By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Kyle Swenson
Dr. James E. Tylke is fidgety. At 35 years old, the anesthesiologist should have his life on cruise control. Since he was in fifth grade, Tylke had dreamed of becoming a doctor. He's outgoing, easy to talk to, the kind of guy you hope to sit beside at a sports bar and watch his Green Bay Packers put the hurt on another team. And he's the kind of guy you hope is monitoring your local anesthetic and prepping you for surgery. He's knowledgeable and professional. When he punches out for the day, the young doctor's biggest problem should be deciding whether he wants to drive his Mercedes or his BMW.
Tylke sits in the conference room of his lawyer's office on a breezy November night. He's wearing powder-blue hospital scrubs and tennis shoes, hair disheveled and eyes wide open. There's a beautiful view of Boca Raton and the surrounding areas from Alan Kauffman's 11th-floor window, the lights of South Palm Beach County spreading clear for several country miles. Tylke gazes out the floor-to-ceiling windows vacantly. He has a fixed stare, but he sees nothing.
"I've become one of the most paranoid people on the planet," Tylke offers, his voice overwrought because of a combination of professional stress and personal strife. "I loved what I was doing. Now I hate it. I wanted to help people. Now it's not fun anymore. Now it's torture. I get jabs all the time. Everybody has a comment about it. Doctors are a tight-knit group, and now anesthesiologists across the country know about the South Florida anesthesiologist who supposedly beat up a cop."
Tylke's pessimism stems from a life-altering run-in with a former Delray Beach police lieutenant who was, for a time, one of his precinct's most celebrated officers: Lt. Jeffery Rancour, a driving force behind a massive beach cleanup. Rancour prided himself on busting local derelicts. He nailed drug dealers with undercover stings and had a network of informants at his beck and call. Rancour also moonlighted as a security guard at some Delray Beach nightspots; it was while working in this capacity that he crossed paths with Tylke.
The night of August 8, 1997, at the club formerly known as the Back Room on East Atlantic Avenue started out slow with some wine and hors d'oeuvres, but it would end with Tylke on the receiving end of a series of billy-club blows, flying elbows, knee-drops, and an entire can of pepper spray emptied into his mucous membranes. As if the sting of the U.C. spray weren't enough to rattle him to the core, Tylke was staring at a possible 20-year prison sentence, charged with four felonies: two counts of resisting arrest and a count each of assaulting a police officer and interfering with a paramedic. Even after Tylke was acquitted in December 1998, he faced a civil suit: Rancour sued Tylke for injuries he had suffered while beating the doctor.
Delray Beach is not your stereotypical hotbed of illegal activity. Twice now, in 1993 and again in 2001, the National Civic League and Allstate Insurance Company bestowed the All-America City Award to this quiet beach community. Quaint shops and boutiques line Atlantic Avenue from I-95 down to the water. But this all-American city hosts a police department with a reputation for racial profiling, has paid a large settlement to six black officers for internal discrimination, and has faced a state investigation for other misconduct within the department.
Within that context, Jeffery Rancour hardly looks out of place. His service record is littered with allegations (all unsubstantiated) of excessive force and harassment; he's even been sued by one of his own subordinates. Despite these problems, Rancour rose through the ranks to lieutenant, and his say-so was enough to put Tylke on trial for his freedom.
Rancour refused to talk to New Times about the Tylke incident and subsequent court battles; he referred all questions to his attorney, Fred Gelston, who did not return repeated phone calls. Rancour retired from the Delray Beach Police Department in July 2000 at age 41; he still works for the Lantana Police Department as an officer. Tylke, for one, wonders why Rancour is allowed to wear a badge at all.
The controversies surrounding the Delray Beach Police Department date back decades. In January 1979, the Miami Heraldcalled for then-Chief of Police Murray O. Cochran to resign, blasting him for "fann[ing] the city's internal hatred" between black and white residents.
The problems continued under his successor, Charles Kilgore, who ran the department from 1979 to 1990. Published reports over the years have noted that Kilgore's bosses at city hall have reprimanded him for misspending funds, selling vitamins to city employees out of the back of his truck, and moonlighting as a rent collector.
His reign also was tainted with racial discord. In 1990, six black Delray Beach police officers sued the department, alleging race-based discrimination in promotions and tacit approval of racism. In 1996, a federal jury ordered the City of Delray Beach to pay the officers $760,000.
(The department's ethnic afflictions did not stop with Kilgore, according to the Palm Beach Post; the newspaper reported that in 1991, an officer posted on a bulletin board a drawing of a black man with a bone through his nose and a poster of a black baby with a gigantic penis. Several black officers, including then-Officer Verna Kearney, found threatening notes on their patrol cars, the paper reported.)