Sheriff’s Office says it can be trusted to investigate Broward inmate’s death

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Rafael Olmeda, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·2 min read
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Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony defended his agency’s ability to police itself on Friday in the investigation into the January death of jail inmate Kevin Desir.

The Broward State Attorney’s Office on Thursday called for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct an independent investigation into Desir’s death, arguing that an independent review would eliminate any questions about bias in the investigation.

Desir died Jan. 27 — 20 days after he was in a confrontation with deputies at a Pompano Beach jail — which is operated by detention deputies who work for the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Attorneys for Desir’s family say he was mistreated by the deputies and have demanded the release of surveillance video that would either confirm or refute the official account of the confrontation.

In a letter Friday to State Attorney Harold Pryor, Sheriff Tony said prosecutors can conduct their own investigation without bringing the state into it.

“On January 21, 2021, you took an unprecedented step to subpoena the surveillance footage capturing the event in question before we could conclude our investigation,” Tony wrote. “As you have attested, my investigators complied with your subpoena without hesitation or resistance.”

In his two years on the job, Tony has not shown any reluctance to fire deputies accused of wrongdoing, even before their criminal cases are resolved.

“I have confidence that my Internal Affairs and Homicide Unit investigators will present their evidence-based reports to your office for review upon concluding their investigations,” Tony wrote to Pryor Friday.

In his letter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Thursday, Pryor noted that it has been standard practice for the Sheriff’s Office to allow FDLE to conduct investigations into deaths involving law enforcement. But deaths at the jail have not been part of that practice.

Both Pryor and Tony ran for office last year on platforms emphasizing police reform and transparency.

Pryor said Friday that an independent investigation is still the best way to foster public confidence in the outcome of any investigation.

“We maintain that FDLE is the appropriate agency to investigate the matter. However, we are monitoring the investigation closely and waiting for all of the facts and evidence,” the state attorney’s office said in an email Friday. “We will make the appropriate decisions once we have received the medical examiner’s report,” and the investigation has been completed.

Desir, 43, was in custody on charges of criminal mischief and marijuana possession. He was arrested Jan. 13, and hospitalized after a Jan. 17 confrontation with detention deputies. According to the Sheriff’s Office, he thrashed violently in a restraint chair at the Broward County Jail after cutting himself and biting deputies who tried to come to his aid.