BSO. Our County is safer with him in charge.

    I try to ask a lot of questions and research issues before me. I believe the debate on the helicopters was an important one to have and now I move on to the next issue. Have a great weekend.

  3. Well Said says:

    Buddy….would love to see the flight logs of these choppers for the last 5 years………and passenger lists as well….

  4. Lane Rider says:

    A referendum should be held in the March Elections and the project should be put on hold until then.
    The Wave was born in the Downtown Development Authority and not the city or county. The question I have is “Do we need the DDA anymore, with non elected commissioners with the power to levy taxes?”
    Let’s sunset the DDA and if they want to reformat as a BID (business improvement district) they can have one like at the beach.

  5. Sober as a Judge says:

    Drones cannot air transport an injured person to a hospital.

    Drones have physical limitations, radius limits, and a variety of safety implications that helicopters do not. Drone technology should be developed, tested, explored, and even used where situations allow.

    However, we should leave to the professionals decisions on what is necessary to keep us safe. Sort of like how mechanics, plumbers, surgeons and carpenters know what tools are best to practice those crafts.

    Critics are sometimes helpful though most of those views miss the mark and belong in the cheap seats. When it comes to public safety, I prefer to listen to cops and firefighters. They know what tools are needed to keep us safe.


    The comment above states, “When it comes to public safety, I prefer to listen to cops and firefighters.”

    In the United States civilians control government. Government bureaucrats, including law enforcement, should never get a blank check. Authorities should be vigorously questioned. They should be prepared to answer why every dollar they request is needed. Law enforcement spending should be audited just like every other arm of government.

    What I didn’t write, but I will now, is that the report by the consultant — hired and chosen by the Broward Sheriff’s Office — stated that the BSO maintenance person “has no idea what parts he has on hand, how long the parts have been stored, of if there are sufficient quantities of consumable items to meet their needs.” It goes on criticizing the helicopter maintenance.

    My point is that just because you wear a uniform doesn’t mean you are (1) beyond questioning and (2) doing a good job. BSO has said they are “working” to correct the problems in the maintenance of the helicopters.

    Everybody working for Broward County government should be prepared to justify their spending every day. Otherwise, Broward County is no better than Cuba.

    So by all means, listen to BSO and other law enforcement agencies. But also forcefully question every one of their requests.

    Also, I believe both these new helicopters are being outfitted for law enforcement use only. The two old ones will be used for medical evacuation. The colonial said that BSO’s goal is not have more expensive duel purpose helicopters in the future.

  6. Enough says:

    Ron, Walmart has a sale this weekend on military drones. And I know a friend of Jared’s, if you get the idea, who may know somebody in Russia you can buy a few from. Good price, no tax.

  7. Broward Voter says:

    If BSO needs helicopters I have no problem with it and it sounds like they had a very thorough discussion about it.

  8. Ron Gunzburger says:

    A single military-grade Reaper drone costs $12 million apiece (versus $5 million for police mission helicopters). As Time Magazine wrote about military drones: “Drones are a lot of things, but cheap ain’t necessarily one of them.” See: In fact, the cheapest military drones costs $5 million apiece (same as a single helicopter). See:

    As to the person who asked about the helicopter logs, and passenger logs, they are public records … and reporters have requested copies and review them from time to time. They must find the logs pretty boring, as once they review they never find anything interesting to report.


    Yes, military-grade drones are costly. Police drones do not need to shoot missiles, nor fly as far.

    Here is a very small list of tasks, all originally done in the past by helicopters, that drones have done at police agencies using them:

    * The Noble County Sheriff in Indiana used a drone to locate a suspect during a pursuit.
    • The Toledo Police Department in Ohio used its drone to assist firefighters at a warehouse fire.
    • The Cecil County Sheriff in Maryland used a drone to find $400,000 worth of stolen construction equipment.
    • The Bossier Parish Sheriff in Louisiana used a drone to locate three teenage runaways.
    • The Rialto Fire Department in California used a drone to identify illegal fireworks
    displays during the Fourth of July holiday.
    • The New York Fire Department used a drone to obtain aerial images of a fire in a six-story
    • Police in Alton, Illinois used an Illinois State Police drone to reconstruct the scene of a car
    accident involving a pedestrian.
    • The Town of Linn Police Department in Wisconsin used a drone equipped with a
    thermal imaging sensor to locate the body of a man.

    Source: Center for the Study of the Drone, Bard College, April, 2017

    Again, Commissioner Udine was not saying The Broward Sheriff’s Office should never get two helicopters. He just argued that maybe they should get one now and see what the future of drones will bring. They could always submit a request for another later this year or next.

  9. BSO Disinformation Officer Gunzberger Says says:

    Seems like Sheriff Isreal has decided that Mr. Gunzberg’s time on the tax-payer dime is best spent on this blog burnishing his image. It’s the same kind of disinformation (or, as they say these days, “alternative facts”) that I used to so enjoy in his campaign mailers. It’s Deja Vu all over again ! Ron is it true that you are participating in a webcast with Kelly Conway on how to handle press relations ?

  10. Palm Beach county says:

    Do some research and check out the drone that the Palm Beach Sheriff was funded for in the state budget. Not sure if it was for a new purchase or payment to assist with one they already have, but they obviously feel differently than Sheriff Gunzburger.

    BTW-considering his relationship with Roger Stone the Jared comment is not only funny but frightening!

  11. City Activist Robert Walsh says:

    Many thanks to Mayor Sharif and Comm.Udine. Ten million dollars. One would have been fine. I believe he tried this a few yrs. ago or Lamberti did . Anyhow it was shot down before and the sheriff got it this time. One would have been enough. Ten mill -fine. Any resident needs a ride so to speak your going to transport sheriff. I don’t care if they got a hang nail they will be transported. well. since the residents are payin for it all,no questions asked. and your not charging to be airlifted either. you wanted these helicopters there James Bond ,then your going to get maxium use out of them as well. I would have told the sheriff take the funds out of your budget. Lets see what happens during budget sessions etc. I look at it this way you already received 10mill going in so that should be deducted from your final monies from the county.I mean his budget its like almost what 800mill. What next asking for a billion dollars.And as far as Ft>alu wanting you to give them the Stockade Berta Henry you tell mayor Seiler use old city jail at the police station. Boy ,can all of them spend other people’s money w/ no problem(tax money). 10 mill for helicopters. Reminds me of Jenne w/ his phone in th e bathroom along w/ the entire digs. he should have went to jail for that too. Watch the BSO budget comm. (by the way where’s Rothstein’ duffle bag(Its there I can smell that duffle bag w/ all the loot)….

  12. There Every Day says:

    I am glad we are getting new helicopters. We live in a dangerous world and I want police to have whatever tools they need to protect us. Save money on unimportant things.

  13. tell the truth says:

    @12 There Every Day

    ‘We live in a dangerous world…’

    We live in Broward County where crime continues to escalate and a lot more than two helicopters will be needed to control it.
    Buy a dozen, won’t help.

  14. Wait ONE... TWO says:

    Wait… Lamberti only asked for ONE helicopter and Scott Israel was so aghast that Lamberti could even THINK of asking for one… hmmmm

  15. GLS says:

    The assertion that drones ” cannot be deployed for pursuits and other operations that cover lengthy distances” if false.

    I just took a tour of USS New York during fleet week and the Marines had on display a diesel powered drone that had the capability to stay airborne for something like 10-12 hours and could travel at speeds up to 120 MPH. Control could be local or remote and could be transferred back and forth depending on the needs of the situation.

    Granted, these aren’t the $600 drones that you can purchase commercially, but probably less than $10 million a pop.

  16. Just chiming in says:

    Drone programs are under FAA oversight with restrictions regulations that are constantly under going changes. The regs are pretty loose right now. Very soon each drone will require transponders and ads-b so that they can transmit and receive positions of other aircraft relative to theirs.
    There are limitations to operating in the different classes of airspace and at some point will require two way radio communications with the local air traffic control (right now its just a phone call)
    Cape Canaveral operates a turbine drone with a 67′ wingspan but the FAA will not allow it to fly over the US. It is restricted to 3 miles offshore south of Cape Canaveral around the southern tip of Florida to the Dry Tortugas and in the Bahamas (at night only).
    I believe there is a need for drones (mostly from an economic stand point) but its in its infancy. Currently the infrastructure and technology is not set up for drones to replace helicopters.
    Regardless of what mission the Sheriff decides for its Aviation unit, he owes it to the pilots and crew to have safe, reliable equipment to fly. There is no question of their effectiveness in catching bad guys and saving lives. Yes drones may take over these jobs one day but until then we need this asset. I appreciate the job the Aviation has done and I applaud BSO for taking the steps to replace an aging fleet. Unless you or a loved one had their life saved by the BSO helo or a burglar was captured after terrorizing your family and ransacking your house during an armed invasion, this procurement just sounds like a $10 ml expense. My personal opinion, keep them flying, keep them safe.