By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
A Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy and outspoken critic of Sheriff Gregory Tony who got in trouble twice for controversial posts on social media was fired Thursday.
BSO records made public Friday show that Thurston was fired for his improper use of force while making an arrest in North Lauderdale on April 1, 2020 as well as violations of BSO’s policy regarding truthfulneness, conduct unbecoming to an employee and reporting. Those records also show that on Feb. 1, Thurston was suspended for five days for violating BSO’s social media/social networking policy. An earlier version of this story used a headline that wrongly stated Thurston was fired for a social media post.
The decision to terminate Deputy Ronald Thurston, signed off on by BSO Col. John Hale, reversed a December recommendation by the sheriff’s Professional Standards Committee which had sustained two internal charges against Thurston and recommended he be suspended for three days without pay and given “command-directed training.”
“Upon further review by executive command, the recommended disposition and discipline” was changed to find that Thurston violated two internal rules regarding “conduct unbecoming an employee” and “truthfulness,” according to the memo Hale signed. The committee had previously sustained allegations that Thurston had violated “use of force” and “reporting” rules. An allegation of simple battery was not sustained.
The memo said that on Feb. 2, “Thurston and his representative attended a pre-disciplinary conference. Deputy Thurston had an opportunity to provide documents, information and testimony related to his case.”
Thurstson’s supervisor, Sgt. John Goodbread, was also disciplined in the case for failing to meet BSO standards and, unlike Thurston and other officers on scene, he did not turn on his body cam video that night. Goodbread was given a written reprimand and command-directed training.
Florida Bulldog also learned Friday that last June the State Attorney’s Office cleared Thurston of accusations that he committed a battery, made threats and used inappropriate neck pressure while attempting to arrest battery suspect Isaiah Darcisse in North Lauderdale on April 1, 2020. Darcisse was carrying a gun in his pocket at the time.
Besides the use of force case, Thurston, a cousin of former State Sen. Perry Thurston and supporter of former Sheriff Scott Israel, was separately investigated for violating BSO’s social media policy in the wake of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. Thurston had posted to Facebook then about what he believed was the dearth of blacks in leadership roles at the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Tony released this statement Friday afternoon, “It’s clear from the video and the entire investigation conducted by BSO, Thurston acted in a manner outside the bounds of proper and effective law enforcement and should be terminated. His actions were egregious and do not reflect our agency’s training and de-escalation tactics. His actions show that he possesses neither the temperament nor the decision-making ability to wear a badge and carry a gun. Equally concerning was a comment Thurston made during his Garrity Statement. When asked if he could do things differently in the future Thurston said, ‘I probably would have killed him right there, and we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about it.'”
Here’s what Thurston wrote on Facebook, according to a June 1, 2020 report by WSVN – Channel 7, “Everyone can talk but no 1 steps up 2 da plate 4 action. RIGHT NOW THE BROWARD SHERIFF’S OFFICE Does not have 1 Black Sergeant that’s over the Crime Suppression Team. 1 Black Sergeant in Criminal Investigation/ District Level. 3 Black Sergeants Countywide that work Criminal Investigation/Downtown. NO BLACKS IN HOMICIDE. 3 BLACK CRIME SUPPRESSION DETECTIVES IN THE ENTIRE COUNTY. 1 BLACK GANG DETECTIVE, 1 BLACK IN MONEY LAUNDERING, 1 BLACK IN MAJOR NARCOTICS, 1 BLACK K9 DEPUTY… The list goes on and on … VOTE OR DIE.”
Thurston was stripped of his badge and gun and reassigned within hours of the post, according to the Sun-Sentinel. The post was later taken down.
The Sun-Sentinel also reported that Thurston was suspended for one day the year before after a posting that said “encouraged black people to take action.”
The May 14, 2019 post, which is still available on Thurston’s Facebook page, is of a 38-second video that ends with the fatal night time shooting of a woman in Baytown, Texas by an officer who was trying to arrest her. Thurston wrote, “MOST DISTURBING VIDEO I EVER SEEN….. WE CAN’T WAIT ON LEADERS, WE HAVE TO LEAD….TRUE STORY. Now Something Has To Give….. Black People Better Wake Up….. We Spend 2 Much Time Singing When We Need 2 Be Swinging……TRUE STORY.”
Thurston, a 23-year BSO veteran who most recently was assigned to a desk job in North Lauderdale, could not be reached for comment. He was represented by Michael Finesilver, an attorney for BSO’s Deputies Association, Local 6020 of the International Union of Police Association, AFL-CIO. Finesilver declined to comment.
Thurston’s internal affairs history of complaints dates to 2002 and more often than not those complaints were determined to be unfounded, although he was found to have slept on duty in 2004. Complaints against him escalated after Tony became sheriff in early 2019. In addition to the one-day suspension for violating BSO’s social media policy in 2019, he was suspended again for a day in 2020 for insubordination. In September 2021 he was twice suspended for two days for disrespecting a supervisor and failure to cooperate with other employees.
Pompano Beach attorney Johnny L. McCray represented Thurston before the union took over Thurston’s representation in the case. He called BSO’s decision “unfortunate.”
“I know him to be a very good police officer,” said McCray. “He was very involved in the community. He coached Little League.”