FORT LAUDERDALE (CBS4) – Family, friends and law enforcement officers from across South Florida gathered at a Ft. Lauderdale church on Monday to say their final goodbyes to former Broward Sheriff Nick Navarro who passed away last week.
The service was held at the First Baptist Church at 301 E. Broward Boulevard at 11 a.m. It will be followed by interment at Lauderdale Memorial Park, located at 2001 SW 4th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale.
“He was much admired by everyone because not only because of his panche, and his skill, and his daring, but because of his wealth of knowledge,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jim Leljedal told the gathering.
Navarro, who had been struggling with colon cancer, died last Wednesday at age 81.
Navarro was remembered for his long, distinguished law enforcement career, serving as a federal narcotics agent and a tough-minded Broward Sheriff.
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti remembered Navarro as a “cop’s cop” and always on duty.
Lamberti recalled a story from years ago when Sheriff Navarro called for backup late one night.
“He’s standing on the side of the road in a tuxedo. He had just come from a charity event,” Lamberti said. “He had just pulled over a drunk driver on his way home.”
He was also remembered for his great sense of humor and his sensitive side.
“While he can be tough as nails when he needs to; he’ll cry like a baby watching a sad movie,” Navarro’s wife Sharon said. “Well, everybody cried in Lassie and Free Willy, but he had a sensitive side too.”
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.
“His law enforcement career was about as varied as it could be,” said Leljedal.
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.
“He could always be counted on, he was gentleman to the day he died,” recalled Sunrise Police Chief John Brooks. “This is a chance for us to come and show our respects, it’s chance for us to show the entire community what Nick Navarro meant to everybody in law enforcement.”
Navarro started his own security firm, the Fort Lauderdale-based Navarro Group, after losing a re-election bid in 1993.
Former Broward Sheriff and Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth called Navarro “America’s Sheriff.”
“Sheriff Nick Navarro,” he said, looking up in the church, “we were all honored to have had the opportunity to serve with you. Thank you our friend for a job very well done. We’ll miss you.”