FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Nick Navarro, the colorful Broward Sheriff who served from 1985-1993 died Wednesday, surrounded by family at his Fort Lauderdale home.
He died from complications related to surgeries following a fight with cancer, according to his wife, Sharon.
Navarro will be remembered for a long, distinguished law enforcement career, serving as a federal narcotics agent and a tough-minded Broward Sheriff.
His terms leading BSO are marked by a dedication to cleaning up Broward’s streets of drugs and other crimes, transforming BSO into a nationally recognized law enforcement agency and battling with rap group 2 Live Crew.
Navarro also played an integral role in the pioneering TV show, “Cops”, by allowing BSO deputies to be filmed fighting crime for the show’s first season.
Sheriff Al Lamberti said Navarro’s love of police work was constant, even on a night when the former sheriff was driving home from a formal event.
“He was on his way home from a charity event, in a tuxedo and he had pulled over a drunk driver,” Lamberti remembered. “That’s how he was. Always looking out for the community.”
BSO Chaplain Rick Braswell sent out a memo to all BSO employees confirming Navarro died on Wednesday. Funeral arrangement are being finalized. Braswell said it’s a difficult time for those at BSO who served under Navarro.
“He was extremely compassionate about needs of folks and children, always a gentleman,” Braswell said. ” It’s a difficult day for us that loved him. Our prayer is that he will be remembered for his heart.”
Sheriff Lamberti instructed all BSO flags be flown at half staff and mourning band be worn by sworn personnel and civilians until midnight on the day of the funeral services.
Navarro’s wife, Sharon, was the light of his life. She told CBS4 News that the couple was inseparable for the majority of their 39 years.
“He was a special, special guy,” she told CBS4′s Carey Codd. “I can’t tell you how much I’m gonna miss this man.”
According to BSO, Navarro is credited with taking the agency with 1,600 employees and a $74 million budget, to more than 3,000 employees and a $200 million budget at the end of 1992. During his term, three Broward cities signed on for service from BSO deputies and staff.
Navarro is also recognized as the Steering Committee Chairman for the multi-agency Blue Lightning Task Force, Chairman of the Florida Sheriffs Association’s Anti-Crack Task Force and Vice-President of the International Narcotics Enforcement Officers Association. He is also credited with using his drug expertise to gain national recognition for the department.
Navarro started his own security firm, the Fort Lauderdale-based Navarro Group, after losing a re-election bid in 1993.
He is also known for publicly clashing with 2 Live Crew frontman and South Florida native Luther Campbell. Navarro had Campbell arrested after the group’s album was deemed obscene in court. The ruling was later overturned.
Navarro also went after record stores who sold 2 Live Crew’s albums.
“I’d do it again and again,” he once told CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald.
He applied to be in interim sheriff after Ken Jenne resigned in September 2007. The job was ultimately given to current sheriff Al Lamberti.
Lamberti said he recently spoke to Navarro, who urged him to organize a dinner for several of the living sheriff’s. Lamberti said Navarro was a proud supporter of BSO and a symbol of what the agency stands for.
“He never forgot where he came from,” Lamberti said. He was a law enforcement officer at heart and that’s what he lived for – to do this job.