Riots in South Middle River last Wednesday December 14! Shameful actions from our police and my suggestions for improvement.
Posted Under: Important Issues for Fort Lauderdale
Riots in South Middle River last Wednesday December 14!
Shameful actions from our police and my suggestions for improvement.
Last Wednesday morning and throughout the day, groups of young people in South Middle River were gathering in the street to fight each other, near NW 11 Street and NW 2nd Avenue! Shocked and fearful neighbors kept calling 911 and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department the entire day. Police would periodically drive through the area, the crowds would disperse, the police would leave and the crowds would return in even larger numbers. Estimates varied from between 30 to over 100 people were involved during the day.
By 6pm that evening, the crowd had grown into a mob with tree branches and rocks and continued fighting with each other. Anyone that accidentally drove into the area was also attacked.
“It escalated into a riot“, according to Sal Gatanio, President of South Middle River Civic Association, who happened to drive into the middle of it. “Rocks were being thrown at me and my car was attacked.” Most residents wondered why the police would not stay there. Said another resident (who wanted to remain anonymous): “Police are supposed to protect and serve. They did neither job particularly well here last Wednesday. Is this the quality of police service that we must now expect?”
According to another resident (printed in Tim Smith’s blog): “In two years I’ve experienced being chased by two kids on bicycles, getting shot at in my own driveway by kids on bikes with paint ball guns, have had to clean raw egg yolks and egg shells off of our windows, have experienced someone breaking off our low voltage outdoor lighting we have along our fence, have had multiple plants broken off and killed, had the mailbox vandalized and mailbox pole sheared off at the ground, and frankly I’m sick of it.”
“Neighbors on every side of us have been robbed one or more times over the past year. We’ve lost several neighbors we were just getting to know because they moved due to their belongings being stolen and they were fearful living here. There has been several instances of neighbors’ car windows getting smashed overnight.”
“I am so sick and tired of this B.S. I don’t live in a 3rd world country. I live in Fort Lauderdale and expect to have some semblance of order, but I apparently have expectations that are way too high. All I hear from the police are excuses. Excuses that they’re too busy. Excuses that there’s been cut-backs due to budgetary problems and they don’t have enough man power. Excuses that judges release from jail within 24 hours these underage kids that the police arrest time and time again. Blah, blah, blah.”
“I’m tired of excuses.” (end of quote)
As a small business owner located just a few blocks from where the incident occurred, I must say the behavior of our police in this incident was, in a word, shameful. It was as if they didn’t want to get their hands dirty with this riot, by getting out of their cars and staying there to protect the residents.
Worse still, I attended a crime meeting hosted the following evening by Commissioner Charlotte Rodstrom a few blocks from where the incident occurred. Eleven police officers showed up to hear complaints from over three dozen residents. If I thought the actions of the officers the night before was bad, I was astonished at what I heard from them that night!
These police officers (most of whom get over $100,000 in compensation from the taxpayers) actually had the gall to argue with the residents! They argued about the time that the calls came in, about the tone of voice from residents when they called, about whether damage to property was actually occurring, about the true number of people on the street, about whether it was really a riot or not. It was insulting to me and to all the residents who were there to express their concerns.
These officers (who receive more in compensation than most of those residents) are supposed to protect and serve. At that meeting they seemed to be more interested in protecting themselves from criticism. I was frankly astonished and very disappointed by the officers who were at that meeting, especially Major Raul Diaz, who was leading this group. His first comments to the residents were: “This is not my police district…“ (Major Diaz by the way, received more than $200,000 in compensation from us last year!!!)
These problems have been going on for years now in this area, with apparently nothing more than lip service from Police Chief Frank Adderley (another Gretsas crony who received more than $175,000 in compensation last year). And true, most of the excuses I have heard (like the resident’s comments above), are nothing more than to try to justify getting more staff and more compensation. I think that’s just B.S.
Our City has over 150 more police staff than other cities our size, they get better paid than most other Police Departments, and more than 80% of our police officers don’t even live in our City. The only connection they have to our City is through their paycheck. There needs to be a fundamental shift in attitude within the Department if any change is going to occur that will better protect our residents. That change needs to start at the top. Personally, I don’t think Frank Adderley is up to the challenge.
Nonetheless, I have provided five specific suggestions to Major Diaz to give to Chief Adderley, which I feel will fundamentally help South Middle River. Here they are:
1. Place a small police substation in the South Middle River area, and have on-duty patrol officers use that station when they are in the area.
2. Provide incentives to get more of our police officers to live in Fort Lauderdale. There are a lot of single young officers in our Department; develop incentives to have them live in areas like South Middle River. Residents there have to deal with these problems 24/7 by themselves; perhaps if some of our police were residents there, (with their patrol cars parked outside at night), we wouldn’t have some of these problems.
3. Police need to get out of their cars and walk the neighborhoods (or bike through these neighborhoods). Effective neighborhood policing does not occur when police glide through neighborhoods, hidden inside patrol cars. They need to get out, talk to residents, get to know who the residents are and what their problems are.
4. Increase the level of activity between police and youth in various neighborhood groups, like team sports, the PAL, and other interactive programs where neighborhood youth can interact with police without the threat of being arrested.
5. When residents have complaints, the police should listen and not argue. Whether the police agree with the resident’s complaints or not is irrelevant. If residents have the perception that there is a problem, then the police need to acknowledge that perception and work on correcting it.
The status quo has been going on for years. If you feel that “enough is enough!“, then send an email to Mayor Jack Seiler and City Manager Lee Feldman and complain about this issue. Their email addresses are: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com .
Candidate for Mayor of Fort Lauderdale