Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw shared his harshest comments over recent criticism about his agency’s shootings with officers gathered at a recent Police Benevolent Association gala.
In a video for the event, Bradshaw blasted elected officials, the media and police chiefs across the country who bow to public pressure over deadly police encounters.
“As long as I’m in this office, and I hope to be there a little bit longer, I’m not backing up, and Channel 5 and The Post can take their best shot, because it’s not going to work,” he said.
Bradshaw was referring to The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5’s joint investigation “Line of Fire,” which documented all of the department’s 123 shootings since 2000 and found one in four people shot at were unarmed. The investigation also found the department’s internal investigations into shootings often lacked basic information, such as how many rounds the deputy fired.
The video was recorded for the PBA’s 8th Annual Police Officer’s Ball at Eau Palm Beach on June 13, and uploaded to the Dade County PBA’s Facebook page on July 9. Since Bradshaw couldn’t attend, he was asked to make a video addressing the troops, PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera said.
One of the people Bradshaw didn’t criticize in the video was Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, who has been criticized as recently as Monday for not filing charges against officers who shoot.
“First of all, to my good friend Dave Aronberg, thank you for being one of those people that have stood up lately and been the person that’s been counted upon to do the right thing,” Bradshaw said.
No officer has been charged in a shooting in Palm Beach County since 1993. Aronberg took office in 2013. Among the officers he declined to indict was Adams Lin, who shot and paralyzed an unarmed man later that year, sparking national outrage.
In the video, Bradshaw said his political advisers have urged him “to find some common ground” with critics, since he’s running for re-election next year.
“For me, there is no common ground here,” he said. “I can be like some of the elected officials, I can be like some of the police officials, and tuck my tail between my legs and say, ‘Yeah, you know what, maybe we need to talk about this.’
“No. that’s not it. And I’m not going to back up. Because we have not done anything wrong. We have taken action when we need to take action.”
PBSO spokeswoman Teri Barbera said the message was meant to rally the officers in attendance. They gave it a standing ovation.
“Each speaker, including the sheriff, shared a motivating message with the troops,” she said in an email. “ALL received standing ovations, by the troops.”
“I want everybody that’s in law enforcement to hold their head up high,” Bradshaw told them. “As far as I’m concerned, law enforcement in this county is as good as you can get.”
He described shootings as deputies simply responding to the actions of suspects.
“This is a simple equation,” he said. “If you don’t try to shoot us, if you don’t try to stab us, you don’t try to run over us with a car, and you don’t try to beat us up, then everything’s going to be fine.”
He added, “So why should we be apologetic? Why should we kowtow down? Why should we succumb to pressure from the outside, which is uncalled for, just because they think it’s wrong, when it’s not?”
In reaction to The Post and Channel 5’s investigation, Bradshaw started tracking how often deputies pull their guns on people. He’s also paying $100,000 for an outside group to review how the agency investigates itself.
In the video, Bradshaw urged the “silent majority” of officers and citizens who support police to “be unsilent.”
“They need to put their big boy pants on and be as vocal as the other people that say, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot,’ which is not even remotely the truth,” he said.