Posted Under: Important Issues for Fort Lauderdale,Neighborhood Issues,Police Department Issues
Attorney Scott Rothstein and his Fort Lauderdale police security detail
It’s disappointing when we see an attorney use his private client contacts for personal gain (allegedly…). But the story about Rothstein hiring Fort Lauderdale police officers (versus private security) for his “round the clock” security detail was interesting to me, so I dug a little deeper. What I learned was a bit of an eye opener.
When I heard about Fort Lauderdale Police Officers providing private security for Scott Rothstein, my first question was: “How much is this costing us?” I was ready to hit the roof ! I called the Chief’s office and spoke to a Sgt Frank Sousa. This is what I learned…
1. First and foremost, the police officers assigned to Rothstein were all “Off-Duty”. We are NOT paying for these security details.
2. Second, I learned that any individual, neighborhood group or business can have an off-duty Fort Lauderdale police officer available to them if they request it and it gets approved.
3. Third, I learned that neighborhood organizations such as Rio Vista, Harbor Beach and many others regularly contract out for off-duty police officers to be present in their neighborhoods up to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
4. Businesses too, do the same thing. (Go to Himmarshee on weekends and you will see them at the various bars and restaurants there). Hotels, special events, Broward General etc., all contract out for off-duty police officers. It’s big business.
5. In fact, (according to Sgt Souza), on weekends there may very well be more off-duty police officers on the street that those who are on duty!
6. Many police officers have regular gigs. In fact, Sgt Souza has a regular weekend stint at a Fort Lauderdale restaurant each week.
So here’s how the process works. You call the Police Department, make your request and you’ll be transferred to one of two “special event” sergeants. That person fills out a form for your request. It then has to get (signed) approvals from a Sergeant, then a Captain, a Major and an Assistant Chief, before an off duty police officer is assigned. Once a police officer is assigned to you, that officer and you have to agree on what you will pay him/her. It’s negotiated between the police officer and you. I asked what the going rate was and was told it varies but it’s somewhere between $25-$45 per hour. The police officer gets all of it, the city gets nothing.
And therein is a bit of concern to me. If our Police Department (who we are paying), is spending time on facilitating these hookups, then why aren’t we collecting an administrative fee from the clients?
Since there are (apparently) hundreds of these assignments a month, how much time is this taking away from police staff that should be working for the public (not private) good? And how much could we be collecting?
But there is another side to this. According to Sgt Souza, these off-duty police officers fulfill an important function to the public, free of charge. If an officer is providing security at a restaurant on Las Olas and a ruckus starts up a block or two away, that officer could theoretically go there, resolve it and file a report. Same thing if a neighborhood group or hospital has a regular off duty police officer present, then that officer would be the “first responder” if an issue there required their presence.
So what do you think? I like the fact that there are so many off-duty police officers around, especially on weekends that can handle calls that would otherwise have to be handled by on duty officers, but I still think the City may be missing some revenue that these clients (making the request) should be paying for.