When Bill Schultz was a young high schooler growing up in a small Michigan town, a friend’s father made a lasting impact. He was a Michigan State Police trooper, and the influence he had in the community was obvious to Schultz.
Then came an interest in law in his later years of high school and the consideration of entering a pre-law track in college. An advisor told him he may want to consider law enforcement, the operational side in his love of law. A few criminal justice courses in, and it clicked for Schultz. He’s stuck with the profession for more than two decades.
Schultz’s first day as the new chief of Fort Lauderdale Police was Monday, rising through the ranks over 23 years. At a news conference Thursday, he vowed to bring stability to the department that in recent years has seen the removal of former chief Rick Maglione and the firing of former chief Larry Scirotto, who then filed a lawsuit against the city in return.
“You may know that over the years, especially the last three years, there’s been some instability at the top leadership levels of this department,” Schultz said. “It is my goal to show that that has been fixed, that has been absolutely remedied.”
Schultz, who joined the department in 2001, said among his goals are getting to the root of the community’s gun violence issues, increasing and improving the department’s relationships with the community and expanding diverse groups within the department.
City Manager Greg Chavarria selected Schultz over four other candidates — former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel; former Boynton Beach Police Chief Michael Gregory, who resigned in April 2022; Fort Lauderdale Assistant Chief Dana Swisher; and Key Biscayne Police Chief Frank Sousa, who was a former Fort Lauderdale assistant chief, the South Florida Sun Sentinel previously reported. Schultz’s annual salary will be $215,000.
Schultz most recently was a major in the department in the Operations Bureau as commander of the patrol bureau and community support units.
Schultz over the years has held roles from patrol operations to public information officer to Internal Affairs investigator, according to his bio. He was a member of the department’s Awards Committee and served on the board of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Health Trust.
He recently graduated from the FBI National Academy and the Police Executive Research Forum’s Senior Management Institute for Police, his bio said. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice administration with a minor in psychology and a master’s degree from Eastern Michigan University.
He came to Fort Lauderdale in 2001 “sight unseen” and knew it was where he wanted to stay, he said Thursday. The advantage of having an internal candidate become chief, Schultz said, is that he won’t have to spend time getting to know the city or the police department’s staff and can instead get started on addressing the current issues immediately.
Since joining the department, Schultz has earned a governor’s commendation, a lifesaving award, 20 department awards and over 60 public commendations.
In his new role, Schultz said his top concern is addressing the city’s gun violence that is having a “dramatic impact.”
He wants to create a specialized task force to discuss what more can be done specifically as it relates to gun violence in communities and said the department needs to interact more with the specific neighborhoods being affected by violent crime.
Fort Lauderdale citywide saw a total of 275 violent crimes in 2022 and just under 300 as of March 2023, according to the police department’s data.
Improving the department’s relationship with the community is another goal, he said, to combat the city’s violent crimes.
He wants the department’s current chief’s advisory council, which meets a few times a quarter, to meet at least once a month and in a one-on-one format. At the last council meeting a few weeks ago, Schultz said they discussed ways to involve leaders, mentors, coaches and religious leaders in the community who may have had relationships with suspects or witnesses to “intervene in the violence.”
“We want to reach out to pastors, we want to reach out to religious leaders, we want to reach out to these individuals’ coaches when they were children, sports coaches, mentor teachers. We really want to get them more involved and speaking individually and one-on-one with these people as we encounter them in hopes that we can interrupt the progression of violence,” he said.
The police department has the chief advisory board, outreach programs, a pastor group, and other measures to connect with the community, and Schultz wants to “build upon them to get a true finger on the pulse of where the community believes we are” and where it needs to be.
Internally, Schultz said he hopes to see diverse groups like the LGBTQ Liason Unit, the Black Police Officer Association and a newly created Hispanic Police Officer Association expand and engage with the community.
“When I first started, we were not as involved in the community as we are today and certainly as we’re about to be under my leadership,” he said. “That is the one thing in a positive light that has improved in policing, especially in my city, is our community engagement, which continues to grow to this day.”
The chief has taken on the new role while the department occupies a temporary building as their permanent site remains under construction.
Schultz said Thursday that department leaders didn’t think they’d have to move to a temporary site, now at 1515 W. Cypress Creek Road, but once building began, they realized it wasn’t feasible to stay during construction.
The new headquarters, which will cost $140 million, is expected to open in summer 2025, the Sun Sentinel previously reported. The project is currently meeting its timeline, Schultz said.
A new parking garage is also being built at the 1300 W. Broward Blvd site, and a community center will be at the front of the station, Schultz said.
©2023 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.