Sheriff: Boynton Beach interested in merging its police department with his office

(As originally published with bells and whistles, Wed, April 6th 2022, 7:34 PM EDT)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — Leaders in Boynton Beach are interested in merging their city’s police department with the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, and the sheriff says his office is working on a proposal.

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw made that announcement, Wednesday afternoon.

Bradshaw said that before the city’s election for mayor and commissioner, last month, some candidates wanted information on how a merger could be done and what the process would be.

SEE ALSO: Teen driver going 151 mph before deadly crash in Delray Beach: PBSO

“They came to us. We did not come to them,” Bradshaw said. “They got elected, so they determined at one of their meetings they would like to explore the possibility of us merging with their agency.”

The sheriff’s office is already preparing a report for the city.

“Now, we’re in the process of getting an organizational chart, getting the budget, getting all the information we need to know about how department operates and what it costs,” Bradshaw explained.

He added that hopefully in 30 to 45 days, they’ll get back to the city with a proposal.

The sheriff described what the proposal will tell the city.

“This is what it would look like if we merge. This is how much it would cost and what the savings is, and they’ll have to make that decision based on what they see,” he spelled out. “It’s totally in their ballpark.”

The sheriff’s office has taken over policing in a dozen municipalities including Royal Palm Beach, Lake Worth and Greenacres.

“We’ve done this 12 times so it’s not something new to us,” Bradshaw said.

FILE – Leaders in Boynton Beach asked the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office for a proposal for a merger. (WPEC)

“The men and women who work there are good police officers. They want to do a good job. They just need some more resources,” the sheriff said about the Boynton Beach Police Department. “I think it’s a matter of leadership, from what I’ve been told by the people who run the city. They’re not happy with that. So they’re looking to provide better services to the residents there.”

Boynton Beach’s police chief is Michael Gregory. One issue the department is dealing with is the internal affairs investigation into Officer Mark Sohn. He was following 13-year-old Stanley Davis III when the boy was killed on his dirt bike, last Dec. 26. Sohn has been suspended for not following policies in the past, and there have been calls for him to be fired over the Davis tragedy, but that can’t happen until the internal affairs investigation is completed.

According to the sheriff, people in Boynton Beach won’t have to worry about losing their police department, or having fewer police officers patrolling their streets.

“It’s not going anywhere. It’s the same men and women. They’ll just wear a different color uniform, a different color car, and their structure is a little different but they’ll have more resources to address their problems,” he explained.

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Bradshaw said the cities that have merged their police departments with PBSO have been pleased. “All of them will tell you that their merger has resulted in lower crime rates, better service to the public, and a more efficient agency. So it’s something that we’re very good at doing and we’ll see.”

POLICE UNION SUPPORTS MERGER

The police officers’ union is enthusiastic about the possibility of a merger.

The president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, John Kazanjian, put out a statement saying, “The overwhelming majority of our members at the Boynton Beach Police Department support a future merger because it would provide them with better wages, enhanced benefits, a better relationship with management, increased respect, and better protections for their rights as law enforcement officers.”

Kazanjian criticized the police department and called city manager Lori LaVerriere a “longtime obstructionist.”

LaVerriere responded by discussing multiple bargaining agreements and providing the city’s officers with resources including a $20 million state-of-the-art headquarters.

“Continued personal attacks by the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association are malicious, disrespectful, and inconsistent with the positive relationships we’ve built over the years with the Boynton Beach Police Department union members,” she wrote in a statement. “More importantly, the PBA president’s no-holds-barred bullying tactics reflects a level of hostility that society as a whole is rejecting from the law enforcement community.”

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