Union Leader Publicly Criticizes Sheriff, Then Gets Suspended By Sheriff

Sandy Malone

Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony suspended Deputy Jeff Bell after the union head published a letter in a local newspaper.

Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony suspended the head of the deputies’ union on Friday after the South Florida Sun Sentinel published a letter by the union boss criticizing the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) being provided to Broward deputies.

The letter from Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Bell was published on April 6 and said the union had notified Sheriff Tony on March 16 and March 23 about the severe shortage of PPE “alerting him to our members’ concerns not only for their own protection but to protect the public from deputies transmitting the deadly virus while on duty.”

The letter said the sheriff did not respond to the union’s concerns.

“The only response we got was a threat of disciplinary action if we shared our First Responders’ ‘inaccurate issues’ in the media,” Deputy Bell wrote.

Some deputies were given N95 masks on March 17, but Deputy Bell’s letter said there weren’t enough masks to give one to every deputy in each district.

So, according to the letter, the union notified Sheriff Tony on March 23 that it had taken the initiative to buy 1,400 N95 masks for its members and wanted to donate them to the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO), but the sheriff never responded to the offer.

During the same time frame, Sheriff Tony repeatedly told the public that the county had enough masks and gloves to keep its first responders safe, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Deputy Bell complained in the letter that Sheriff Tony had been “social distancing” with the union for more than 400 days, having refused to have any face-to-face meetings long before the pandemic began.

He also accused the sheriff of unprofessional and unbecoming conduct for losing his temper at a group of grieving deputies outside North Broward Hospital on April 4 as they waited to escort fallen BSO Deputy Shannon Bennett’s body to the funeral home.

Deputy Bennett, 39, died one week after he tested positive for coronavirus.

Deputy Bell’s letter accused Sheriff Tony of sitting by and doing nothing while deputies were being exposed and testing positive for COVID-19.

“While BSO employees are being exposed and testing positive for Covid-19, Tony has been politically fiddling with the facts like Nero as Rome burned; holding press conferences to state everything is fine,” Deputy Bell wrote.

He also asserted that the sheriff wasn’t qualified to be leading the department through the pandemic.

“Tony, who was picked by Gov. Ron DeSantis to replace former Sheriff Scott Israel, talked his way into our Public Safety Building with claims to being an ‘expert’ regarding such emergencies,” he wrote. “COVID-19 has peeled away the curtains and exposed Tony for the salesman he is. With less law enforcement experience than most BSO road patrol deputies and sergeants, Tony is simply overwhelmed by this public safety emergency.”

Sheriff Tony fired back at Deputy Bell on Friday, and suspended the union boss with pay, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

“For any rogue employee to come off and present these comments that we have failed this community and failed the men and women that we are leading is despicable,” Sheriff Tony told reporters earlier in the week.

The sheriff has alleged that Deputy Bell made false statements, has corrupt practices, has failed to use proper discretion, and has engaged in conduct unbecoming a BSO deputy.

Deputy Bell has been a member of the BSO for 24 years and president of the BSO Deputies Association Local 6020 since 2013, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

Fifty-nine BSO employees had tested positive for coronavirus as of Friday, and 226 were being monitored for the virus after exhibiting symptoms or having confirmed exposures.

Deputies received the desperately needed PPE gear a few hours before Sheriff Tony suspended Deputy Bell, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.

“This is a shameful suspension,” Deputy Bell’s attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, told WSVN. “It is union-busting. It is his right to speak up on behalf of these deputies, and to suspend him for that is illegal, shameful and reprehensible.”

Comments (9)
No. 1-8

If the accusations against the Sheriff are true, he should resign. He isn't going to win this one by being a jerk.


I wonder why he was hired....mmmmmmmm?


As an appointed official and probably seeking election in the future being attentive to the public reaction is important and they are your voters. But to ignore for 400 days the elected voice of your employees on any issue is to be irresponsible and sounds vindictive. Especially in a life and death situation.


How many idiots are in a position of power simply because they are good test takers? Needless to say I have worked for vindictive jerks like this guy who never should have been promoted in the first place.


I found a number of quotes on leaders/leadership, which is, or should be, the function of anyone who commands any group.

**Where there is no vision, the people perish. —Proverbs 29:18
**I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? —Benjamin Disraeli
**The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant. —Max DePree
** Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. —Warren Bennis
**A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way. —John Maxwell
**My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. —General Montgomery
**To command is to serve, nothing more and nothing less. —Andre Malraux
**He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander. —Aristotle
**Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy

None of these, however, seemed to fit the this Sheriff Tony person, so I continued.

Then, at last! Leader, noun, a short strip of NONFUNCTIONING material at each end of a reel of film. Seems to be a perfect description.


For everyone buying into Jeff Bell's spin and saying that it is shameful Sheriff Tony hasn't engaged with the union- a quick google search will show you that this is a pattern of Bell's. Every single headline this guy will spin and leverage for political gain. His number one goal is not to protect the officers but to sow divisiveness so Tony doesn't get elected. He does not care about any good-faith negotiations or doing what is best for the community or his members. The link at the bottom of my comment is to yet another time when Bell used the same unfounded histrionics - making false attacks when he was well aware that proper protocols were followed and the incident was being properly and professionally investigated.

While I'm uncomfortable with the optics of Tony suspending him, I totally get it. This is a crisis and allowing someone whose sole purpose is to misinform the public and divide BSO to have the platform that he does can do serious harm during this moment in time. Tony isn't a politician, he's an officer. He's what Broward needed after the last Sheriff cared more about his image and politics than holding his agency accountable and preparing them for their job. Unfortunately, it comes with the trade off that Tony takes actions that are right for the community but bad politically.

I work with our first responders on a daily basis in Broward, which is what informs my opinion on this. There was a GLOBAL shortage in equipment- every municipality and agency across the county and state and WORLD were competing against each other for limited equipment. Almost all of them were adults about the fact this was unprecedented but they had a job to do. We are lucky to have the brave out there willing to protect us. Sheriff Tony cares about them, not Bell.


It’s crazy how Broward County Sheriffs Office is always in the spot light...😳!