A Paddling at the Palladium

It's clear Davie police throttled attorney Robert Bollinger. The question is, Did he deserve it?

Engle, too, sought treatment after the arrest. An emergency room worker popped the officer's dislocated thumb back into its socket; 48 hours later the thumb was swollen and one of its bones fractured, according to a report by Dr. Bruce Berkowitz. "He claims Robert broke his thumb," Berrio says. "I say he did it himself while he was beating Robert."

No firm date has been set for trial. But if the case proceeds that far, a jury is likely to hear about internal-affairs memos that show Bollinger is one of several people who have complained within the last year that Davie's finest were unnecessarily rough. Though police officials dismissed two grievances against Drake and another two against Engle, the case files raise questions about the officers' past conduct.

One complaint against Engle involves Nori Milliken of Davie. According to police records, Engle and his partner, Craig Greer, stopped Milliken's son Jason in the family's driveway on SW 56th Avenue August 6, 2000. (The reason for Jason Milliken's arrest is not listed on an internal memorandum filed by Sgt. Ronald Maresco.) When Jason called for help, his mother ran outside and, police say, grabbed Greer's arm. Engle responded by throwing her on the hood, an act that bruised and scraped her arms, shoulders, and legs, then handcuffing her. After placing the woman in the cruiser, he shackled her feet. She was charged with battery on a police officer. The case is still open.

Miami attorney Robert Bollinger holds photos of injuries he says were caused by the Davie police
Michael McElroy
Miami attorney Robert Bollinger holds photos of injuries he says were caused by the Davie police

The day after her arrest, Nori Milliken complained to Maresco that Engle had used excessive force, according the internal memo. A close reading of the document hints that officers intimidated Milliken into dropping her complaint. After Maresco informed her that sworn statements and medical records would be necessary, she stalled, saying she wanted to meet with an attorney. Several weeks later she called back, saying she had decided to proceed, and even gave a sworn statement at the Davie police station. But after internal-affairs investigators argued that her behavior during the arrest had been documented by Greer and Engle, she ended the interview and left the station. Two days later, the memo alleges, Milliken begged police to destroy the records of her complaint. (Neither Milliken nor Maresco returned phone calls seeking comment.)

Drake was the subject of a complaint filed this past December by Boca Raton resident John Marinacci, who was cited for trespassing at a car show in Davie. Marinacci asserted that the officer became angry at him when he did not immediately comply with an order to pick up a beer bottle, then shoved his patrol bicycle into Marinacci, shouted at him, pushed him, and pulled his hands behind his head. Marinacci's written complaint includes the names and phone numbers of five witnesses who he claims would vouch for him. However, Drake and three other officers convinced internal investigators that Marinacci had been "disorderly and profane" while refusing to leave the premises. Thus the Boca man's accusations were "not sustained." (Drake could not be reached for comment before press time.)

This past May 9, Richard Clark, a Police Athletic League coach (and husband of town council member Geri Clark), complained Drake had harassed him after a baseball game. Clark's claim: When he tried to intervene in a situation between Drake and some PAL baseball players, the officer goaded and threatened him. "I thought he was going to shoot me," Clark wrote in a three-page letter describing the incident. Internal investigators, however, said witnesses told them that both Clark and Drake had acted loudly and offensively. Therefore, officials wrote in a memo, Clark's complaint was "not sustained."

The records, as well as the sworn affidavits from Bollinger's friends, attorney Berrio says, suggest a pattern of Davie police officers mistreating citizens: "If they're going to do this to someone who is an attorney and who knows their rights," he says, "what's going to stop them from doing it to a citizen who doesn't know about the law?" Bollinger won't pursue an internal-affairs complaint or civil litigation until his criminal case is finished. "We want to see how this case shakes out," Berrio says. "We don't want to antagonize the cops further."

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