Published On: Thu, Apr 4th, 2019

For Delray Beach Police, It’s more than just a Changing of the Guard. It’s Trailblazing

Javaro Sims

Boca Raton, FL – When Javaro Sims takes the oath of office tonight, it will be the first time in the 108-year history of the Delray Beach Police Department that it will be led by a black man.

Sims, one of two assistant chiefs, served as the city’s interim chief for three months before former city manager Mark Lauzier tapped him to be the city’s top cop. He will be the 16th chief of police since the Town of Delray was incorporated with a marshal.

Sims, who has spent his entire 27-year career in Delray Beach, will replace Jeffrey Goldman who retires after 30 years.

Chief Sims is my friend. I have known him since he joined the force in 1992, he also serves on the board of KOP Mentoring Network, a nonprofit mentoring organization I founded nearly 30 years ago for youths ages 7 to 17. However, this does not prevent me from being objective in my assessment of him.

Sims has been preparing for this job since day one. He has risen steadily through the ranks and has supervised several units and divisions along the way. He graduated from the FBI National Academy in June 2014.

Sims, who holds degrees Florida A&M and Lynn universities, taught school for four years. He also played football in the Canadian Football League and qualified to run in the Olympic trials in 1980 and 1984.

The process of becoming chief was not a smooth one. Unlike many top cops, Sims was not nurtured to rise through the ranks; his journey to the top was a herculean task. No other Delray Beach police chief had to overcome as many colleague-made hurdles as he was made to do.

This is the first time in recent history that the chief was not recommended by his predecessor, and after exemplary service to the city, was required to compete with a peer for the job.

He had to audition even after 27 years – another first in recent history.

Lauzier picked him after a process featuring two very qualified and knowledgeable people with long, successful careers in law enforcement. He also observed him as acting chief, assessed his performance, heard from department members and listened to extensive community input.

Lauzier cited Sims’ knowledge, training, background, community support and ongoing dedication to the city, “One Community” vision for the city and the agency as a bonus in making the final selection.

After this multifaceted review and interview process, I was impressed with … Chief Sims,” he wrote.

Having a chief who can instill community relations is a valuable asset in today’s uneasy state of police-community relations.

While there is room for a lot more, his predecessors have done a good job in improving race relations in the city over the years.

In 1986, the Rev. G.L. Champion, then pastor of St. Paul AME Church, told then Chief Charles L. Kilgore that blacks do not trust white officers and accused Kilgore of treating the problem like a “wild, wild west shootout.”

The City Commission pressured Kilgore to retire four years later and gave him $90,000 to walk away. He refused to sign his last evaluation.

Black officers complained that they were subjected to racism.

A decade after Champion voiced his concerns, a federal jury awarded $760,000 to six black officers who claimed that racism inside the department left them emotionally wrecked and financially deprived.

Sims, who was a rookie when all this happened, is taking over an agency where officers now have a good relationship with the community, thanks to his predecessors. It is not unusual to find beat officers playing a game of informal basketball with neighborhood children or serving popcorn and snow cones from a tricked-out police trailer at community events.

Under the previous two leaderships, the department used intelligence-led policing strategy where officers used all the tools at their disposal, including technology and face-to-face-interactions, to solve crime.

Sims believes in basic policing as in the days when he was a rookie.

The forward-thinker plans to do a blended version of both, adding new community policing initiatives and technology with some old-style walking the beat and hand shaking.

He has been meeting informally with various segments of the community.

Sims will take over a department with 240 sworn and civilian staff and a budget of about $36 million.

Now that he is at the helm, things will not be a cake walk for him. Although he has the blessings of the police union, he soon will see that it is a delicate balance when you are in the hot seat and dealing with the union.

Sims has an opportunity to create a department that reflects the community of 30.5 percent black and 9.5 percent Hispanic residents. He has already begun to shore up his ranks with the hiring of a handful of black males. He now needs to focus on his recruiting of black female and Latinos.

The department already has a Haitian patrol and a representation of Haitian officers, another large minority group in the city.

I hope that he will hire more bilingual officers and make maximum use of those who are bilingual.

I also think a Hispanic Residents’ Academy will foster better relations between the agency and the community. This will better acquaint the Spanish-speaking population with how their police department works and the services available to the public.

The Latino population, for years, has been ignored by the city and as such, does not feel comfortable coming forward.

Hopefully, Sims will be able to avert a repeat of the past.

C. Ron Allen can be reached at crallen@Delraybeachtribune.com or 561-665-0151.

 

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