Sheriff calls for changes to school Promise program

Broward County’s top law enforcement officer says he wants to see changes in a controversial school district program that gives kids a break for minor offenses.

“At this time the Promise program suffers deficiencies that can be and must be modified to gain my full support,” Sheriff Gregory Tony said Monday in a statement.

Promise has been the target of critics for the past year, since 17 staff and students were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Some family members of murdered children claim it allows potentially dangerous students to go unnoticed by police.

Tony said he hopes to work with Broward Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, the School Board and criminal justice officials “in developing a program that meets the safety needs of our entire community.”

“Broward County is a community requiring restorative justice and diversionary programs to help reduce the disproportionate arrests of minority juveniles when involved in non-violent criminal offenses,” he said.

The sheriff’s announcement represented the second major blow to the program. The Broward Chiefs of Police Association, which represents 18 local law enforcement agencies, announced Feb. 26 that it was pulling its support.

A letter from Lauderhill Police Chief Constance Stanley, president of the chiefs association, said the group does not support the School Board’s Promise Program, based on the manner in which the program is being implemented.”

Law enforcement officials say they support the concept of a diversionary program that enables students to avoid jail time, but some have complained the Promise program is too lenient, weakens the role of law enforcement and largely duplicates a civil citation program that law enforcement uses for children who commit misdemeanors off campus.