The state of Florida is usually trending for all the wrong reasons, but one of its counties is making headlines for making good history.
On Tuesday, Nov. 3, voters in Broward County elected three Black men to top criminal justice posts in the South Florida region. Gregory Tony was elected as Broward Sheriff; Gordon Weekes was elected as public defender; and Harold Pryor was elected as state attorney.
It marks the first time in history someone Black will be in all three roles.
Tony was originally appointed as Broward’s top cop by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in January 2019 after Sheriff Scott Israel was ousted due to the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s handling of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, 2018, in Parkland, Florida.
He is the first Black person to serve in the role and his election shows he has earned voters’ trust to lead the office, besting opponents H. Wayne Clark and Charles E. Whatley in the general election Tuesday. He also defeated Israel, who wanted his job back, in the August Democratic primary.
While he chose not to have a watch party, Tony did release a statement after garnering 64 percent of the vote.
“I am honored that voters in our community have chosen me to continue to lead the Broward Sheriff’s Office,” Tony said. “While I’m thrilled with the progress we’ve made in the last two years – whether in providing better training for our staff, creating a better culture of accountability and transparency, or making our schools safer – there is still much to be done. Tomorrow, the work continues, and I will never stop working to keep this community safe, and to making BSO the best public safety organization in the nation.”
Weekes and Pryor are also the first Blacks to hold their positions. Weekes defeated a write-in candidate and Pryor defeated opponent Gregg Rossman with 64 percent of the vote.
Weekes is an HBCU graduate of Florida Memorial University and has been with the Broward County Public Defender’s Office since 1997. He will replace well-known attorney Howard Finkelstein, who is retiring. He specialized in representing children charged as adults, according to his website’s bio.
“I am immensely proud, but more importantly I am humbled,” Weekes told local media. “I am overwhelmingly excited about the opportunity,”
Pryor is a fifth-generation Floridian who has been working in the Office of the State Attorney. Like Weekes, Pryor also is replacing a predecessor who is retiring, Mike Satz. Pryor believes his victory shows a shift in the attitudes of Broward residents.
“This is a reflection of us as a community in Broward County, that we are evolving, that we are inclusive, and that we are a diverse community,” Pryor told local media.
He added his victory is something the entire county should be proud of.
“Black history is American history. I think my white brothers and sisters and my Hispanic brothers and sisters should be just as proud as me because it’s a positive reflection as where we are in society as Broward County,” Pryor said.
Another commonality among the men is their commitment to criminal justice reform.
“The criminal justice system isn’t bad; it’s just the people that are in it are sometimes bad, right? My goal is to change that,” Pryor told WSVN7.
“The large majority of people that were handcuffed in the system looked just like me. That was an incredible awakening for me as a young attorney, and it also instilled in me a desire to address the issue,” Weekes said.
Broward County has nearly 2 million residents and is home to the sixth-largest school district in the country. Like many other urban areas, law enforcement has come under fire for treatment of citizens sometimes.
One notable incident occurred in April 2019 when Broward Sheriff Deputy Christopher Krickovich slammed 15-year-old Delucca Rolle’s head against asphalt outside a McDonald’s restaurant after a fight broke out among some teens. Krickovich was eventually fired by Tony.
Mitigating incidents like Rolle’s is something the three Black men now elected to leadership will work to change.
“We have to do better, and we will do better,” Weekes said.